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AOL Real Estate - Blog

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    BRITAIN-ARHCITECTURE-WEATHER
    Leon Neal/AFP; Getty Images


    A dramatic new skyscraper going up in London's financial district is creating such an intense zone of reflected heat from its concave design that it's reportedly able not only to fry eggs on the pavement below but melt very expensive automobiles. London businessman Martin Lindsay is quoted by the BBC as saying that a side-view mirror and exterior panels of his Jaguar were warped last week after he'd only been parked in the reflected light of the so-called "Walkie Talkie" building for a few hours.

    Another witness saw the seats on a row of bicycles parked nearby made so hot by the rays that they began to smoke, reported the International Business Times. And there were other reports of damage to paint, furniture and carpet in nearby businesses from the 37-story tower dubbed the "Walkie Talkie" because of its shape. (The photo above shows the light reflected from the "Walkie Talkie" onto another building and the tower itself is pictured in the gallery below.)

    While the developers of the building, the Canary Wharf Group, said in a statement that it's aware of the problem and that it will last "approximately 2 hours per day, with initial modeling suggesting that it will be present for approximately 2-3 weeks," this kind of issue is well known in the world of architecture, especially in the era of curving glass towers. The slideshow below looks as some of the most notable examples of buildings in the past 50 years that have created glaring problems -- or at least been suspected of causing them.

    BUILDINGS ACCUSED OF GLARING OVERSIGHTS:


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    Superstition Keeps Richest Man Out of Billion-Dollar House

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    See celebrity real estate.


     

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    tennesse titans themed mancave nashville
    Realtor.com

    By Neal J. Leitereg

    The NFL season may be limited to just 16 games -- give or take a few, if your team is lucky enough to grace the postseason -- but one home venue invites you to enjoy the football stadium experience year-round. Whether you are in the market for the ultimate Tennessee Titans tailgate or are simply a die-hard NFL fan, you have to check out this incredible townhouse in Nashville. Listed for $1.25 million, the rustic home is found in Nashville's arts district and certainly shows an artisan's touch.

    Meticulously renovated in 2009, the 4,428-square-foot townhome shows beautiful exposed brickwork, granite and hardwood flooring. A cathedral-style living room features ornate coffered ceilings. And a chef's kitchen sports stainless steel appliances and custom finishes.

    Despite these fancy features, the real appeal is the upstairs loft. With a wet bar, a Titans-themed pool table and a ton of other team swag decorating the walls, the upstairs is an all-pro man-cave "fan cave." However, it's the garage door that opens to a rooftop patio and Jacuzzi overlooking LP Field that clearly separates this loft from its opponents. This is a home for someone who bleeds red, white and Titans blue.


    More from Move.com:
    NFL Player Homes
    NFL Safety Dashon Goldson Is a Real Estate Mogul
    Elvis Dumervil Drops $2.3 Million on Florida Mansion

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    Frank Lloyd Wright home, La Grange, IL
    Courtesy of John Shipka, 3Di Focus; Zillow

    Thirteen miles from the Chicago's Loop, La Grange is a quiet bedroom community of about 15,500 residents. Real estate agent Katie Barreto of ERA Jensen & Feinstein Realtors LLC describes La Grange as a "fabulous town ... really great place to raise a family."

    "It's just has a really great sense of community," she said. La Grange also has a great sense of real estate. The small town perched on the commuter train route to Chicago is home to four Frank Lloyd Wright homes, including a "bootleg" one that he designed outside of a contract.

    The Stephen M B Hunt House, in particular, is a spectacular example of classic Wright design. It's currently on the market for just under $700,000. The home is also only on its third owner -- a unusual fact, considering the residence was constructed by Wright in 1907. And it's this limited ownership that made the home so lovingly preserved. "The owners have had the home since the '60s, and they have loved it and maintained it significantly," Barreto said.

    When the owners bought the home, the previous owners had taken it upon themselves to paint the woodwork throughout the home. "The owners' children talked about how their father would come home every night and work on it [the woodwork], trying to get it back to the original," Barreto said. "It took three years to get it back to the original state."

