I’ve just read a waffly Quantity Surveyor’s report pertaining to a Sydney building I have an interest in. “All building’s have a finite life” it asserted.
That’s rubbish and brought to mind a discussion a few years back with a leading Wellington commercial property valuer. Why do you claim a particular newly built building (I won’t name it), rates as A Class and thus values higher than existing ones, I asked him. “Well, it’s newly built”, he declared.
Dear oh dear. The building had the glaring and intolerable fault of being massively underlifted and has other design issues as well.
I pointed out to him that by a country mile the world’s most expensive office-buildings are in London’s West End, most are poorly lifted but none of that affects their value, only their location and thus demand being the determining factor. So too in the capital.
This misguided ageism approach has been brought home hard in recent years with Wellington’s CBD office-blocks regarding insurance premiums. Fearful of earthquakes insurers have massively lifted premiums, based on the buildings engineering, vis a vis the current rating code.
The outcome has unexpectedly been punishing for the more modern buildings, particularly those built during the 1980s construction boom, although most but not all, have been fixable.
But note this, the four which were totally demolished after the last “big one” were all recently completed.
More puzzling is the Cuba Street precinct. Most of the buildings there are over a hundred years old and a large number have literally no reinforcing. Yet they’ve stood there, totally unaffected through thousands of earthquakes throughout their existence. Despite that the Council is hammering their owners to have them strengthened. In many cases this is totally uneconomic leaving the owners in a terrible fix as they can’t be pulled down. Why? Because they’re listed and thus deemed of historical significance.
This is completely overdone. Any building with twirly bits on its exterior seems to excite the Historic Places people. Currently they call themselves the ungrammatical Heritage New Zealand, changed from the long standing and perfectly adequate Historical Places name, explained at the time with some world-class piffle.
Now there’s an interesting doctoral thesis topic awaiting an Economics student. That is to record the hundreds of perfectly adequate government departments names which have been unnecessarily and usually at great expense, changed over the past half century.
That said an awful lot of their historic importance listings are plainly infantile.
As one of our most famous architects, Christchurch’s Sir Miles Warren complained to me a few years ago, “it’s perfectly within our competence to build such buildings. We don’t because no-one wants them”. And just how many old houses are pointlessly listed despite no-one wanting them?
One of the reasons London’s West End buildings are so old is because of listing both their exteriors and interiors.
In booming Glasgow greater reason prevails. My company owns three office buildings there with listed facades, behind which sit, aligned with the windows a new office building.
The Brits in my view, hugely over-list everything, and not just buildings, but in my experience are nowhere near as bad as Australia. A few years back my company contracted to buy a very large Sydney CBD office building from it’s developer. The day it was finished a listing order was slapped on it. That’s insanity.
The Americans do this best. Listing of city buildings is actively pursued but has a wonderfully equitable qualification tempering such zeal with other people’s property.
If a building is listed as historically significant, the owner is entitled to obtain a valuation of the lost value were the site redeveloped and this must be paid before the listing can go ahead. That is precisely what should happen with the Cuba Street buildings where their owners find themselves victims of two competing authorities, namely the Council and the Heritage body.