According to KOMO News yesterday and The Seattle Times today a 25 story commercial/apartment building at the corner of 2nd Ave and Wall Street in the hip Belltown district will be torn down because of construction problems. In fact, it’s falling apart and expected to fall down.
In 2008 estimates to repair were $23MM but this year they have escalated to $40MM, twice the cost of the original construction.
The building consists of about 250 units, mostly residential, but plenty of commercial/retail/sevice spaces on the ground floor. Residents are being paid a bonus for getting out within the next two months.
The City of Seattle claims that they don’t do inspections on high-rises, but rely on inspection reports from private companies which are licensed to perform them.
Aside from the immediate problems of the owner and the tenants, is this just the tip of the iceberg in our country? Has everyone gone over to the cheaper is better, as long as we make more money philosophy? I remember as a kid in the 50’s there were a lot of complaints about cheap knock offs from Japan flooding the toy and gimmick market. Sixty years later we have a myriad of problems relating to quality verses cost.
Often, as Realtors we find furnaces and water heaters in older homes that are still functional, but in newer houses the inspectors are telling us the expected life of a furnace or water heater is ten years, and often they show signs of failing already. The difference, of course is the guage of steel used in the manufacturing of these product. Because of the Japanese thing from the 50's regulations were made in the 70's as to certain minimum standards and then everybody ascribed to those standards. Harumph!
A European home furnishing store is making a fortune distributing products that are incredibly cheap by comparison to locally made items of the same use. But where are most of these products 10 years later. I’ve seen many in the landfills and at yard sales, or else being given away. They look good to start with but seem to have no durability.
There is a product, EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish Systems) by name that has had many, hundreds I would guess, of failures in Seattle. Almost all large buildings in the 1990’s used the product and almost all failed, and had to be redone.
There are many new products on the market for home construction that claim to be green because no tree was killed. But are these products any better for us? Plastic siding that traps moisture and there for mold in the walls. Composite materials (remember Louisiana Pacific’s siding) that bulge and become infested with fungus. Floors that look like wood but are plastic. I realize that the claim of many of these products is that they never need maintanence, but what's wrong with taking care of your home, as in painting it?
Has anyone besides me had trouble repairing a light fixture or a space heater that is only a few years old? Have you ever tried to take apart something seemingly as simple as an iron? Too many products that grace the entire spectrum of our retail industry are made for a short use-life so that we will throw them away and buy new again.
There is a renewed interest in manufacturing in this country. A European car maker is looking to locate here because it is close to the source of material they need for parts of the next generation of automobile. Let’s hope it is an improvement in quality, rather than a cutting of costs that drives the industry.
Meanwhile hundreds of people are displaced because a less than 10 year old building has failed. Why worry? The insurance will pay for it. Therefore we’ll all pay for it as insurance rates go up. How can we stop this trend toward accepting products that are made to fail? I wish I had the answer.