    Sitting on a double lot at 345 7th Ave., the home has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and is constructed in a classic prairie style, with dark woods, horizontal lines and overhanging flat eaves.
    In particular, Wright emphasized the home's open floor plan by building a narrow entry way, maximizing the effect of walking into the living room, Barreto said.

    A screened-in porch and the identical nature of the exterior -- the front and back of the home look the same -- are additional Wright touches. The house is an architectural treasure, but it's also just a great home, Barreto said. "It's very comfortable," she said. "People come in, sit and stay, and they don't want to leave."


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    A Lautner Labor of Love for Sale

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    house vision on green meadow....
    Shutterstock

    The tight inventory for existing homes in sought-after neighborhoods is driving many would-be homebuyers to build a brand new one to fit their needs. But conjuring up a dream home and making it become a reality is easier said than done. Custom homebuilders make it easier for consumers to create their dream home, but the process can be long and can often include hiccups that can create stress and cost money.

    "Building a new home is an exciting and at times, an overwhelming experience," says Mark Tepper, senior vice president of sales and marketing at HomeFinder.com and currently in the process of building a custom home for his family of four. "The end result is incredibly rewarding. However, seemingly minor missteps along the way can cost an unexpected amount of time and money."
    When it comes to building a new home, buyers have two options: They can work with a homebuilder who will show them plans and materials to choose from, or they can do the research on their own, draft up plans and hire a contractor to build it.

    No matter what path a buyer chooses, the first step is the same: determine a budget. Real estate experts advise consumers work closely with their builder to get a realistic estimate of not only what it will cost to build the house, but also add all the features and fixtures that they want inside the home as well. Once they have that number, Tepper recommends consumers increase the amount by 10 percent to cover any unforeseen changes and additions.

    Establishing a budget will set the tone for the type of home individuals can afford and how it will be furnished. "Do you want to spend up to $20,000 on energy-efficient construction which might save you $1,000 to $1,500 a year?" says, Steve Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders, on some of the decisions builders have to make before breaking ground. Building a new home will take between three to eight months and potentially longer for do-it-yourselfers, according to Jeff Martel, CEO of real estate firm BHGRE 43 Degree North in Boise, Idaho.

    Consumers should be selective when choosing a builder and clearly detail their desires and time frame and choose a professional that aligns with their vision. For those wanting to be very involved in the process, Martel suggests looking for a custom builder that clearly understands the expectations. Soon-to-be home owners not wanting to be very involved in the process should work with builder who is willing to draw up different plans and be willing to take the lead without a lot of direction.

    "You're going to spend a lot of time with the builder so you better get along with them," says Martel. "Certain buyers are very creative and artistic and want a very unique home. We'll try to match them up with a builder that excels in that." For buyers who are focused on the cost, Martel says he will find them builders that are analytical and dollar orientated.

    While many homebuyers fear building their dream house is out of their budget, experts say the loan process tends to be misunderstood. Securing a loan for new construction isn't the same as applying for a mortgage to purchase an existing home. According to Tepper, unless consumers are paying cash, they may need to secure financing for both a construction loan, which covers pay for the builder, subcontractors and suppliers, and a mortgage loan which would be used to finance the home after its complete and to pay off the construction loan.

    When applying for a construction loan, Tepper says lenders require completed building plans and a detailed list of all the fees. Keep in mind that once the builder's fees are notarized and submitted to the bank, they can't change. "If you spend more than originally budgeted, these fees will come out of your pocket; further reason to budget in that additional 10 percent."

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    octoberfest home cavendish vt
    Zillow

    By Catherine Sherman

    From enjoying a seasonal brew to dusting off your dirndl, there are countless ways to partake in German-themed festivities this time of year. To spice up your Oktoberfest tradition at home, we've gathered a few gingerbread-style chalets and yodel-inducing cottages for sale around the U.S.

