The most shocking and impressive thing that I have encountered while studying in the U.S. was the fact that the lifespan of most of the buildings in here is over 80 years. People can actually use some of the buildings for over 100 years.
When I was living in New York, one of my friends lived in an apartment that was built over 100 years ago. The condition of the building was so good that she didn’t feel inconvenienced or uncomfortable living in that building at all. In fact, it felt cool to live in a building that was built over 100 years ago because the historical architecture was interesting and attractive. When I came to Seattle and tried to find a place to live, it was hard to find a newly built house. Houses built in the 80s or 90s were considered relatively new houses.
It was quite a culture shock for me since I always considered buildings built in the 80s as buildings that needed to be torn down and rebuilt. The average life span of buildings in China is just 30 years, compared to 80 years in the U.S. and 132 years in England. Some Chinese buildings are only used for a decade before they are torn down. One significant problem that causes this short life span in China is the quality of the buildings. For example, some of the buildings were slanted after a heavy rain.
How should we change this situation?
One way is to promote the real estate development industry remodel existing buildings. Part of the reason why Chinese buildings have a lifespan of only 30 years is because local governments want to encourage GDP growth by tearing down a building and rebuilding it. This is not a long-term solution for GDP growth. If government officials promote remodeling, it will generate healthy GDP growth at the same time as increasing the lifespan of the buildings.
Another way to change people’s perception on this is educating and promoting the beauty and story within the historical buildings. By adding some classes in elementary school about preserving historical buildings, it will help the population to recognize the values and beauty of old buildings. I believe that old buildings in China do have their own charm that attracts millennials. As generations change, those who were educated about the beauty of historical Chinese buildings will be more inclined to preserve the old buildings and thus, naturally pay more attention to increasing lifespan of buildings.
My last idea is to do thorough planning for cities and buildings. Understanding the movement of populations and understanding the household size of the next generation will contribute a lot to the better planning of cities and buildings.