May 11, 2016

Princeton Need Not Waste Time, Money Rewriting Zoning to Stop Tear Downs

To the Editor:

Like cars and other items, buildings often become “tired” with time and use. Princeton has many “tired” buildings. When economics, function, energy inefficiencies and/or depreciation come into play, teardowns are often necessary. Princeton does not need to waste lots of time and money rewriting Princeton’s Zoning to slow or stop tear downs.

A simple way to curtail the larger new houses that are replacing the “tired” smaller houses is to incorporate an upfront new construction fee paid at the time permits are pulled for added space. Because building bigger does not necessarily cost more, developers of spec houses currently have an incentive to maximize the allowable area of a house. If developers and or homeowners building had to pay an upfront (sliding scale — the more you add, the more you pay) fee for building larger than what is there, it is very likely they instead would consider quality and or efficiency over quantity.

Times have changed, needs have changed, how we use space and what space we actually need has changed, materials have changed, and building systems have changed. This added with the costs for annual maintenance, heating, and cooling is a current serious dialogue for buildings. Princeton has many architects who would love to sit down with developers, building owners, and homeowners and derive creative functioning, energy efficient and well specified smart buildings to replace (or rebuild) the “tired’ buildings with an incentive to keep the total new area nothing more than what it needs to be. Yes, it is possible these clever, smarter buildings could cost more per square foot like how efficient well-designed cars cost more than the inefficient, clunky SUV’s we are seeing much less of.

Jon Drezner

Architect, Battle Road