rosa_rugosa

Specialization and confusion in building

Natalie H.
August 15, 2017

First of all, I would like to say what a great forum this is! My day started great by reading all the intelligent discussions in this forum. What an educational resource and a delightful place!

Then, a random thought - building houses in so contagious. I wonder if build once, you want to keep building is true. Despite all the challenges and hard work, there is something magical about building. Another random thought - the smell of a construction site is intoxicating.

Now to philosophical and practical matters that I am sure have been discussed here but I am yet another person who wants to rant about the total disconnect between various knowledge and skill in construction. My naive and most likely old-fashioned expectation is that somebody who works with buildings will have all encompassing and comprehensive knowledge about the matter at hand. For example, I would want an architect to be versatile in engineering as well as cost considerations. I would expect a carpenter to understand the aesthetics and principles of the trim that they are working on. I would expect interior designers to understand architectural principles as well as construction methods and cost. Electricians would consider not just the code but the logistical principles of lighting and aesthetics of outlet placement. It seems like all the parts of construction is so disjointed, it becomes frustrating for all to participate.

Comments (48)

  • worthy

    It's rare to find a tradesperson who has a knowledge of their shortcomings, let alone how their contribution fits into the overall finished product. It's not unlike producing/directing, where you don't expect every grip to grasp your intent. (Though, if you ask them, they'll be sure they do and have a better way to illustrate it.)

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    An architect is educated in all areas, their experience leads them down certain paths.

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    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Architekton is the Greek word for master builder. The ancient master builder was trained in all phases of design and construction. His responsibility extended well beyond the architectural design. He was the overseer of the entire project, from concept, design through construction; the master builder (I stole this from the Internet!). There were no general contractors, just Master Builders and owners who commissioned them for projects. The Master Builder did it all.

    Well...in case it's escaped someone times have changed. Lots of reasons why: technology; economics; education; regulations and construction law; labor unions; etc.

    These days, even in residential design and construction, success depends on a team of folks who know their areas of expertise, are good communicators and team players.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with the expectation that "...somebody who works with buildings will have all encompassing and comprehensive knowledge...". Finding that/those person(s) is a golden treasure! :-)

  • Natalie H.

    These levels of specialization are everywhere much to the detriment of the public. It is time to move to Master levels.


    I was talking to our team of builders and craftsmen and they lament the new age of construction overseers with degrees and total lack of any experience of building even a chicken coop.

  • Natalie H.

    I just bought a nice book of architects' quotes by Laura S. Dushkes. Two will be fitting here.

    "Old-style architects did as much as they thought they could control. Their own hand was always involved in their work; responsibility wasn't delegated to anyone else. Once work is delegated and not followed through by the original hand, it's not architecture any more. It's something else." John Hejduk (1929-2000)

    His contemporary had the complete opposite to say

    "I use structural engineers. I use mechanical engineers. I use housing architects to tell me how big an apartment is because I don't know. How to build a cheap apartment? How would I know? I'm not interested. I have people to do that." Philip Johnson (1906-2005)

  • Pensacola PI

    Good topic and in a perfect world, you're right. Real world for the most part, well not so much. Start at the bottom of the hill with subs, the vast majority IF they show up will often "do things their way" and not follow something called a set of plans. They want to get in and out and head to the next job. Even in high dollar houses, they often do the same and get back in their Chevy truck and leave. They often don't look at the big picture.

  • Natalie H.

    There is an essay called "Craftsman into Baby Sitter" by Harley Shaiken in Ivan Illich's Disabling professions that detailed how skilled work of many craftsmen was degraded by industrialization, fragmentation of work, and divorcing work from life and leisure as well as taking any self-determination away from workers. It is a very insightful read.

  • worthy

    subs, the vast majority IF they show up will often "do things their way" and not follow something called a set of plans.

    So true!

    On my first build, where the lender required me to have an "experienced" builder on site, I finally realized he pretty much let the trades do whatever they wanted regardless of the plan details. (Particularly if they were of his ethnic group.) Great for morale, I guess.

  • Beth

    I'm in IT. There are a number of roles that I can do well. However, I am not a database expert, I am not a hardware expert, and I don't know anything about firewalls. I can evaluate whether a user interface will meet the customer's needs--but I can't design it. (That's just a partial list of things I know nothing about) There is a fantastic database guy on our team--but he doesn't know anything about coding user interfaces. Sure--it'd be great if everyone could do everything--but there's a level of expertise we expect from people--and most people don't have the bandwidth to become experts in everything.

