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Old 03-01-2014, 11:01 AM
 
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Yeah, I know I already have a thread on factories in an urban environment, so consider this a spin-off thread. Why are industrial facilities, such as meat packing plants or automobile factories, so often built in suburbs or in the country in sprawling complexes, rather than being built in compact multi-story facilities in the city? What changed and caused this new trend of suburban industrialization?
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Old 03-01-2014, 11:08 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Because they tend to be built in industrial zones.
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Old 03-01-2014, 11:09 AM
 
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Cost of land. Noise and odor problems with neighbors.
Large land requirements for parking and trucks or rail.
Some factories are not a good visual match for cities.
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Old 03-01-2014, 11:13 AM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
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Much manufacturing is better done in single story facilities.
Cost. Taxes and labor especially tend to be lower.
Access to the Interstate System or railroad sidings (which can be brought right to the plant).


Federal prisons are now being built in rural areas. High unemployment creates a ready work force, costs are lower and many inmates don't fit in with the native population if they happen to escape.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:10 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Space, transportation, cost of land, cost of production.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:15 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
Yeah, I know I already have a thread on factories in an urban environment, so consider this a spin-off thread. Why are industrial facilities, such as meat packing plants or automobile factories, so often built in suburbs or in the country in sprawling complexes, rather than being built in compact multi-story facilities in the city? What changed and caused this new trend of suburban industrialization?
Transportation networks + infrastructure, mechanization.

Good access to transportation didn't really exist outside cities. Maybe you could get a rail line built for your production, but it still makes importing parts, raw materials, etc, difficult. Consider the difficulty with simply sourcing such things and getting them delivered in that era. Maybe a bolt on some machine broke. In the city you could go get it from some supplier quickly. Outside it, you'd probably be out of luck for hours/days. (Today, you have various same-day industrial suppliers, Home Depot, etc).

Workers themselves would have trouble getting to your workplace, there weren't vast numbers of people living within 5 miles of your plant in the suburbs. You'd have to build a "company town".

Electricity/steam/gas supplies, especially in the scale needed for industry, were not readily available outside urban areas for quite a long time after they became available.

Mechanization is another big element. When things are being done largely by hand, a multi-story building isn't a big deal. You've got a big building with rows upon rows of say....workers sewing. But an assembly line is much harder to split across floors nicely. In addition, mechanized industrial equipment is often very, very heavy, difficult to make the building support it.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:24 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Los Angeles still has a few smaller ones. Some of the problems are getting material in and goods out. The railroads are mostly gone and it's harder to get trucks in and out compared to large suburban factories.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:42 PM
 
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In the case of meat packing, it was refrigerated trucks and the highway system that caused it to leave the city.
Without the interstate highway system road transport is very limited. In 1919 Eisenhower lead a convoy across the country from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. It took 62 days! Both the lack of roads, lack of speed(cars those days were slower), and frequent breakdowns made long distance truck travel something that would have to wait for a few decades. Rail would have only taken a few day perhaps less than an week.

Factories at that time were much more dependent on rail which was found in cities. Land prices in cities are always higher making multistory building more attractive. However factories are not easy thing to live near and so sometimes even cities forced them out to other areas. Chicago’s south side has lots of industry because as the city grew and the factories needed to grow they were pushed out the downtown area(which is where Chicago began).

With the interstate highway system the meat packing plant could move closer to the farm(lowing transport costs and be able to deal directly with the farmer instead of an central stock yard). He could purchase the land cheaply. The automobile had already freed workers from being dependent on public transit(meaning before you had to build near an public transit route if you wanted workers to be able to get there. With the automobile the only limit was how long were workers willing to drive and driving beats the pants off busses and street cars that don’t have their own right of way).
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Old 03-01-2014, 01:04 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,759,267 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by millerm277 View Post
Transportation networks + infrastructure, mechanization.

