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As the lifespan of buildings decreases, developers try to adapt

In 1931, glass bottles of sparkling soda began rolling off the assembly line at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Indianapolis. The architect of the factory is unlikely to have given much thought to the possibility that changing consumption habits will make the glass bottle a relic within a few generations.

Instead of falling into obsolescence, the factory has had several lives. After the Coca Factory closed in 1971, the building was briefly used to house Indy 500 racing cars, then spent decades as a school bus garage before becoming a 139-room boutique hotel anchoring a new entertainment district last year.

A century ago, developers didn’t think much about the future, but today they don’t have the same luxury. A combination of pandemic disruption and ever-changing technologies has brought the distant hazy horizon closer.

As a result, an increasing number of projects are fighting against the clock as profitability and utility are squeezed into the ever shorter lifespan of a commercial building. Statistics illustrating the acceleration of the lifecycle of buildings are scarce, but industry experts are starting to beware.

“The cycle of change is getting shorter,” said Jefferson Duarte, associate professor of real estate finance at Rice University. Projects that developers could have collected rent on for half a century or more no longer allow this.

“Twenty years ago, we didn’t think about it,” Prof Duarte said. There was just a hypothesis that an office building would still function a century later.

Some still are. Few developers believe the Empire State Building will go anywhere soon as it nears its centennial at the end of the decade.

A premium spot or landmark status can overcome obsolescence: areas like Midtown Manhattan or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile seem likely to remain coveted places where short shelf life would not be an issue.

“You could build a barn in Midtown Manhattan and fill it up, because it’s a prime location,” said John Gallander, an independent real estate consultant in Costa Mesa, Calif., Who has overseen the business development portfolios throughout. throughout his career.

Developers are thinking as much about the future as they are now, said Christopher R. King, president and CEO of DPC, a Denver-based commercial real estate developer. DPC has just opened a 250,000 square foot office building in Phoenix and hopes to keep it for six to ten years.

Mr King echoed the concerns of many in the industry that the pandemic had accelerated trends that could shorten the lifespan of buildings. The needs of consumers and workers are changing faster than ever before, due to technology, changing supply chains and expectations for more commodities. Such a rapid cycle is common in retail and restaurant business, but it is relatively new in commercial real estate.

This reduction in lifespan has left architects, developers and investors with a puzzle: how to build for today without becoming obsolete tomorrow?

“I think we have to think about it now,” King said, adding that his company was trying to look ahead by looking at things as diverse as parking garages, office density and technology. ventilation.

“Everyone in the industry is talking about it but going around in circles,” said Gilles Duranton, professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are all kinds of questions, but few answers.”

The central problem is that commercial construction is an industry producing highly durable goods in a world that demands greater flexibility in the face of changing tastes and economic conditions, Professor Duranton said.

He added that the industry should tackle shortening lifespan through a mix of approaches, including modular elements and construction methods that would allow buildings to be easily dismantled or demolished.

“Sometimes the right thing is to tear things down and rebuild from scratch,” said Professor Duranton.

The acceleration of the natural progression of office space is similar to what has been happening for decades with stadiums and shopping malls, which are coming to the end of their life much faster than in previous generations, said Gallander, the real estate consultant.

The developers, however, are at an impasse. If they stock an office building with too many specific amenities, they run the risk of the latest technology quickly becoming obsolete. (I think of offices with 80s and 90s fax machines with lots of phone hookups.) But if they don’t include enough amenities, they run the risk of potential tenants looking elsewhere.

In a way, the tenant can save the developer, Gallander said. During the Internet boom in the late 1990s, for example, developers weren’t ready to meet the growing need for connectivity. But in many cases, tenants have pushed ahead with redesigns (most leases allow for a liberal office redesign) and additional amenities to meet the challenges of an increasingly connected world. And most law firms have transformed the layout of their offices to accommodate changing technological needs. It can happen again, he said.

The shorter lifespan of buildings may force developers to get their money back faster by selling sooner than expected, Gallander said.

“You might be looking to knock on the exit door after three to five years instead of seven, 10, 15,” he said.

Raising rents is not an option, he said, as the higher cost could push tenants towards cheaper alternatives. Developers can also explore other ways to recoup their investments faster by engaging partners.

At its peak in 1950, the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Indianapolis employed 250 workers and produced two million bottles of Coke filled with fizzy per week. Today it is home to the Bottleworks Hotel, the center of a mixed-use development that opened in late 2020 in hopes of rejuvenating a neighborhood.