    Does your dentist do oral surgery? Does your pediatrician do back surgery?

    I understand why there is specialization. Most of us aren't good at everything--because we're not interested or because there's just not enough time in the day to learn it or we don't have the capability to learn it.

  • Natalie H.

    Many doctors decry specialization as it resulted in lots of meaningless suffering and pointless "life saving". Nobody knows except the last link in some useless human repository where all of these specialized activities end. While you cannot know everything at A level, it is possible to be a generalist who is capable of drilling down if there is a need. We desperately need more generalists who are able to connect various parts and understand the whole.

    I hear Microsoft IT stories daily. The amount of disconnect is harming IT industry as well. A generalist in IT is the most valuable and most used expert. They are literally torn apart because there are not enough of them who can pull all the strings together into something cohesive.

  • Natalie H.

    Apparently what I observed during building has been researched across the board. https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/07/10/the-secret-power-of-the-generalist-and-how-theyll-rule-the-future/#5a1d38f02bd5


    Only by understanding the work within fields to the right and the left of your own can you understand the bigger picture

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Well...in the Gothic era, when architects as master builders were designing and building cathedrals, the physicians of the day were using leeches to bleed folks and heal them.

    Today, we have medical specialists for more specialties than we know and life expectancy is more than a few years greater than the Gothic period. So much for medical care development and improvement.

    Now about architectural development and improvement. How many threads and comments are there on this forum which promote plan factory houses and ask why use an architect?

    That's progress from the Gothic era in architecture isn't it? From Gothic cathedrals to McMansion burgers.

    By the way, if you want a cathedral, I'm your boy...! :-)

  • PRO
    Anglophilia

    When we built an addition onto our house in St Louis nearly 40 years ago, we hired a wonderful man named Rudy Sugar. Mr Sugar was a carpenter but he could do SO much more, and he knew his limitations. His father had been a carpenter. His two brothers were carpenters but they preferred to work separately unless they needed extra hands. He was a true craftsman with great knowledge, very high standards, and a very strong work ethic.

    In the many remodeling jobs we've done since then, we have often wailed "Where's Mr Sugar! We need him"! None of his children followed him into carpentry.

  • mojomom

    In our experience, we had a great architect, but he admitted that he didn't have much of a grasp on costs and he also employed an independent engineer. Our site super/contractor's right hand man, does have a good eye for proportions and trim. He also has a good understanding of the other trades and coordination. Likewise the tile guy has a good eye and makes good suggestions. Perhaps the best is our electrician, he often had already done things before I asked him and has a really good eye for lighting design and thinks through switch and outlet placement as if he were going to be living there and we are doing some fun things with lighting. Oh, I can't leave out the plumber -- great job because he know how to please his MIL, but the best thing he has done for us during our build is to give us our new DGS! Seriously, though he had never worked with our contractor before and our contractor is now using him for other jobs.

    Virgel, I vaguely recall reading historical fiction novel about the building of a great cathdral. I think it was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. It really gets into the development of Gothic architecture. If you haven't read it you might enjoy.

  • sis33

    Yes, I was thinking of Pillars of the Earth as I was reading this thread.

  • gthigpen

    I wish some of our subs knew more or cared more. I was absolutely dumbfounded when our guy who was supposed to build our staircase railing had no clue about our city codes for railing height, baluster spacing, # of risers/height of landing before needing a railing, etc. We fired him and are still looking for a replacement who can do the work and knows what he's doing. We may end up doing it ourselves!

  • cpartist

    Well lack of specialization creates their own problems. This past weekend I went to a new house open house. Walked around downstairs and then went upstairs. On the way down, I nearly fell off the last step. It turned out that all 15 steps had 7 3/4" risers and the bottom step had an 8 3/4" riser. Yes one inch higher and additionally one inch over code too. This was an accident waiting to happen because no one took the time to do it right or to care.

  • Natalie H.

    Virgil, we have lack of specialists and lack of generalists. Generalists were deskilled and we simply cannot turn out enough specialists to cover the needs (on one hand) and to justify the cost of their training (on the other). Life expectancy is more strongly correlated with sewers and social environments rather than specialized medicine.

