Why aren't there brick houses in San Francisco? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
There are brick buildings in San Francisco, as there are everywhere in California, but they tend to be old buildings, built not much later than around the turn of the century.
There are several reasons why brick isn’t predominant:
The climate: California’s weather is pretty temperate-we don’t get subzero temperatures like back East or in the Midwest, so we don’t need the extra insulation. On top of that, in parts of California, it can get very hot, and brick holds heat in. Wood structures are far better, it is the perfect balance for the insulation required for the very hot times and the not so cold times.
The Earthquakes: California is subject to terrible earthquakes, and brick buildings don’t ride out earthquakes very well. When brick buildings collapse, the results can be deadly. This is why California’s structural codes and earthquake requirements are the toughest in the nation, and why licensed structural engineers in this state can make a ton of money - the California structural engineering professional engineering (PE) exam is the toughest PE exam there is.
California’s building codes actually do permit existing brick buildings to stay put, but it has to be reinforced brick (brick with rebar in it) and that’s very expensive to do. In contrast, wood structures are far more flexible, they will move with the quake more, which limits the structural damage and they won’t collapse like brick structures will.
The Cost: A brick house, even if not reinforced, is more expensive to build than a wood house. Since the climate and earthquakes already favor wood over brick, that’s what's built: wood for housing.
In short, there is no good reason to build a brick house in California, other than maybe style/aesthetic preferences. If you want the brick look, you can put a brick facing on the structure after putting up the drywall, much like you do with wood paneling or stucco.
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