Friday, June 28, 2013

Suburbatory


As I mentioned earlier on this blog, we took a vacation a few weeks ago out to Indiana to visit some friends of ours that moved out there several years ago. About a year ago, the bought the house where they now live out in the suburbs of Indianapolis. When they bought the place, there existed only a street and weedy lots. Their house was the first house to be built and everything you see has been built within the last year. In fact during our stay, those two houses in the picture above were being built along with four more houses further down the street that I didn't take a picture. They were about ten models of houses to choose from evidently and they were all very similar looking like the ones in the next picture.


Something about these new suburbs that just doesn't sit well with my nature. I feel like I'm living in an animal factory with the rest of the animals. Perhaps a better analogy would be that living in the suburbs is like working in cubicles. I've lived in cities for the last couple decades but I always seem to go for the more mature neighborhoods where the houses and surroundings have character. I like the big trees, the varied architecture and the larger lot sizes among other things.

Another thing I noticed is that they just don't make things like they used too. Everything is so cheaply done. In this particular neighborhood that didn't exist a year ago, every house had vinyl siding and every house had siding that was already bowing, cupping, twisting, bulging or what not. It is like disposable siding I guess. It is so cheap you can't afford not to use it but it is so cheap that you end up throwing it away after two or three decades... or less.

I'm guessing some of that has to do with workmanship since every light or fixture that was attached to the outside of these houses was attached to a plastic block that had been tacked to the side of the sheathing and the vinyl just notched around it. There was no water prevention at all. In fact, some of them looked like they funneled water behind the siding so that it runs down the sheathing to the drip edge. Every house I saw had this problem. I tried to tactfully bring it up to our friend but he assured me that the builder said that was what was supposed to happen. I'm guessing there is a thick layer of mold thriving behind his siding. Being a good guest, I just dropped the subject.

I don't know what my friends paid for their house but I would tell you this, I wouldn't have paid it. Even if it was the same price as my house though I know it wasn't since they live in a higher priced area and the house is more than twice the size of ours, I wouldn't trade. Our house has its problems but they were due from lack of maintenance and not because it was badly built.

I could go on and on about the cheap windows, unreinforced concrete everywhere, etc but I won't. The entire time we stayed in that area I felt it was like some sort of suburbatory for people like me who know the difference. I'm just glad I escaped.

7 comments:

edifice rex said...

I believe you and I could have an extended rant going on for days about this very subject!! Absolutely makes my skin crawl. And how people think that they are "living the good life" in such a place in such crappy houses, it just baffles me and.....ugh!! ack!! ack!! GGAhhhhh!! Must leave now....!!!!!

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - I have come to realize over the years that some people actually thrive in such conditions and want to live there. I'm glad that we have a choice to live somewhere different because I couldn't thrive there.

roaring40 said...

There is a nasty little game going with new builds like those.
Planning authorities have standards but rarely have the wherewithal to test. But sometimes there is a quid pro quo between the developer and the authorities if there is a shortage where standards aren't kept.
In my landscape designer days I'd be looking at those sites with $$$$ in one eye and ££££ in the other.

Ron said...

What bugs me most about those sorts of developments is not the materials or craftsmanship... things like that can be improved over time... it's the obvious and outright pressure to conform.

I suppose that can be comforting, if one's ideals are in line with the mainstream, but for me that sort of place would be hell, and that sort of mentality is suffocating.

Ed said...

Vince - We have lots of standards for sure but rarely do they state the quality of materials you must use. In some suburbs, they have restrictions called covenants that can restrict materials and colors used on your house. The covenants generally want houses to have a similar appearance. Those neighborhoods generally have fees that must be paid to an association in charge of enforcement and maintenance in the neighborhood even if you own the land and the house. In my opinion, that is the worst kind of suburb.

Ron - We looked at a house in a neighborhood that had covenants that included not keeping your garage door open, no gardens, fences, no campers and no more than one car outside at any given time. When I heard that I just laughed at the guy and told him no thanks.

Even if I found a house in a neighborhood like the ones I photographed, I would surely be one of those bad neighbors that they all complain about. Even at my last house, my neighbor across the street (Lawn Nazi) wasn't too happy a few times with my lack of raking leaves.

roaring40 said...

Yeah we've those type of communities too. You'd wonder really, even the army married quarters aren't a regimented. In fact the families are positively encouraged to 'make the place their own' to take the parade ground look from the place.

sage said...

Did all the wives and children look the same? Such neighborhoods, if the houses are built well, might be a nice place to live in 50 years when there are trees and different color trim. Many of the older neighborhoods around the country have similar homes, but after a while they all take on different character.