AT THE PRESENT RATE OF TURNOVER, AS FRANK WATSON,
head of Purdue University housing research, recently has pointed
out, the American home will remain in use for 142 years. Compare
this with the average life of a motor car, a little under eight
years. With industrialization, buildings will obviously have much
shorter life spans. But as this occurs what is going to happen
to the many billions invested in mortgages based on the present
long life expectancy for buildings?
Industrialization is precipitating a clash
of economic forces that penetrates through all lines of activity.
Business itself is split apartthere are those who make
profits by producing things, while others make profits by merely
owning them. One side favors rapid obsolescence, the other fears
it. One wants change, the other status quo.
big manufacturers hesitate to undertake any new activities which
may antagonize their present relationships with local dealers
and builders, so far as possible they are proceeding cautiously,
encouraging both the traditional and industrial techniques.
The non-mechanizable businesses obviously must oppose technical
advances if they are themselves to exist. This they are doing
to an increasing extent by whipping up a ballyhoo for the virtues
of handicraft production.
Likewise craft unions in the building field
are opposed to technical and commercial innovationsan
obstacle likely to disappear with the growth of industrial unionism,
however. It will not be surprising if eventually the Green and
Lewis factions bring their fight to a finish in the housing
other labor, the white collars are also facing a drastic economic
realignment. As the function of design becomes more important
marketwise, the architects and engineers shift from general
practice as professional freelances to specialized work as employes
of large corporations. A phenomenon of the depression years
has been the rapid growth of the Federation of Architects, Engineers,
Chemists and Technicians, which recently became the first white
collar union to join the CIO.
The changing building market is already
having repercussions in the publishing field, always sensitive
to upsets home-conscious than ever, even to the extent of supplying
readers with blueprints of "model" houses. Hearst, with large
real estate holdings at stake, has bought up American Architect
and Architecture, and combined them into a single archaeologically
inclined journal. The tycoons of Time, Inc., long excited over
prefabrication, have revamped their acquisition, Architectural
Forum, into a magazine intended to "surround the building
dollar"; its circulation now embraces builders, real estate
and mortgage money men, as well as architects. F. W. Dodge Corporation,
an organization originally set up to sell reports of scattered
local building projects to market-seeking manufacturers, is
taking a vertical rather than a horizontal approach toward integration
by focusing its publications, Architectural Record and
Real Estate Record, on the specialized functions of building
design and building man agement, respectively. New publicationsBuilding
Reporter (also owned by Time, Inc.) and Building Product
News (owned by Thomas Publishing Company)have recently
been started along industrial lines. Here as else where the
implied outcome is a vast integrated system of highly specialized
information services, probably centrally controlled, which will
take the place of the present random assortment of trade papers.
or indirectly, almost everyone is affected by this industrialization.
Insecurity and unemploymentthe negative aspects of increasing
mobility and increasing leisurećare problems that become intensified
with the industrial production of housing. For example, the
claim so often advanced for mobile houses that "it is easier
to get a job if you are able to move from place to place," is
true only up to a certain point. Too many mobile unemployed
moving in on a work center would mean a surplus labor supply
and correspondingly lower pay scales which would be reflected
in reduced purchasing power for the rest of the community. Then
all, what is the ultimate purpose of this increasing freedom
in space and time that comes with industrialization? A new social
integration is implied but as one may well ask, is there any
progress if advances along the technical front are followed
by breakdowns along the economic front?
WITH ALL OUR INDUSTRIAL RESOURCES THIS housing problem should
be easy to solve. Economically, however, the difficulties appear
increasingly more complex. And as industrialization proceeds
the housing problem moves steadily out of the technical sphere
into the economic. There it is swallowed up by the larger problem
of planning a society that can utilize all its productive resources
for the benefit of mankind.