    BTW, in my area we now don't have enough tradesmen or craftsmen to build. I hear there is a 3-4 months backlog. From my conversation with young people at construction site, nobody goes into trades any more. Everybody wants to be a manager.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...Life expectancy is more strongly correlated with sewers and social environments rather than specialized medicine..."

    What an astounding thing to say. Do you have any data in support of such a claim?

  • sis33

    Cpartist whatever happened to the building inspectors on the new house you visited! I can only assume that now that homebuilding is back on a crazy pace here in Florida, the inspectors are too busy to inspect thoroughly. During our remodel/rebuild 11 years ago the inspector carefully measured each tread and riser and also hurled his not inconsiderable weight repeatedly against the hand rail in an attempt to loosen it.

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen
    • This is the difference between a drafter, and an architect. And a decorator and a designer. One is a specialist. One, a generalist. And, it's why none of us is very good at putting all of the threads into the embroidery until we are at least in our late 30's, around 10-15 years post graduation. There is just too much to learn outside of school. Learning through experience takes time. And it takes a curious mind to want to listen to the electrician, or the plumber, or the site excavator. Not everyone has the desire, or the ability.
  • Natalie H.
    Any Sociology of medicine textbook or WHO determinants of health very plainly state these facts. Hard to believe what clean water, separation of waste from drinking water, food, safe neighborhoods, and equality do for health, well being, and longevity.
  • cpartist

    Cpartist whatever happened to the building inspectors on the new house you visited!

    Who knows? I was quite flabbergasted after I regained my balance.

    I can only assume that now that homebuilding is back on a crazy pace here in Florida, the inspectors are too busy to inspect thoroughly.

    There was no excuse for the stair riser to be off by 1 inch! Bad enough the other treads were the maximum allowed by code, but then to have this one be 1 inch taller?

    I just hope no one gets hurt because the RE agent didn't seem so keen on reporting the problem.

    During our remodel/rebuild 11 years ago the inspector carefully measured each tread and riser and also hurled his not inconsiderable weight repeatedly against the hand rail in an attempt to loosen it.

    I would rather have an inspector do that and know that I have a safe staircase and railing.

    As it is right now, my stairs leading to my garage are off and I'm insisting they get it perfect.

  • sis33

    I agree, you can't be too careful, or accurate, with stairs. I had no concerns about ours as DH built them. There is a law suit waiting to happen in that house you visited!

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...Any Sociology of medicine textbook or WHO determinants of health very plainly state these facts. Hard to believe what clean water, separation of waste from drinking water, food, safe neighborhoods, and equality do for health, well being, and longevity..."

    I completely agree that there are parts of our world where, unfortunately, this is the awful living conditions of many.

    I wonder, however, how many who view and participate in this forum live in such conditions...

    And I wonder how many folks who live in such conditions consider building a custom home...which is the purpose of this forum.

  • Natalie H.
    The US, UK, or any other western countries are not exempt from these forces and are not under magical laws of life giving medicine spell. My response was to the erroneous belief that it was medicine that granted us longer lives.
  • cpartist

    Right now it is medicine that is keeping my ex niece with metastatic breast cancer alive for more years than she was originally given. It is also medicine that kept a good friend with the same disease alive for 12 more productive years until she finally succumbed to the disease last year.

  • Natalie H.

    It is probably the same line of medical thinking that got us to a society where one in three will succumb to cancer.

  • Natalie H.
    This is what I'm talking about. What used to be the norm is increasingly rare.
  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...what used to be the norm is increasingly rare..." I agree. Orville and Wilber Wright would hardly recognize what an airplane is today.

  • cpartist

    It is probably the same line of medical thinking that got us to a society where one in three will succumb to cancer.

    So let me get this right. You're equating my niece having metastatic breast cancer to medical thinking?

    BTW: What I didn't tell you is that at age 13 she had leukemia so in actuality, she is alive 22 years later because of medical science. Did the chemo cause her breast cancer now? There is a good chance, but back then what was the alternative? To let her die?

    Let me guess. You don't vaccinate your kids either?

  • bry911

    Life expectancy is more strongly correlated with sewers and social environments rather than specialized medicine.

    ...

    Any Sociology of medicine textbook or WHO determinants of health very plainly state these facts.