Site developer Hendricks Commercial Properties said the pandemic has shown the value of diversification as a bulwark against shorter lifespans of buildings. No one could have predicted that a devastating pandemic would make gathering places so unattractive, at least in the short term. But by combining offices, businesses, hotels and other uses, the risk for Hendricks is extended. The development of Bottleworks has a cinema room with eight screens, for example, but also a technological incubator.

The move towards rapid offloading of properties could pick up speed, said Gavin Thomas, the company’s vice president of development, but Hendricks is here for the long game.

“The Hendricks timeline is not a three or ten year horizon,” he said. “It’s much longer than that, and it changes the dynamics and the criteria for returning.”

But the specter of unforeseen change will color future plans. “Going forward, I will ask how much flexibility we have,” he said.

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Video: tornado hits city of Alabama

A tornado hit a northern Birmingham, Alabama suburb late Monday night, killing at least one person, collapsing buildings and trapping people in their homes.

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After capitol buildings turn into strongholds, far-right protesters are mostly a no-show

SAN FRANCISCO – And so it ended the last weekend of the Trump presidency, with state capitals across the country surrounded by barricades, military vehicles guarding streets closed and Washington, DC almost closed. In the end, it was for a handful of protesters, most of the right, a few of the left, many looking more like ragged stragglers than the angry mob of Trump supporters who ransacked the U.S. Capitol there. over a week ago.

In Concord, New Hampshire, five masked men dressed in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles gathered on the sidewalk outside the Statehouse lawn to voice concerns about “government overbreadth.” In Lansing, Michigan, National Guard soldiers saw a dozen members of the far-right group Boogaloo Bois show up with military-type weapons.

Across the country, legislative chambers – people’s houses – have become citadels. At least 17 states have called their national guards.

In Washington, 15,000 troops, more than the nation has stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, have established a green zone, adding to the impression of an occupied city. The National Guard said troops were coming from all 50 states and the three territories, a force that could reach 25,000 by Wednesday.

The large presence of troops and police across the country came after FBI warnings of armed protests planned in all 50 capital cities and after promising protests of online gossip or worse in the days leading up to the inauguration. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Wednesday.

The militarized streets of the country on Sunday were a standout sight as police and National Guard officers clashed with the promised right-wing protests which, at least on Sunday, were reduced to a whimper. Protesters in some states could be counted on the one hand.

At Massachusetts State House, where hundreds of police are deployed around the perimeter, a pedestrian shouted, “What’s going on?”

“Maybe a demonstration, maybe not,” replied an officer.

But officials say they will remain on high alert until Wednesday’s inauguration.

In Denver, where public offices were cordoned off and police perched on rooftops, the handful of Trump supporters who showed up at the State Capitol wondered if they had come on the wrong day. “I expected more than I did,” said Larry Woodall, 59, who wore a Trump 2020 face mask. “I feel like I’m the lone wolf.”

A reporter from Lincoln, New York, counted two protesters marching around the State Capitol, one armed and the other carrying a homemade sign.

Outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol, there were so few protesters that reporters lined up on the sidewalk to question a man who only gave his name as Alex and wore a sweatshirt that read “Fraud 2020”. Reporters then turned to a man named Eddie who sold “Biden is not my president” t-shirts, but left soon after for lack of customers.

There are those who shed light at the time. In Lansing, a man arrived with a large Nerf pistol and was wearing a T-shirt declaring himself a member of the Michigan Nerf Militia.

But there’s no denying the angst of a nation hurt by a divisive power transition and suffering from pandemic and anxious exhaustion, especially after the deadly Jan.6 assault on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The United States Postal Service has announced that it is removing or locking many blue mailboxes from Washington streets as a precaution. Secret Service agents checked the wheels and interiors of cars parked along Massachusetts Avenue for anything suspicious.

In Salem, Oregon, less than a dozen men dressed in military-style clothing marched on the grounds of a park across from the State Capitol, waving flags. One of them was holding a sign made with a marker on a white board: “Disarm the government!” It said.

In the Texas Capitol, pro-Trump protesters gathered as officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety patrolled the grounds and guarded the entrance to the nearby governor’s mansion.

A protester lay down against a stone wall, holding a semi-automatic rifle and smoking a cigarette. He declined to give his name, saying he was there to “watch what was going on”.

Daniel Hunter, a 34-year-old handyman, came down from Waco on Sunday, he said, to make sure no one attacked the Capitol.

