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Why do European buildings remain standing for centuries without broken down, while, as, in my home, Hangzhou, China, houses by the riverside sink a few centimeters every year, and we have to take them down and build new ones about every thirty years?

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There are many factors that affect the longevity of buildings, such as the materials, design, construction, maintenance, climate, and soil conditions. European buildings that have lasted for centuries are often made of durable materials such as stone, brick, or timber, and have been well maintained and restored over time. They also benefit from a relatively stable climate and soil, which reduces the risk of natural disasters or ground subsidence.

Hangzhou

Hangzhou, on the other hand, faces some challenges that may shorten the lifespan of its buildings. One of them is the rapid urbanization and development of the city, which has increased the demand for land and housing. This may lead to lower quality or faster construction, which may compromise the structural integrity and safety of the buildings. Another challenge is the geology and hydrology of the region, which is prone to ground subsidence due to the extraction of groundwater, the weight of high-rise buildings, and the soft and compressible soil. Ground subsidence can cause cracks, deformations, or even collapse of buildings, as well as damage to infrastructure and environment.

Therefore, to increase the longevity of buildings in Hangzhou, it is important to adopt more sustainable and resilient practices, such as using high-quality and eco-friendly materials, improving the design and construction standards, enhancing the maintenance and renovation of existing buildings, reducing the groundwater exploitation, and monitoring and mitigating the ground subsidence. Some of these measures are already being implemented by the local authorities and developers, such as the Yuhang Masterplan designed by Foster + Partners, which aims to create a low-carbon and circular urban center with a dynamic skyline and a leafy spine.

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