    I am not sure what this has to do with "building a home," and I celebrate thread drift, but this seems a bit more like hi-jacking rather than drift. At the same time I do want to respond to this.

    First, communities with access to preventative medicine have greater life expectancy than demographically similar communities without access to preventative medicine. Furthermore, we know that the introduction of preventative medicine alone into a community will immediately and significantly increase life expectancy. The rest is just noise.

    Next, I have heard similar things before, it is a logical fallacy and incorrect. The reasoning goes like this: More people have died from bacterial infections than anything else, bacterial infections thrive in unsanitary conditions, since sewers reduced unsanitary conditions they must be the reason people live longer. It assumes a causal relationship that isn't really there.

    The statement ignores the fact that airborne bacteria specifically has killed the most people, followed by food borne bacteria, then infections introduced into the blood, and finally waterborne bacterial infections. We should note that cows still don't wash their hands and plants still grow in the same ground.

    There are many things that have led to people living longer, food transportation, food storage, refrigeration, clean water, medicine, etc., and most of them owe part or all of their success to medical research by people who specialized.

    We should also note that population density has changed and just because something killed more people in the past, doesn't mean that the same would hold true today.

  • opaone

    Some people cross disciplines well, most do not.

    A good architect or builder will call in specialists (lighting, AV, kitchen, engineering, interior design, etc.) more knowledgable than they when needed. Many architects don't realize their own lack of knowledge though.

    A lot depends on how detailed and accurate you want your place to be. We have a very good architect. We also have an interior designer who has provided a lot of input on room sizes and stuff for specific furnishings. Our kitchen designer knows kitchens and workflows and she details where appliances and work surfaces should be and how cabinets are laid out.

    Our lighting designer has detailed fixtures and where they should go for some fairly specific things like enough light with no shadows to clean up the dining, family, and kitchen after a dinner party as well as nice lighting during dinner or while watching a football game.

    Some security and vacuum installers have moved in to AV and then people wonder why their screen was placed where it gets a lot of glare and why their system doesn't sound as good as others or why a room sounds like an echo chamber. Or they have an expensive WiFi system installed but there are dead zones where they most want to use a laptop. A good closet designer can fit a lot of stuff in to a tight space in a way that allows you to easily get to it.

    Jack of all trades and master of none is a very true statement. I like having a team of masters a lot better.

  • Ed

    Do not think it is just the subs that do not know the city/county codes. When I first bought the house I had it inspected by a company that stated part of their inspection was 'relative building codes. Fine... After I had been in the house ~10 days I went to a lawyer. He had one of his electrician friends look at electrical mainly. He found several non compliance problems including severe safety issues. Lawyer said I could get my $$ back but it was bad timing- a close family member was extremely ill (I was still practicing RN) so for 14 months I was 24 hour care so was unable to recoup house $$. I have now been in the house 2 years. I have found so many code problems and absolutely shoddy work (the house was flipped and I now have extensive knowledge of the home via neighbor who is sister of man/wife who lived here then the Cuban family that totally destroyed the home). So anyway- I am all for the builder who has knowledge of every aspect even if it is not himself that does all the work I will be building soon zi hope and will try to not be a PITA customer but will have my nose in everything I possibly can...

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Electrical codes (as well as all of the other building codes) are reviewed, revised and updated on a regular 3-year basis. Electrical codes in particular change substantially at almost every review, making what was legal and deemed safe 3-6-9 years ago, or more, now non-compliant with the current code. When buying previously owned homes it's a common situation.

  • opaone

    Life expectancy has much more to do with design than medicine, at least among developed countries.

    The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy and general health of all developed countries. This is largely due to our having designed communities (suburbs) that encourage driving instead of walking or bicycling—we don't get enough moderate physical activity each week. Second is our poor diet, but that's for the cooking forums. Third is chemical abuse, including cigarettes.

    U.S. traffic engineers have also given us the most dangerous roads of all developed countries. Greece edged us out for worst a few years ago but we've reclaimed the crown. Our highest in the developed world fatality and critical injury rates are purely because of bad road design.

    Bad road design also plays a role in where we choose to build a new home. Most people want to be near some shopping and restaurants and do not want to be near high speed, multi-lane or noisy roads.

    Individual house design also plays a minor role. High levels of chemicals and poor ventilation seem to top the list. Interestingly, slippery shower, tub, and bath floors are likely second.