    HOMES FIT FOR OCTOBERFEST:

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    Hearst Castle (The Neptune pool at Hearst Castle, the legendary home built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst in San S
    Dan Steinberg/The Associated Press

    Though Frank Lloyd Wright famously called architecture "the mother art," it might be the one that's been least welcoming to women. When Wright apprentice Eleanor K. Pettersen received a Certificate in Architecture from the American Institute of Architects in 1941, she was a rarity. And nearly two decades later, little had changed. In 1958, women made up only 1 percent of the AIA's registered architects, and by 1988, only 4 percent.

    But they've come a long way in the past 25 years, now comprising nearly a quarter of the AIA-recognized architects. Before women even had the right to vote in the U.S., though, they were already making an impact in architecture, despite being mostly unrecognized. At the turn of the 20th century, architect and radical feminist Alice Constance Austin was planning utopian socialist communities with "kitchenless" designs intended to reduce the domestic workload of women. At the other end of the social spectrum, Julia Morgan spent most of the first half of that century designing and overseeing the construction of one of the most magnificent private homes in America, the Hearst Castle (its Neptune Pool is pictured above) in San Simeon, Calif.

    Along with their growing numbers, some see more acceptance of women in the past few decades. "I constantly had to be on guard with contractors (and to a much less extent -- clients) to make sure they took my office seriously and implemented all my directions," New York City residential architect Julie Kalberer told AOL Real Estate.

    "As I have been in the business now for 28 years, and have raised a family in the meantime, these problems no longer exist for me," Kalberer, the co-owner of Turino Kalberer Architects, added. "Part of that is the confidence and credibility that long-term experience gives, and part of it is also the fact that the older contractors who were more typically in business when I was younger are now retired and have been replaced by a breed of contractors who have been brought up with educated, professional women."

    In honor of International Day of the Girl Child, AOL Real Estate spoke with several American women architects across the country -- with an emphasis on those who design homes -- to see what inspires them, as well as what still challenges them. Some argue that when it comes to designing homes, women architects might even have an edge over their male colleagues. But that doesn't mean that girls aspiring to emulate them will necessarily have an easy time.

    "Architecture is absolutely a male-dominated field," warns one of them, who adds, "If you know how to stand up for yourself, stand your ground, and not be pushed around by anyone, you'll do great." See the slideshow below for examples of their work and more of their insights.


    In sharing this story and others we hope you are inspired to Raise Your Hand for girls' education, helping us spread the word on this crucial effort.

    Related stories:
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    Olympic Stadiums: Then and Now
    Best in Architecture, 2012

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    Romney home park city utah
    Zillow

    The Romneys are buying another property in Utah, according to The Park Record newspaper. Ann Romney, as manager of Deer Valley SR LLC has signed papers to purchase a home that was listed for $8.9 million in Park City. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney previously sold a vacation home in Park City for $5.25 million in 2009.


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    2013 solar decathlon irvine calif
    Department of Energy/Flickr


    By Diana Olick

    Nineteen collegiate teams are in a tough competition to see who can design, build and operate the most energy efficient and affordable home of the future. From solar technology, to sustainable building materials, to futuristic heating and cooling systems, these teams are using the latest innovations from companies across the globe, while pushing the envelope of energy efficiency with their own new ideas. The homes are fully built and decorated, and the student teams are performing all kinds of tasks within the homes, from washing clothes to boiling water; whichever team does it all best wins.

    The competition, which is called the Solar Decathlon, started in 2002, occurring biannually in Washington, D.C. This year, the Department of Energy-sponsored event moved to Irvine, Calif., to bring its homes to a wider audience. Irvine is the perfect place, as new construction is booming again after a lull during the housing recession. A big emphasis in this year's competition is affordability.

    The homebuilders are watching, especially Lennar, which has a major development going on near the site of this year's competition. Lennar is building homes with solar standard.
    Below are some highlights of this year's decathlon.

