Monday, August 18, 2008

The scourge of stucco

A mildly depressing article in the NY Times about the growing popularity of fake stucco, AKA EIFS (which stands for Exterior Insulation and Finish System. The article says it is pronounced "like knifes", although I've heard it called "eefis"). The obvious reason for its growth in popularity:
Compared with glass, brick and limestone, the three most popular cladding materials in the recent boom, stucco is cheaper by more than half, experts said.

For example, if 215 East 81st Street, a new seven-story condominium built on a 1973 shell near Third Avenue, had been clad in limestone, the cost would have been $200 a square foot ... The synthetic stucco that Mr. Suky chose... cost about $60 a square foot.
I'm pretty sure anyone who has ever seen the stuff could have guessed it was cheap. Why? Because any building made with it practically screams out "I am a cheap piece of crap!" when you go by it.

You've all seen it on the big box retail stores, and increasingly on residential buildings. I think half the problem is the material, but I think the other half is architects not knowing how to use it well. I really want to scream every time I see a huge stucco wall with some lines and square patterns drawn around the windows.

I've mentioned before that I think affordable housing is a vital concern for the city, and that building costs really hurt the ability of the market to provide affordable housing. So EIFS will stick around simply because it is cheap. If we are going to be stuck with it, I'd love to know ways to use it effectively.

I know a few architects read this blog, as well as some other real estate professionals - can you guys point out any good examples of stucco or EIFS? Buildings that don't look cheap?


  1. Is the Pink House OK?

    Of course there's no lack bad design and execution but:
    New stucco isn't too hot. The older, cracking, grimy stucco looks best.

    There is a great "old" stucco house a bit east of and across from Sidney Marcus Park on Cumberland. It's way, way above average. A new one on Cumberland with fresh stucco needs about 40 years of aging, I think.

  2. Checkout this house:

    It's 1920s renovation and is stucoo!

  3. I guess I should clarify - any modern commercial or multifamily examples of stucco done well? There are lots of great classical stucco homes in Druid Hills and elsewhere in Atlanta - I'm concerned from a development angle, where it is used to cut costs.


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