Good access to transportation didn't really exist outside cities. Maybe you could get a rail line built for your production, but it still makes importing parts, raw materials, etc, difficult. Consider the difficulty with simply sourcing such things and getting them delivered in that era. Maybe a bolt on some machine broke. In the city you could go get it from some supplier quickly. Outside it, you'd probably be out of luck for hours/days. (Today, you have various same-day industrial suppliers, Home Depot, etc).

Workers themselves would have trouble getting to your workplace, there weren't vast numbers of people living within 5 miles of your plant in the suburbs. You'd have to build a "company town".

Electricity/steam/gas supplies, especially in the scale needed for industry, were not readily available outside urban areas for quite a long time after they became available.

Mechanization is another big element. When things are being done largely by hand, a multi-story building isn't a big deal. You've got a big building with rows upon rows of say....workers sewing. But an assembly line is much harder to split across floors nicely. In addition, mechanized industrial equipment is often very, very heavy, difficult to make the building support it.
I think you've touched on all the main points.

Regarding mechanization, I suspect a lot of the work that's been outsourced to Asia, Mexico, etc is more difficult to mechanize and possibly more high value added (in terms of value/kg). There might be some cases where it's cheaper to use cheap labour than to mechanize, but I think you also have the types of industries, where even if they paid American wages, would still not be mechanized. In any case, the non-mechanized industry is mostly done in Asia, leaving only the mechanized production in America.

A typical Asian factory floor might look like this.

Asian factories stall as Europe sinks - timesofmalta.com

A typical American factory floor might look like this.

Car customizer Shelby's firm vows to roll on after his death | Detroit Free Press | freep.com

If you have a 1500kg car that's worth $20,000, that's $13/kg. Compare that to a 0.5kg pair of $40 jeans and that's $80/kg. A $5 100g toy would be $40/kg. If you were to buy a car made in Japan, vs a car made in America, I suspect you'd be paying a fair bit more in transportation costs for the Japanese car, while the difference in labour costs is not that big (even if it was made in China instead of Japan). Products that are more labour intensive, and worth more/kg are more likely to be made overseas. However, this is exactly the type of industry that as you said would be viable to put in multi-storey factories. Car factories, less so, especially now that they're considerably more mechanized than in 1925.

Combine that with the more widespread availability of transportation infrastructure, and a more mobile labour force, and yeah, it's not surprising to see single storey suburban factories. In many cities, land is too expensive for such low density land uses.

I wouldn't be surprised if Chinese auto assembly plants looked pretty similar to those of America, even though the more value added industry is typically multi storey.

Last edited by memph; 03-01-2014 at 01:20 PM..
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Old 03-01-2014, 02:35 PM
 
Location: Michigan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
Yeah, I know I already have a thread on factories in an urban environment, so consider this a spin-off thread. Why are industrial facilities, such as meat packing plants or automobile factories, so often built in suburbs or in the country in sprawling complexes, rather than being built in compact multi-story facilities in the city? What changed and caused this new trend of suburban industrialization?
Unlike an office building or residential tower, whatever sort of processes are done inside a factory, it's going to need a lot of open space. The problem with buildings having a lot of internal space is that it often means poor air circulation. It's very hard to keep a huge open room cool, at least not without some sort of costly a/c system. In a multistory factory or warehouse, the upper floors collect a lot of heat and that becomes pretty unbearable for any workers there. Thus why the shift to single floor facilities. Because of the single-floor shift, that obviously means you need quite a bit of land to build on. It's always cheaper and easier to build out in the open rather then in an already developed urban area and in most cases, the suburbs (or perhaps the edge of a developed city) are the only areas in a metro with plenty of open space.

GM actually had built one of their newer factories in the middle of Detroit during the 80s and it upset a lot of people. Something like 4,200 residents had to be relocated in order to build the factory (which in turn only employs 1,200).

PTthumbs
Poletown Photos

There's also a few other car factories in Detroit that have had to expand and reconfigure over the decades due to modernization though luckily not as destructively as Poletown. There's really no efficient way to build large factories in a city unless you really plan it out before the area is built.
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