Ideally, many components could be simple enough to be maintained by owners, especially since many frugal individuals balk at the cost of hiring specialists to do repair work for them. What would matter most for some mass produced components, is ensuring that plumbing and electrical circuitry are simple enough to no longer need professional attention once they leave the factory. When it comes to living arrangements, in this instance an inexpensive product which is easily disposed of, could prove to be quite a relief.
Nothing about our lives is truly permanent. The paradox however, is that our physical environments tend to be built with an illusion of permanence, even as cost cutting takes place in ways which ultimately require excessive maintenance and renovation. Plumbing and electrical wiring are still being run through buildings, as if there were little worry of pulling the whole mess apart for major repairs at some point. Since many building materials get connected in ways difficult to amend, doing so is not necessarily worthwhile, unless a property is sufficiently valuable to qualify for gentrification. Consequently, communities end up with many dilapidated buildings which have outlived their purpose, yet there is often little incentive to tear them down and start over.
Flexible building components would make it simpler not only to start anew as needed, but also for the simplest possible forms of instant remodels. Such options would make it much easier for aging individuals to retire without excessive home ownership burdens. In particular, flexible components built with plumbing and electrical circuitry as detachable units, could help even lower income levels to better manage financial responsibilities while aging in place.
Many building components could be mass produced in ways which are far more amenable to decentralized ownership options than is currently the case. Given our present lack of ownership flexibility, consider for example what can occur when "temporary" solutions end up as permanent outcomes. Johnny of the blog "Granola Shotgun", explains a style of Russian apartments, and how basic elements of their construction are now common elsewhere, for oddly similar reasons:
These ubiquitous buildings were mass produced from standardized parts by centralized authorities and were duplicated by millions across the Soviet sphere. This was in response to a housing crisis in the mid twentieth century. They were meant to be a temporary stop-gap solution that would last for twenty five years until permanent replacements were formed, but many are still occupied decades later. As is so often the case everywhere, there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution.In all this, Johnny notes that he is less bothered by the aesthetics of bulk housing, than by a dependence on either governments or corporations to maintain them over the long run. Indeed, excess regulations regarding how residents might keep these dwellings fully functional, only makes such dependence worse. He adds:
If an aging apartment is in a desirable location and is occupied by a small number of people who are reasonably prosperous, the situation can be quite livable...If too many budget conscious people are packed tight in an identical poorly maintained flat in a crappy part of the metroplex, life can be unbearable. In other words, it's like any place else in the world.Importantly, public and private entities sometimes arrive at similar destinations, particularly when it comes to mass construction of today's inflexible housing units. The result?
...institutions driven by vertical integration, economies of scale, regulatory compliance, and the demands of physics and engineering. So hold off on touchy feely assumptions about the left or the right. We're observing convergent evolution and constrained maximization at work here.Johnny's post is an apt reminder, how twentieth century housing can put anyone with limited resource capacity at a real disadvantage when it comes to managing one's life. Just as more flexibility is needed in housing regulation, flexible options are also needed for the physical components of housing and infrastructure in general. Incremental ownership patterns could make it simpler for millions of individuals to build better lives for themselves. Flexible building options could provide more opportunities for low income groups, and also reduce their long term investment risks.
However, there's much more at stake regarding mobility, given uncertainties such as climate change and the evolving nature of our workplaces. By way of example, a productive response to impermanence with flexible building components, could allow people to regain normal functioning much sooner after natural disasters.
Again, mass production isn't the problem. It's when mass production only creates investment in which personal risk assumes an all or nothing dimension. Why not create mass produced components which can be added, subtracted, or reconfigured without need of massive renovation costs? And why not amend them locally with 3D manufacture? Even better for local community dynamism, would be 3D manufacture which puts local plastics to good (additional) use.
Plus, incremental ownership would be a decentralized option which groups could set into motion as needed after natural disasters, instead of waiting for governments to come to their assistance. Fortunately, it is within our power to make peace with impermanence. Doing so would give societies a chance to use many resources more efficiently, as well.