Academic journal article Journal of Real Estate Literature

The Evolution of Office Building Research

Academic journal article Journal of Real Estate Literature

The Evolution of Office Building Research

Article excerpt


Office building development has had a relatively short history. However, since the 1880s, we have seen tremendous growth in the number and size of office buildings and a significant change in the location of these buildings. Early research in this area centered on technological changes and innovation in construction. As the market matured, researchers began to explore other areas of interest. This article provides a brief history of office building development in the United States. It then identifies, categorizes, and appraises the major studies in this area. It concludes with discussion of topics for future research.

1. Introduction

Office building development has had a relatively short history, appearing as a separate land use approximately 100 years ago. Earlier development was limited by the lack of demand for large amounts of office space and of the technology to construct more than a few stories. However, following the Civil War cities and corporations began to grow, creating a need for an increase in office space. The nation's population doubled between 1870 and 1920, but demand for office space increased five times (Urban Land Institute, 1982).

Until 1970, office space research was preoccupied with technological developments. For example, height was constrained by the limits of masonry-bearing walls, and new materials and techniques had to be developed before multistory buildings could be safely constructed. In addition, new technology was needed to improve the comfort and efficiency of office building workers.

As office building development began to mature, research expanded to other areas of interest. The objective of this article is to identify, categorize, and discuss the major research studies in office building research. This article is divided into four sections. Following the introduction is a brief history of office building development in the United States. Next is an examination of the major studies in office building development since 1970. The article ends with a discussion of topics for future research and our conclusions.

2. History of office building development

The city of Chicago provided much of the innovation and experimentation that led to the office environment of today. After fire destroyed Chicago's core area in 1871, many new buildings were constructed using the latest technology.

Prior to the fire, builders faced several problems. For example, a building's loadbearing walls were constructed of masonry, and the thickness of the walls was in direct proportion to the height of the building. Architects believed that a twelve-inch wall could support the first story, but that four inches had to be added for each additional story.

Therefore, very thick walls at the ground level were necessary for multistory building. The tallest masonry building, the sixteen-story Monadnock Building in Chicago, had six-feet thick walls at its base. Additionally, new technologies were needed to prevent foundations from settling and to provide a safe method of transporting people and materials up and down many levels.

Steel construction was introduced as a structural element in Chicago to help solve the first problem. The invention of the steam hammer for pile driving and the use of caissons to anchor a building's foundation to bedrock solved the second problem. And, the perfection of the elevator, invented by Elisha Otis in 1853, solved the third.

Other inventions made working and living in multistoried buildings comfortable. Steam was used to heat the buildings. The invention of the electric light bulb and the creation of electricity-generation -distribution systems provided for the illumination of buildings. The invention of the water closet and water supply and drainage systems permitted people to remain at their desks all day. At this same time, primitive methods of air conditioning were being tested.

Technology influenced the development of office buildings in other ways. …

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