  • handymac

    Boy o boy o boy!! Expectations are one thing, reality is several other things. I was a trained automotive mechanic and instructor. I learned how to do a few other trades(drywall/trim/painting/etc.) by having pro's teach me and by practicing.

    I volunteered for several years to help build and work on homes for Habitat for Humanity. I have a woodworking shop now and did remodeling and handyman jobs when I retired from my 'real' job.


    "I would expect a carpenter to understand the aesthetics and principles
    of the trim that they are working on."

    Two kinds of carpenters, rough and finish. Both areas have challenges specific to the field. A rough(framing) carpenter has little need for knowledge that a trim or finish carpenter needs. In actuality, a rough carpenter should need some elementary knowledge about trim/finish work so they can make the finish job easier/better. Framing square corners is huge. Building plumb walls and also very important.

    Example, framing a kitchen with three walls(U-shaped). Getting the two opposite walls exactly parallel(within 1/8" and no more than 1/4") the same distance apart is crucial to make countertop installation to be done properly.

    When several framers are working as fast as they can, often there is no oversight for seemingly small details like that.


    "Electricians would consider not just the code but the
    logistical principles of lighting and aesthetics of outlet placement."

    Knowing those areas is more a designer's area. The codes covering outlet placement is fairly detailed and has to be followed. Adding more outlets is fine, but the designer/architect should do that as the building owner dictates.

    And there are folks whose entire job is lighting principles and uses.


    Something I found in my remodeling is that many builders seldom see a building they built after finishing(and absolutely after the warranty period). About 20% of the jobs I did was fixing builder mistakes/omissions when a new house was less than 4 years old.



    "It
    seems like all the parts of construction is so disjointed, it becomes
    frustrating for all to participate."

    This reason is precisely why a competent general contractor is so important. That job is actually the most important during a build and is absolutely the most difficult.

    The GC has to balance the owners wants with the blueprints(often when the GC had no input in the design/planning), supervise the work of all the trades/workers, insure the build and materials are on schedule, and satisfy the inspectors. Plus dealing with hundreds of other potential problems. Very often owners complain about the money charged by a qualified and experienced GC, since the owners usually only see about 10% of the work the GC does.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy and general health of all developed countries. ..."

    I can't understand why everyone wants to immigrate and live in the U.S. when it's so miserable here.

  • opaone

    "I can't understand why everyone wants to immigrate and live in the U.S. when it's so miserable here."

    :-)

    Though far behind the rest of the developed world in many areas we are still well ahead of most of the less developed countries. You may be four times as likely to be killed in a car crash, three times as likely to be raped and eight times as likely to be murdered in the US as in The Netherlands, but that's still much safer than Somalia. It's all kind of relative.

  • just_janni

    We have been fortunate to find some great subcontractors that have to understand the vision of our house and want to work on it. Because the house is so "different" - it gets their attention that they cannot come in and do the "same old, same old". The electrician originally told my site super "no way, you need to get in a commercial contractor to do this" and then the super said, "just come to the meeting, and talk to the HO, it's been pretty well thought out".

    By the end of the meeting, the electrician was giving us "to do's" to prep for him, and additional ideas how to more cost effectively execute our vision.

    Overall, I do think that craftspeople - either generalists or specialists, like to be challenged on doing something different. However, there will be those who will not find that challenge welcome and will just look at any project as a "turn and burn" and revert to whatever way is the easiest, regardless of the input from the owner. Those are often the folks that won't survive the next housing slowdown.

  • Natalie H.
    Cpartist, medically inclined societies construct their lives in destructive ways believing that medicine will solve issues of immobility, pollution, lack of food, etc by medical means. We will treat you for the structural and societal ills. The stupendous rise of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes indeed have a lot to do with the way our life is designed in time and space. Your approach is fix leukemia and carry on as before. My approach is find out why so many succumb to cancer, fix communities and life style to prevent it from happening to begin with.
  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...Though far behind the rest of the developed world in many areas we are still well ahead of most of the less developed countries..."

    That should reassure everyone.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    " . . . will treat you for the structural and . . . "

    Wow, that was close. Almost got this discussion back to building construction.

  • Natalie H.

    You may find it funny but I observed same flaws in thinking in construction and design as I see in medicine or education. Symptomatic treatment of the paradigm flaws.

