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European vs North American building

AaronRosenthal's picture

Talking to my client the other day, and he mentioned one of his trips to Switzerland (international financing) and his friend there comparing house building techniques.
The fellow from Switzerland said they could never build like they do here, local codes would never allow it.
Evidently, at the time, a $200,000.00 house locally would be built so well and strongly, that it would cost $5,000,000.00.
I've never built there, but I'm curious what differences could cost that kind of money.
I can understand insulation differences, venting, perhaps sewage treatment - but lots of North America is cold and poorly drained. Maybe better climate screening - but does anyone know a reason why a house in Switzerland would cost so much more?

Quality repairs for your home.


AaronR Construction
Vancouver, Canada


 

Quality repairs for your home.

AaronR Construction
Vancouver, Canada

 

(post #105823, reply #1 of 18)

The cost differential may not only be because of codes. The cost of labor and materials may be quite a bit higher in Switzerland.


 


Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters. ~ Abrahan Lincoln

Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters. ~ Abraham Lincoln

(post #105823, reply #2 of 18)

Aaron Rosenthal,


1.  Masonry walls instead of wood framing.


2.  Tile roofing instead of asphalt shingles.


3.  Copper flashing and gutters instead of aluminum.


4.  Very high quality windows with beefier frames and better quality hardware.


5.  Much higher quality HVAC equipment (boiler and radiators).


6.  Much higher quality interior and exterior doors.


7.  Higher quality kitchen cabinets.


Anyone else want to add to the list?

(post #105823, reply #3 of 18)

Really nice pendulum clocks in every room.


Holes carefully drilled in all the cheese in the fridge.


Table knives can do lots of other things.


Forrest - helpful

(post #105823, reply #4 of 18)

Aaron,


I just thought of two more:


8.  Exterior steel roll-up shutters for all windows.


9.  Until recently, the residential building code in Switzerland required every new house to include a family-size bomb shelter in the basement for civil defense purposes.  The specifications included a poured-concrete ceiling.  This code requirement was recently rescinded, however.

(post #105823, reply #5 of 18)

any socialist country {which most in europe are} will be expensive to build in. that is the beauty of a free market, there is competition for contractors to build cheaper. carpenters over there are respected members of society that have gone through years of school and apprenticeship, that means labor is more expensive.


that being said i got a chance to work over in ireland on a house and i didn't notice the codes in rural ireland to be any more stringent the codes here. the quality of work certainly was not higher than what you would find here. especially the masonry which shocked me, but the plaster was phenominal. the property though, that is a different story. you are going to pay out your azz for property over there, it really blew my mind.


 


Every day is a gift, that's why it's called the present.

 

Every day is a gift, that's why it's called the present.

(post #105823, reply #11 of 18)

 


There is a free market in Europe, Polish and Eastern European tradesmen are flooding west to take advantage of the higher wages they can make.  One advantage of using those New Europeans is that they still go through apprenticeships and know how to use basic materials such as slate, lead and wood.


Any tradesmen can seek work anywhere in Europe.  There is probably an ideal combination, if you could co-ordinate it, with Scandinavian timber, Italian plaster, Spanish tile, German bathroom etc.


The apprentice system in the UK collapsed and is slowly being rebuilt but with emphasis on shorter training and the use of prefabricated materials.  There are tales, perhaps apocraphyl,  of individuals leaving good jobs in the finance services in London and making £80,000 a year as plumbers. 


As to the quality of work, Ireland may be a bad example.  The 80's and 90's building boom supported a lot of bad work.  Some say the boom over there is slowing up.  Correspondents from Ireland are better placed to comment than I am.


The one big difference I see between the houses in the US and those in Europe is that US seems to be all wood while we usually have a brick or concrete block exterior and have to connect to municipal water and drainage lines.  The planning system controls where houses can be built and the house builders keep the prices of new properties artificially high.  Most of the large housebuilding companies produce a dubious product.  Small building firms with a pride in the job oftem produce a superior house but at a cost because it takes more time.


The UK has a high percentage of home ownership which has its social consequences.  Both parents have to work to support a mortgage in a market where prices are rising and many youngsters can't afford to buy a house.  The systems in Germany, Holland, France, Italy etc (which can hardly be described as 'socialist' in the terms you mean) support secure long term rentals.  There is less frenzy in the housing market and folks don't get over the head in debt - generally speaking.

(post #105823, reply #12 of 18)

Switzerland is SOCIALIST??????????
Where do you get THAT idea?

Quality repairs for your home.


AaronR Construction
Vancouver, Canada


 

Quality repairs for your home.