“If they do, I’ll stand in front of them,” he said. “Storming the Capitol is not civilized behavior.”

The events of January 6 stuck on everyone’s mind. Unlike other landmark moments of the Trump presidency, the attack on Capitol Hill did not abandon the news cycle or be overshadowed by subsequent outrage. With more footage going public over the weekend, the riot became even more heated and personalized.

In a 12-minute video released by The New Yorker magazine on Sunday, men are seen rummaging through senators’ offices in the Senate Chamber and leafing through their files. “I think Cruz would want us to do this,” said one man, referring to Senator Ted Cruz, the Republican from Texas. The video captures conversations between rioters and police inside the Capitol. “You are outnumbered,” one of the men told officers, adding that the rioters are there at the behest of President Trump, “your boss.”

For many who watch from afar, the assault on Capitol Hill and its aftermath combine into a picture of a nation almost unrecognizable to them.

“The past week and a half has been bad,” said Rich Kenny, a food distributor in Burlingame, Calif., Who was cleaning his garage on Sunday.

“It’s very surreal, and it’s very depressing,” he said. “And for someone who has friends in other countries, they say, ‘What’s going on over there. You are the best democracy, and it looks like it is collapsing. So it’s a really difficult time. And I’m ashamed.

In Sacramento, Calif., There were few signs of protesters but authorities were taking no chances. A wire mesh fence and portable metal barriers surrounded the Capitol building, and armed National Guard troops were stationed on street corners outside the State Library and the Secretary of State’s office. The helicopters are circling overhead.

A man on a scooter stopped to watch and mumbled behind his face mask.

“Can you believe this is happening in America?” he said.

Reporting was provided by Jack Healy of Denver; Shawn Hubler of Sacramento; Campbell Robertson of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Simon Romero from Santa Fe; Ruth Graham of Concord, NH, Ellen Barry of Boston; Sabrina Tavernise, Dionne Searcey, Elizabeth Dias and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio from Washington; Michael Hardy of Austin, Texas; Kate Andrews of Richmond, Virginia; Joe Purtell of San Francisco; Kathleen Gray of Lansing, Michigan; and Lauryn Higgins of Lincoln, Neb.

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Trump makes classic style the default for federal buildings

President Trump on Monday signed an executive order that establishes classical architecture as the preferred style for new federal buildings, but stops before banning new designs.

The decree, titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Municipal Architecture”, requires federal buildings to be “beautiful” and praises the characteristics of Greco-Roman architecture; in contrast, recent modernist conceptions are described in the text as “ugly and incoherent”.

“Classical and traditional architecture, as practiced both historically and by architects today, has proven its ability to meet these design criteria and more than satisfy functional, technical and sustainable today, ”the order reads. “Their use should be encouraged rather than discouraged.”

Signed in the dying days of the Trump administration, the executive order represents a victory for traditionalists who view contemporary architecture as degraded and dehumanizing.

But many in the architectural community have criticized the imposition of a privileged style on federal construction projects. Earlier this year, groups such as the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation opposed a draft executive order that would have banned Modernist design.

The new rule was supported by the National Civic Art Society, a nonprofit group.

“President Trump is to be applauded for ushering in a literally magnificent new era in federal architecture,” said Justin Shubow, president of the nonprofit. “Reversing the modernist hegemony that has given us dismal government buildings for over 60 years, Order gives the American people what they want in the federal design.

But architects have criticized the order, although some have described it as relatively toothless.

“While we are appalled by the administration’s decision to go ahead with the design mandate, we are pleased that the order is not as ambitious as previously thought,” said Robert Ivy, chief executive officer of the American Institute of Architects, in a statement. promising that his organization would never prioritize one type of architectural design over another. The group said it would ask the incoming Biden administration to reverse the order.

New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman condemned the measure last February. “Just having this argument is humiliating,” he wrote.

Some saw order as more than an architectural style.

“The decree does not make sense,” said Reinhold Martin, professor of architecture at Columbia University. “This is an effort to use culture to send coded messages about white supremacy and political hegemony.”

The order will also update the General Service Administration selection process by requiring input from the general public and future building staff. Further updates will be recommended by a new committee of officials called the President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture.

The new rules will apply to the construction of federal courthouses and agency headquarters, government buildings in Washington, and projects over $ 50 million.

Representatives of the new Biden administration did not immediately respond to emails asking if the president-elect plans to abide by the executive order after taking office next month.