  • opaone

    "Wow, that was close. Almost got this discussion back to building construction."

    :-)

    I wasn't going to reply to the off-topic bit but then thought about how that is how our natural conversation in the real world works and how much it enriches our lives and how many forums I've seen die because of too strict of stay-on-topic policies. Oh, and I did use the word 'design' several times. :-)

    More importantly, when thinking about our houses we need to think about how the design and construction will impact our lives and those around us. Well designed houses increase contentment and happiness, poorly designed the opposite. This applies to both the layout and finishes. A group at the UofM is currently doing a study on facades and their impact. Initial data is that a house with a facade (E.G., nice on the front and cheap Hardieboard or aluminum on all the other sides) leads to feelings of inadequacy. People feel like they are a reflection of their house—fake. Doing all sides the same may cost more or cause us to build a smaller house but results in greater daily happiness.

    We also need to think about the communities we choose to build in. A community that makes it safe and convenient to walk and ride bicycles for local transportation like to the grocery and café is a safer community (Jane Jacobs 'Eyes On The Street'), healthier mentally and physically for its inhabitants, and more pleasant and enjoyable to live in. These are communities where people get to know their neighbors rather than just see them through their windshield. This is what has been behind the intellect and wealth exodus from suburbs to core cities that is causing many suburbs to decline.

    Natalie H. thanked opaone
  • bry911

    You may find it funny but I observed same flaws in thinking in construction and design as I see in medicine or education. Symptomatic treatment of the paradigm flaws.

    With respect, it is far more likely that you observed some flaws in YOUR thinking. Your entire premise is based on one faulty assumption, "My naive and most likely old-fashioned expectation is that somebody who works with buildings will have all encompassing and comprehensive knowledge about the matter at hand."

    The problem being that what you are describing has never really existed. It doesn't even make sense, we know that our ability to learn and retain knowledge has increased very slightly over time, we also know that we have more knowledge of our profession and that overall we dedicate a larger amount of our brain to our profession. This leads to only one rational conclusion, and it is the conclusion that has broad support, that "the good old days" were never really that good. In fact, we can clearly demonstrate the progression from less to more knowledge specifically in construction. In the end, those highly knowledgeable generalists were simply deficient in a time where everyone was deficient.

    The idea that we used to be less specialized and better is absolutely fabricated. As is the diatribe that modern medicine treats the symptom rather than the cause. It is completely fabricated by people who want you to buy into a treatment path that is not as effective but oddly costs more. The idea that modern medicine doesn't marry allopathic and osteopathic is simply not correct. Both schools of medicine treat both the symptoms and the disease and they have for many years. Modern medicine hasn't had an allopathic focus for 70 years. Yet there are people who pretend that modern medicine is still selling miracle cures from carpetbags.

    It is also disingenuous to pretend that we have an increase in diseases like cancer when what we really have is a decrease in other diseases. This isn't rocket science, as we increase the survival rates from other conditions the conditions with low survival rates will kill more people. And in other news, the sky is up, I repeat the sky is now up!

    The real reason that medical science struggles is because we are really good at diagnosing conditions in an autopsy and really bad diagnosing most other times. We really don't have the technology to identify disease in any timely way, not to mention search for a timely cure. Blaming that on a lack of generalists is ridiculous.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...These are communities where people get to know their neighbors rather than just see them through their windshield. This is what has been behind the intellect and wealth exodus from suburbs to core cities that is causing many suburbs to decline..."

    After living in many places in the U.S. from coast to coast and inbetween, and traveling through much of the world, I can gently suggest that living in New York City (which is about as urban as it gets; population 8 million), and living in Boerne, TX (population 11,000), there's no question about which of the two is a "windshield" environment and which is where one knows ones neighbors.

    PS: Boerne is growing by leaps and bounds, to the dismay of long-time residents.

  • Rob Hunt

    It's going to get worse - or better, depending on whether you think increased specialization is a good thing. Every year, there's just so much more to know: building science is often 5-10 years ahead of code, let alone inspectors, let alone "the way I've always done it" builders.... and green building technology is finally starting to benefit from advances in comms, fast/cheap/power efficient CPU's and IoT. You can't legally build a code-minimum house in many parts of California today, and I suspect that will be true in many states soon.

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