What Is the True Value of a Vacant or Abandoned Building?

Bronzeville Abandoned Building

The building above may look nondescript, but is actually in a highly favorable location across the street from Shops and Lofts on 47 in the Bronzeville area of Chicago’s Near South Side. Photo Credit: Audrey F. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Any real estate agent or Realtor can tell you that the three most important factors in determining the potential value of a particular parcel of real estate are, in order: location, location, location. Location can trump other aspects of a structure, including whether it is occupied and its state of (dis)repair. In fact, location plays a large role in determining whether a decrepit building is worthy of the financial investment necessary to reclaim it for productive use, assuming of course that it is structurally sound.

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Facades+ Lands in Chicago July 24 and 25

Inland Steel Building North Elevation

The Inland Steel building, completed in 1958, is one Chicago’s most iconic Modernist buildings. Its stainlesss steel facade, although beautiful, presents challenges for environmentally-efficient retrofitting, due in large part to its landmark status.  Photo Credit: Audrey F. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Over two days, Thursday July 24 and Friday July 25, thought leaders from architecture, design and engineering will come together in the heart of downtown for the 2014 Façades+ Chicago Conference to share their insights on the exteriors that shape our first impressions of buildings. The 2014 Chicago conference was organized by The Architect’s Newspaper and Enclos, with YKK-AP serving as the 2014 Conference chair. Luke Smith of Enclos and Edward Peck of Thornton Tomasetti are serving as co-chairs for the Chicago conference, the eighth in the series.

Since 2012, the Façades+ Conference has established itself as the premier conference on high performance building enclosures. Making its launch in New York City, the Façades+ conference has since added Chicago to its lineup. In October 2014 Façades+ will add Dallas to its roster; Los Angeles will join the list of Façades+ sites in 2015.

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Is the Earth Squandering Its Future?

On The Street of the Lifted Lorax, “the wind smells slow and sour when it blows; and the birds never sing, except for old crows . . . ” In this forsaken place, there are decrepit signs in shoddy disrepair, tufts of grickle-grass, and not much else.

The Street of the Lifted Lorax is Dr. Seuss‘ mythical representation of the consequences of rampant greed and urban sprawl run amok. Although The Lorax was published in 1971, and the animated feature produced in 1972, its lessons still resonate as a cautionary tale, with some of its hardest lessons evidently still unlearned in the real world.

The destruction the Earth’s natural habitats and the effects of climate change are increasingly obvious, with the ironic result of making further commercial ventures viable in regions heretofore inaccessible. The fabled Northwest Passage, long an unattainable shipping lane due to year round Arctic ice cover, may become a reality before the end of this century.

Also ironically, the fossil fuels which are believed to be largely responsible for climate change have become potentially more accessible as well. In August 2005, a Russian research ship was able to reach the North Pole without an icebreaker to clear a pathway – the first time in history. Its mission? To anchor Russia’s claim to virtually half the Arctic Ocean – estimated to hold a full one quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves. Such reserves are nearly irresistible for industrialized and developing economies facing increasing scarcity and higher prices for fossil fuels. A Thneed, after all, is what everyone needs.

The Finnish dream in Sundsberg

This development located near Helsinki represents a Finnish approach to suburbia. Neat and orderly, Sundsberg is nonetheless nearly inaccessible except by car or other private vehicle.
Photo Credit: Audrey F. Henderson, all rights reserved.

The need has become more acute as the planet becomes ever more urbanized, putting further strain on resources such as clean drinking water and arable land suitable for agriculture, never mind uninhabited natural landscapes. According to U.N. Habitat, the world’s urban population will grow from 2.86 billion in 2000 to 4.98 billion by 2030, with much of that growth in the developing world, in medium and low-income countries – with many of the migrants themselves being extremely poor.This is an increasingly urgent situation, which, if unaddressed, is a time bomb in the making. Many cities worldwide are ringed with shantytowns of unimaginable poverty. A major aspect of urban sustainability (if not bottom-line livability) in decades to come will be in dealing with this influx of people, both in numbers and in the scope of their social needs. Read the rest of this entry »