    SOLAR DECATHLON HOMES:

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    5pointz graffiti new york city
    Courtesy of Allegra Acevedo via ABC News

    By Susanna Kim

    Long before British graffiti artist Banksy and his air of mystery arrived in New York City this month, local street artists converged on a graffiti mecca in Queens to showcase their creations. But that mecca, known as 5Pointz, was slated to be razed to make way for luxury apartments. Lawyers are set to argue on Thursday in court after a group of 16 artists sued to preserve their street art.

    A city block in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City has grown into a popular tourist destination in New York over the past several years. It's even included in more than 100 international travel guides, with hundreds of tourists visiting in any given week, the lawsuit states. Artist Jonathan Cohen, who tags under the name Meres One, said the property owner has allowed aerosol artists to decorate the interior and exterior of the building's walls since 1993, according to a lawsuit filed on Oct. 10 with the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. Until a court decides on the matter, oral arguments for a temporary injunction are set to take place Thursday to stop the destruction of the five-story building and surrounding area.

    The owner, Gerald Wolkoff and his firm G&M Realty, want to make way for a 1,000-unit luxury apartment complex, the lawsuit claims. But Cohen and other artists are asserting in court that they have copyright ownership over their works under the Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, and copyright law. Wolkoff and G&M Realty did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    "We want the judge to stop the destruction of 5Pointz, which is tantamount to the Louvre for artists," said Roland Acevedo, a pro-bono attorney for Cohen and the artists. Acevedo said the artists are proposing to buy the property, which is viewed by thousands of commuters along the 7 subway train, at fair market value. Cohen said in court papers that some estimates of the property are around $40 million, though the landlord has claimed it is worth $200 million.

    "I certainly understand that this is the United States and this country was founded on the concept of property ownership," Acevedo said. "We understand that he has a piece of valuable property that belongs to him and his family. No one is going to deprive him of that."

    The owner had only three rules for 5Pointz: no religious art, no profanity and no pornography, court papers noted. Because the artists never signed a release with Wolkoff nor were paid for their work, they are claiming to retain all copyrights to their visual art. "The landlord could have protected his property rights to have them sign releases under VARA, but he didn't," Acevedo said.

    The attorney said that the artists say they can raise the money to purchase the property. "The property is basically run down and needs a lot of work inside," Acevedo said. "It's not as if it's a valuable piece of property in and of itself. These artists are the ones who have maintained the property to fix stuff and make sure vandals don't get in. They're there all the time. They make sure things are locked. They give tours there. It's a phenomenal place."

    Cohen, who could not be reached for comment, personally has more than 100 works of art on the exterior and interior walls of 5Pointz, some of which have copyright registration pending before the U.S. Copyright Office, the lawsuit claims.

    Cohen said he has been a volunteer curator of the area since 2002, the lawsuit states, and the owner gave Cohen keys and "several secure spaces" to use as an office and to store cans of spray paint, ladders and other painting supplies. Cohen started a nonprofit corporation called 5Pointz Aerosol Arts Center Inc. with the website 5ptz.com. The group showcases the works of visual art at 5Pointz and "publicizes the free community events sponsored by 5Pointz," the lawsuit states.
    Artists have traveled from Japan, Kazakhstan, Australia and Brazil for the opportunity to paint their works at 5Pointz, knowing that having their work at 5Pointz work "adds considerable prestige to an artist's reputation," the lawsuit states.

    "You can't just come and paint on the walls," Acevedo said. "You have to go through Jonathan Cohen. He doesn't police it like a library. He's generous in giving permission." But you have to show Cohen a sketch of your proposed work.

    Acevedo said the artists had considered moving the artwork to another location, but he said it would be difficult to take apart a stone concrete wall and stairwells from a five-story building. "This is not a canvas that can be easily moved," he said.

    When asked if Cohen or any of the artists might demand financial compensation for their damaged visual work, Acevedo said it might be possible, given that VERA has statutory damages in the law that range from $750 to $150,000 per piece, if the damage is willful. "We are asking the court to enjoin the landlord from destroying any more pieces of works," Acevedo said. "They've damaged a number of works already. We've asked court to stop destruction of work and building until the court can hear and decide this matter."