AaronR Construction
Vancouver, Canada

 

(post #105823, reply #13 of 18)

Don't know a lot of details, but a local company has a pretty good part of it's business in prefabbing houses, loading them into containers and shipping them to Europe.


 


Paul

(post #105823, reply #15 of 18)

When the Eastern Block countries opened up to the West in the '90s, an architect friend of mine decided to ship all the materials to build several wood framed North American style houses to Czechoslovakia. He sent along a Czech ex-patriot builder he knew to supervise. He managed to get two houses built before returning with his tail between his legs. There were just too many differences in methods and techniques. Things like the continuous gutter installers insisting on working from scaffolding, not the roof. It too three days and a crew of four.  Pre-fabing would probably fare better.

(post #105823, reply #6 of 18)

I think it definitely has to do with the skilled trades and materials. Europeans have put more R&D into building systems like HVAC, Plumbing and fixtures, cabinetry, and of course plaster is still widespread and usually beautifully done, etc. The guilds or labor unions are also fairly strong there and set high wages for the trades people. For instance to be a cabinetmaker in Germany one needs to go to trade school and take an exam before they can officially be called a cabinetmaker and set up shop.


Edited 3/7/2008 8:47 am ET by ted

(post #105823, reply #7 of 18)

For one thing home ownership is not as sought after there. They have great communities in appartments. People are quite happy to live their whole life in an appartment.


This is a much better way to house people because you don't cover up land with single family dwellings.


A home that covers up land for one family that could be used for growng food or serving many people should cost a lot. Think of how many other ways that land could be better used for everyone.

______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

(post #105823, reply #9 of 18)

Thats a socialist view of things which I tend to agree with. Urban density is one of the things that can be used to combat urban sprawl.

(post #105823, reply #10 of 18)

While I agree with you on urban sprawl I don't agree on your use of the word socialism. The word socialism has been used in the US for anything that is bad or anti- American for so many years that it really isn't a good word to use for most people.


For me, the basic rule is that if you live out in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors you can do just about anything you want. Blow off fireworks, build bonfires, whatever.


But as soon as you get closer to neighbors you have to start living by agreed on rules. It doesn't matter what country you are in or what type of government the politicians say you have.


In the US people still think like pioneers where you can get some cheap land and build your log cabin like Daniel Boone. And if anyone says otherwise you are squashing their dreams.


Edited 3/7/2008 9:18 am ET by popawheelie

______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

(post #105823, reply #8 of 18)

Carpenters over there aren't one lost job away from food stamps.

(post #105823, reply #14 of 18)

Plus, all those Festool tools, Volvo trucks, and two-liter beer lunches get expensive!


Billy

(post #105823, reply #16 of 18)

"a $200,000.00 house locally..... would cost $5,000,000.00."

I suspect there is more to this story -

what constitutes a $200K home in your local? (are you BC?)

if it is a minimally built 5000 sq ft McMansion, I could believe that the 'sensible' Swiss would make it very difficult to build such nonsense -

if it's a 'modest' 3 BR - 2 Bath, I suspect such a building could be built for a lot less than $5M - - (tho perhaps the collapse of the dollar colors the comparison)

we visited for a few days on a tour, and tho I didn't observe a lot of new construction, housing I commonly observed was well built and relatively modest -

they do deal with the issues of building on hillsides, and I could believe the site could be real expensive - wood is used less extensively and stout construction to deal with snow loads is a given -

dunno - but I suspect there are details being left out - -

"there's enough for everyone"
"there's enough for everyone"

(post #105823, reply #17 of 18)

Many good points here.
I tend to think like this: my client is dealing with financiers - and we have a totally different mindset looking at us.
Urban Geneva or Lucerne may have property values like Vancouver (lot value minus my VERY modest 1931 home approaches $1,000,000.00). Most Europeans think land values in Vancouver are cheap.
I agree that with different standards for plumbing and heating, the type of roofing structure you need for the climate are part of the cost. Still, we build for snow loads here in Canada and the US and it's not that expensive.
Some of the cost must be for the European craftsmanship, and generally, the higher cost of living.
Idunno. How about in addition to masonry construction and higher levels of insulation, cost of mitigation of energy usage there must be a certain snob appeal.

Quality repairs for your home.


AaronR Construction
Vancouver, Canada


 

Quality repairs for your home.

AaronR Construction
Vancouver, Canada

 

(post #105823, reply #18 of 18)

I have just watches a TV documentary about Huf houses from Germany.  Do a Google search for Huf Haus and see the best in prefabricated housing.