=cities =economics =buildings =construction
Taller buildings are not always more expensive.
1 to 3 floor wood-frame buildings are the cheapest kind of house to make per floor area. They all cost a similar amount; 3-floor houses are generally slightly cheaper per floor area but have the disadvantage of the wasted space and inconvenience of more stairs.
6 to 25 floor buildings have a similar cost per floor area, and are significantly more expensive than 1 to 3 floor wood-frame houses. The extra cost is less for office buildings than hospitals, because offices require fewer pipes and pipes are more of a problem for taller buildings. On the other hand, offices usually have more people per area than apartments, so they need more elevators, and elevators are a big problem for skyscrapers. Tall hotels are cheaper than tall apartment buildings if the apartments have kitchens. A 15-floor building is generally cheaper per floor area than a 6-floor building, because the amount of foundation required is about the same and because it takes time to set up things like cranes.
Because kitchens are more expensive for high-rise apartments, many people living in tall apartment buildings get most of their food from restaurants and street vendors. At the same time, higher density makes restaurants more cost-effective. There seems to be a sort of large-scale multiple equilibria situation with food in cities.
Hospitals are significantly more expensive than 2-floor wood-frame clinics, but hospitals get paid more for the same procedures. So, hospitals in the USA have been buying clinics because then more money is paid for the same procedures.
Multilevel parking is about as expensive per area as offices. Ground-level flat asphalt parking lots are much cheaper than that. So, you'll often see tall office buildings with a big parking lot, instead of multilevel parking with shorter office buildings.
Robotic parking systems are actually now often cheaper than multilevel parking overall, but they have a lower flow capacity.
70-floor skyscrapers are about twice as expensive per floor area as 25-floor buildings, but depending on the situation, 40-floor buildings are sometimes not too much more expensive. So, tall skyscrapers are mostly made for prestige and for rich people who like high views more than they dislike long elevator rides.
As expensive as skyscrapers are, rent in New York City is so high that they're profitable at average rent rates. But it's hard to get permission to make tall buildings. Ultimately, rent in New York City is so high largely because of government policies. The same can be said about housing prices around Silicon Valley.
All this considered, why do you often see lots of 5-storey buildings in cities, with a few much taller buildings? Mostly because of regulations. Construction of tall buildings tends to be heavily regulated. So, if a property developer gets permission to make a new 40-floor building in an area with high land values and shorter buildings, they can make a lot of money from that. That's why some famous architects are so valued: the actual work is done by a bunch of interns because the actual architect is too busy networking and being famous, and their name helps push through permission to make a tall building, or at least provides an excuse for why a well-connected property developer is given some special dispensation.
There are also usually height restrictions in suburban areas, which are often low enough that 2-storey houses can't be built. A common justification for that kind of restriction is that taller buildings would let people see into their neighbor's windows over fences.
back to index