A crumbling residential building with collapsed floors

Building Bad, Part 1: How Architectural Utility is Constrained by Politics

Discover the theory of “Building Bad”: an examination of the costs and benefits that can limit the functionality of buildings in exchange for profits.

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Course Info

  • Duration 8 video lessons (57 Mins)
  • Published Published
  • 4.36
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Browse Course Chapters

  • Chapter Locked
    Chapter Duration 2 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Health, Safety, and Welfare: Concepts and Principles
    Chapter Duration 7 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Fire Safety: Home Sprinkler Mandates
    Chapter Duration 7 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Structure: Economic and Political Calculations
    Chapter Duration 9 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Accessibility: Political Compromises in the ADA
    Chapter Duration 8 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Light and Air: From 19th Century Reforms to Windowless Dorms
    Chapter Duration 10 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Sustainability: How Politics and Economics is Embedded in the LEED Rating System
    Chapter Duration 11 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Chapter Duration 1 min

What You Will Learn

  • Describe how legislation to promote health, safety, and welfare is subjected to, and constrained by, cost-benefit analysis.
  • Explain why most states have adopted model building codes without the home fire sprinkler mandate.
  • Explain why it is not possible to absolutely preclude structural failure.
  • Explain how enforcement of ADA guidelines through injunctive relief limits the Act's effectiveness.
  • Explain how profitability considerations are embedded in the LEED rating system.
  • Describe the historic trajectory of code requirements for lighting and ventilation in residential buildings.

Course Description

Part One of “Building Bad” offers an examination of why and how boundaries that constrain the utilitarian functions of buildings are established. In this course, you’ll learn how building codes and safety regulations are limited by cost-benefit analyses; how profitability is a key component of LEED sustainability ratings; and why, decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many U.S. streets and buildings remain inaccessible.

Part Two of the Building Bad series explains how dysfunctional forms of expression, competition between designers and architects, and the drive to innovate create poor design outcomes and limit the utility of buildings.

Learn these skills

  • Architecture
  • Economics
  • Law and Policy
  • LEED
  • Real Estate
  • Regulations


This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit.


This course is 1 LU|HSW.

Meet Your Instructor

Jonathan Ochshorn

Jonathan Ochshorn

Jonathan is a registered architect with an academic background in structural engineering and urban design as well as architecture.

Meet Instructor

Join thousands of urban planners on Planetizen Courses

Very well done - concisely mixes social/political theory (and some history) with pragmatic realities of design and construction.
- David B.
5 Star Review 5 Star Review 5 Star Review 5 Star Review 5 Star Review
Likely the best course I've seen on Planetizen.
- Michael S.
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