Why do all new apartment buildings look the same?

Here’s an interesting article that deals with the question: Why do all new apartment buildings look the same? It boils down to code, costs, and craft. “Accountants are designing these buildings”.


Odd. The shutterstock photos included with the article actually look like good and unique looking projects. Not sure if they were included for examples of the generic buildings discussed or examples of better projects? They all look better than our copies (Metropolitan, Edison, Elan, Lincoln, Gramercy, West Morgan, Theory, 616 Oberlin, 401 Oberlin)

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So, we are getting more of the brick facade solution, and less of the hardiboard solution.
I don’t know that I buy that the bland architecture is related to creating housing affordability, rather maximum profits for the developer. I can’t imagine that a developer’s team is sitting around talking about how they can make their apartments affordable, but it’s easy to imagine them sitting around talking about how much they can push the market up and not completely turn off potential customers. Then I imagine that the developer’s team looks for ways to squeeze maximum profits from their work. I’ll bet that those are the numbers that are pushing the design decisions.


It’s actually more likely that the developers are looking for ways to squeeze a minimally acceptable profit for their investors out of the project. Profit margins for developers and builders have remained historically flat. The biggest increases in cost are related to land and regulatory costs from the municipalities. Developers are being forced to value engineer the project to even make them viable, not to maximize their potential profit.


This isn’t just about developers. It’s about being an attractive asset in an investment portfolio, usually an REIT. The developer gets it built and leased, then unloads it. I shed no tears for these developers. What is a “minimally acceptable profit” anyway? Probably a lot more than they are willing to discuss publicly.

A good argument for historic preservation.

A minimally acceptable profit is one that accounts for the additional risk above the opportunity cost of what could be returned in an alternative investment. Treasury bond yield about 3% and are essentially guaranteed. The stock market averages about 7% over the long term and is more risky. A RE development is significantly riskier, and returns have to land in the 12-15% range for it to be worth the risk.


Exactly. Land costs, increased labor costs due to trade shortages (many immigrant trades left market in '09-'12), increased material costs (Demand, Canadian lumber tariff, steel, etc.), and increasing interest rates all are driving the bottom line for developers, whom either have to raise retail prices (housing affordability crises) or cut specifications to get it built while market is hot and get out with nice return for investors.

The developers have worked their risk down to almost nothing. The REITs are accepting the risk, but when combined with other assets that is also flattened to a degree. Lots of these developments remove housing units in order to get built…substantial numbers in cases like Maiden Lane…so *those displaced people have to go somewhere somehow…so they are sinking a ton of money into not a huge net gain in units…and they are getting displaced from cheaper places. The REIT risk is created by the developers because when *they buy the land at inflated prices, *they dip into the already tight labor pool *they are ‘forced’ to set rents twice as high as they were and thus increase the risk they won’t be able to lease it up and dump it. Eventually they’ll blame it on the ‘market’…while all along they are pushing the market’s limits. They are not solving a problem here…they are creating one, a big old bubble. Squeezing more juice out of the lemon until this device no longer works. Fewer, better built buildings sounds like it’d would drive up rents but I think it’s the opposite because the land frenzy would be cooler and labor costs cheaper and the existing older units wouldn’t be being demolished.

Yeah but we should be giving the developers a wide latitude to do whatever the hell they want because they own the land.

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In all fairness, if you look at every era, there’s a predominant building style when it comes to mass produced housing.

I think the argument is the quality of construction and the lack of style in today’s mass produced buildings.

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Is that really true though? I would think there would be some bias from our vantage because the cheap/crappy stuff from the past wouldn’t have survived until today.

I’m no historian or architect though.

Ah yes, how stupid of me. Profit motive. Screw ‘do something good’ motive. It’s cool though…I am working on passing a law allowing rich people to poop in poor people’s yards…just like the old days. If you notice, and Raleigh is a great example, the rich areas are always up on the hills and ridge lines and the poor areas down in the valleys (Smokey Hollow, Hungry Neck, 4th Ward) because wastewater flows downhill.

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There’s probably other reasons why wealthy areas are on ridges. Breezes and cleaner air are two more. Smokey Hollow was named such because the smoke from the mills hung in the air.

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So water pollution and air pollution. Bottom line, pollution.

Hill tops have always been more desirable, dating back to the Acropolis and fortresses. What is desirable is expensive and less affordable, whether that be by money, political will, or military force.

Well like I said, Raleigh makes this plain to see. With military reasons and pollution reasons largely removed from the equation, we are down to I think, flooding, views and legacy. Anyway everyone is ignoring my funny…I used the elevation thing to point out how the rich use money to get the desirable stuff and was reintroducing pollution into the ‘what rich people are allowed to get away with’ on a micro scale (they still do on large scales). In the context of this thread, rich investors get to deliver cheap, awful to look at, and possibly dangerous buildings into the center of our cities because they can.

Is this a parady thread, sounds strange

I haven’t seen a single parade mentioned in this thread, so no, I don’t think so.

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