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Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

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AlwaysBeBlue

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Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostWed Mar 15, 2017 9:26 pm

You would think with the limited space we have in the UK, that all the major UK cities would be high rise and lots of people living in 40/60 story apartments.

Yet that don't seem to be the case for the vast majority of the UK... Yet the US has the space and their cities are littered with skyscrapers

While we are here. Why is Cardiff especially not looking at 40 odd stories ? As a small City, it would free up space
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Jantra

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostWed Mar 15, 2017 9:34 pm

I'm pretty sure the us population is highly concentrated. If you look at a population density map huge swathes of the US is unpopulated.

History also plays a part....the us developed rapidly from the second half of the 19th century whereas the uk had been developing for nearly 100 years prior to that albeit at a much slower pace
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Lyndon

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostWed Mar 15, 2017 10:19 pm

Most US cities are as flat as a pancake, and sprawl over thousands of square miles of suburbs, exurbs and ex-exurbs. There'll be a couple of token office blocks downtown for the sake of appearances.
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Peiriannydd

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostWed Mar 15, 2017 10:27 pm

It's the same in Australia. They have an island continent, but most of the people live in highly-dense cities on the coast. In Melbourne, they have apartment buildings around 90 storeys (see the Eureka tower). Melbourne has been building tall buildings for about 140 years, as they developed them shortly after the US.

For the US, it was mainly New York and Chicago that drove high-rise development. Arguable the latter more than the former. For Chicago, it was a combination of a few key technical developments/conditions that came together in one city. Following that, building practices/ideas spread around the US.

With the US (and Australia), showing off and one-up-manship has always been a huge factor. People wanted to make a statement. Developers used to have a sense of civic pride and ambition and they wanted to show the world what Americans could do.

Given what was going on in the US, you'd think the UK would have followed, with London leading the way. In fact, it did, even though there was some reluctance, Engineers and Architects in the UK were extremely keen on applied US-style tall buidlings in the UK around 1900-1930.

Two many issues blighted London's development:
1) Poor geology. - In reality the ground is little more than soup (in comparison New York has solid granite below). It's taken some considerable time for piling technology to make tall buildings (seriously tall, like the Shard) possible.
2) London Building Act. - For a long time (this was replicated in Australia in the early days too), you had requirements for large masonry walls that couldn't be properly incorporated into steel/concrete frame buildings. They couldn't make them cost effective. The requirement for masonry walls was largely due to fire (you cannot understand the impact the Great Fire of London has had on our building development).

Even though the London Building Act only applied to London, most local authorities used it when assessing developments in other parts of the country. So what you ended up with, were typically early steel-frame buildings up to about a maximum of around 8 floors.

Hence, they didn't really take off until the post-war disaster housing tower blocks. Sadly, it's the legacy of those concrete-jungle tower blocks that have given tall buildings a bad name.

But I think we're now heading in the right direction. There are something like 400-odd tall buildings being planned for London. There are also severl £Billion developments in Manchester and Liverpool. Britain will going tall!
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Cen

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostWed Mar 15, 2017 10:42 pm

I guess Cardiff's construction boom has come just at the right time for tall buildings. Its relative youth as a developed city means there's plenty of space for these buildings, just as the UK is starting to embrace them. Space that may be harder to come by in much more established cities. Which is probably why we're seeing a lot of high rise developments for the size of the city. Other cities of Cardiff's size seem to have nowhere near this number of built or proposed tall buildings.
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Adar Glas

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostWed Mar 15, 2017 10:54 pm

Many US cities do indeed have a nice cluster of skyscrapers however the majority of their cities are a sprawling mess. Having visited many places in the US I can tell you that many cities don't have many walkable and vibrant centers like we do in the UK and public transport is almost non existent.

Cardiff has a real opportunity to create a dense urban place to live should we focus on building up rather than creating sprawl. Having a proper metro system will also help achieve this however I think council planers are short sighted and would rather continue building their garden villages.
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Peiriannydd

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 12:04 am

Interesting documentary from the 1980s which looks at the failure of social housing, particularly tall buildings:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0 ... for-people
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moyceyyy

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostThu Mar 16, 2017 1:10 am

Cen wrote:I guess Cardiff's construction boom has come just at the right time for tall buildings. Its relative youth as a developed city means there's plenty of space for these buildings, just as the UK is starting to embrace them. Space that may be harder to come by in much more established cities. Which is probably why we're seeing a lot of high rise developments for the size of the city. Other cities of Cardiff's size seem to have nowhere near this number of built or proposed tall buildings.


Hey thats actually a really interesting point. Not many cities have as many empty plots in the city centre as Cardiff do, which is probably the reason why its so easy to build here..
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Peiriannydd

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostSat Mar 18, 2017 1:30 am

moyceyyy wrote:
Cen wrote:I guess Cardiff's construction boom has come just at the right time for tall buildings. Its relative youth as a developed city means there's plenty of space for these buildings, just as the UK is starting to embrace them. Space that may be harder to come by in much more established cities. Which is probably why we're seeing a lot of high rise developments for the size of the city. Other cities of Cardiff's size seem to have nowhere near this number of built or proposed tall buildings.


Hey thats actually a really interesting point. Not many cities have as many empty plots in the city centre as Cardiff do, which is probably the reason why its so easy to build here..


Well they do if you choose to flatten large areas, particularly old industrial areas. It's not as if we're building on Parkland in Cardiff. Those "empty plots" are brownfield sites. They used to have slums and old industry that have long since been cleared but never built up.

I take the point though, that we can now cash in on the previous misfortune of the city. Had Cardiff experience better times in recent years maybe those plots would have been filled, leaving less of an opportunity to build some of real height.
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Frank

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Re: Why is UK mostly low rise and US not

PostSun Mar 19, 2017 10:40 am

I'm going to be quite blunt here - it is slightly odd to be comparing us to new world countries when we are very much part of the old world. There's a reason why cities like Edinburgh don't have lots of tall buldings, Bristol too, they have a very old cityscape that they don't want being ruined. I think Liverpool will be quite careful not to build upwards in a way that crowds out its historic buildings. As for urban living, well it all sounds wonderfully practical except last time I checked we were still a liberal country (maybe not forever!). If people don't want urban living what are you to do? Force them to live in city centre high-rise when they want to bring up their family in a suburban semi? As for urban sprawl, that's an issue for mega cities like London or perhaps even Birmingham or Manchester. Cardiff? Don't be silly. Being a smaller city does have its advantages. Let's not waste them!

The current policy of student flats and bringing old housing back into use for families seems sensible so long as it isn't overdone.
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