Building lessons from Kabul

by Charles Montgomery on

In Afghanistan I learned that the first question that institutional architects ask when looking at building materials is: “Will it stand up to a car-bomb blast?” The fear of bomb attacks – delivered by car, bicycle, or simply concealed inside a burka – has led international agencies to depend heavily on HESCO, a modular blast-wall behind the Canadian embassy. But in a country where unemployment is contributing to insecurity, building technology… Continue reading

Status urges and real estate

by Charles Montgomery on

They say it is still a great time to invest in real estate in the USA’s foreclosure-riddled suburbs. Your gut–and decades of conditioning–might be urging you to trade up to a super-sized and marked-down mansion. Economists Luis Rayo and Gary Becker explain the folly of this approach in this lovely equation: And I explain just what they are talking about, and why the big-house urge might doom us to dissatisfaction… Continue reading

Let a stranger into your home. Seriously.

by Charles Montgomery on

When the 2010 Olympics came to Vancouver, my friends and I saw an opportunity to test one aspect of the emerging science of happiness. Economist John Helliwell and others have shown that social relationships are the most powerful correlate of happiness in cities. It is, John says, just like the song: “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” At the same time, John found that you could measure… Continue reading