brick, sustainability, and the places I've lived

Below is a series of photos of some of the places I have lived.  (Thanks to Google streetview for most of these).  Not everyplace is there – a house in Louisville when we first moved there, an apartment in Venice, a couple of places in Lexington, Kentucky – are missing.

A question came up regarding masonry houses and the West.  Most everything built here in Colorado for single-family residential work is wood frame construction with wood siding, even though the environment out here is not kind to wood (too much high-altitude sun and snow).  I was wondering how common that was in other places and decided to take an albeit bias survey of a least the places I have lived.

Of the 20 places shown here, there are a couple of brick suburban houses in Louisville, KY; a brick dorm and some brick apartments in Lexington, KY; a couple of brick townhouses in Boston and a couple of brick houses in New Haven; some brick apartments and a converted storefront in Chicago.  The lower images are from Colorado:  a small frame house in Boulder, a log cabin in the mountains above Boulder, a wood-framed townhouse and then a partial brick suburban house in Boulder.

Maybe because I was obviously drawn to apartments in old, brick houses as a young adult, they’re heavily represented.  But overall, I think my experience is probably not that different from many others, moving from suburbs to cities and back to suburbs again.  It may be a regional expression or possibly a recognition of the age of building stock, but the paucity of masonry in the West is striking.  The number of older, quality buildings in Colorado is pretty thin, but this may not be the region as much as the relative youth of most of the buildings here.  I’m afraid in an society with increasing demands to make short-term capital, the idea of creating a building to last generations has simply died away.  Even the older, brick suburban houses that I grew up in Louisville have a solidity and permanence that a wood-frame and sided house can not invoke.  So I think looking at these images, it is not the region nor the suburban/urban/rural nature of the structure, but rather its date of construction that has most influenced the use of materials.  Hopefully with a  renewed interest in the environment, we can recognize that the most sustainable building is one that lasts the longest.

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