Social and Economic Perspectives
Much of the debate surrounding facadism has in the past focused on architectural and townscape issues and its implications in terms of the urban conservation process. These subject areas are, of course, embroiled in the urban system in its widest sense and, consequently, raise various social and economic considerations. Every development decision, even concerning the most seemingly insignificant matters, involves a balance between a range of social and economic costs and benefits. For instance, in the simplest form of facadism, where a person refaces the front elevation of a house with artificial stone cladding, the financial costs of obtaining and fixing the new material are weighed against the pleasure derived by the householder at the new appearance of the dwelling. There may be marginal savings through improved insulation. Certain members of the community may feel that the alterations to the house are distasteful or out of keeping with the locality and in effect may suffer social costs. The action by one person may stimulate others to do the same, thereby compounding these social costs. In areas of architectural or historical interest such proposals may be contrary to the conservation policy objectives of planning authorities, and may create costs in terms of officials spending work time in negotiations or investigations. In the case of larger development projects the costs and benefits are highly complex and extensive. Other writers have dealt with the techniques of cost-benefit analysis and it is not my intention in this book to quantify the costs and benefits involved in cases of facadism. Neither has my research for this book included detailed analysis of popular attitudes towards facadism. My approach has been, on the basis of my experience within the town and country planning system, to introduce a range of ideas which should be part of a balanced consideration of the subject.