    More from ABC News:
    Banksy Art on the Block
    The Most Captivating 5Pointz Graffiti
    Banksy Art in NYC: 'Better Out Than In'

    Graffiti's Unofficial Museum, 5Pointz


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    104 Helderberg Castle Rd, New Scotland, NY
    Zillow

    By Erika Riggs

    The limestone ruins look ancient, like something abandoned by its residents hundreds of years ago along a misty loch in Scotland. The property, however, is not across the Atlantic but in upstate New York, most fittingly located in the town of New Scotland. The ruins are not as ancient, either.

    The estate at 104 Helderberg Castle Road was built in 1935 by the reclusive Bouck White, a potter and Socialist activist. Located on 4.5 acres, the property also includes a contemporary 2,500-square-foot home, but the castle ruins, a pottery studio and various other outbuildings are the most intriguing selling points.

    The property is listed at $179,900, available as a short sale, and listing agent Brian Brosen doesn't mince words about the type of work it requires, saying the buyer will need to be someone "with a vision and sense of adventure."

    NEW SCOTLAND'S NOT-SO-ANCIENT RUINS:


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    barn home 816 Black Bear, Jamaica, VT
    Zillow

    By Catherine Sherman

    The barn is no longer relegated to your grandfather's farm or that rustic wedding venue you saw in a magazine. Whether a converted barn or a new construction infused with reclaimed barn materials, post-and-beam details are popping up in homes across the country.

    "In general, people want the mix," said Anita Oates of Raliegh, N.C.-based interior design firm Otrada LLC. "They're trying to keep some of the original architectural features -- whether stair rails or beadboard -- and mix it up with modern elements that might work better, like lighting or plumbing." When it comes to barn renovations or barn-inspired homes, Oates says people ultimately want a space that reflects their passions -- from an equestrian pursuit to country living, or simply being inspired by nature. To fuel your own passions, we've gathered a few rustic barn retreats currently on the market.

    BARN-INSPIRED HOMES FOR SALE:

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    Zillow

    By Catherine Sherman

    It's a classic case of starting a family and needing a bigger house. But Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley's tri-level condo is anything but ordinary. "It's so unique to have a tri-level penthouse. There's nothing like that here," said listing agent Melanie Stecura of Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty. In fact, when Utley and wife Jennifer bought the home, there wasn't anything like it in the urban Philadelphia neighborhood.

    "They bought a bi-level penthouse and the apartment beneath it and combined the two," Stecura explained. Now listed for $4.3 million, 210 W. Washington Square #PHSW, Philadelphi 19106 is a rare piece of real estate to hit the Center City East market. A stunning art deco construction, the Ayer building dates back to 1929, when it was built for N.W. Ayer & Sons -- the ad agency best known for De Beers' "A diamond is forever" and the Army's "Be all you can be" slogans. (The building's lobby is pictured above.)

    In 2006, the award-winning Wesley Wei Architects reconceived the building, turning it into a condominium. The Utleys snatched up their units in 2008, hiring architect Michael Ryan and interior designer Gregory Augustine to create a sleek, custom home spanning three floors. (See the slideshow below.) A private elevator leads to a master suite with a wall of glass overlooking the main living room. A media room and wet bar round out the lowest entertainment level, showing off custom design elements and a contemporary palette of grays and blues.

    "When they bought the home, they were a younger couple, so it was a great place for them starting out," Stecura said. "But now that they have a family, they wanted more land and a yard to play in."
    The family of three has already moved to a new home, according to Stecura, but they're staying in the Philadelphia area. This isn't a surprise considering the five-time MLB All-Star and World Series champion just extended his contract for two more years with the Phillies.

    Interested in buying Utley's home or one like it? CenterCityTeam real estate agent Frank L. DeFazio says now is a good time to buy in the luxury Philadelphia market. "For buyers looking between $1.5 million and $4 million, there are many choices, and the buyers once again are in the driver's seat," he said.

    Using Zillow's mortgage calculator, Utley's home is estimated to cost $16,267 a month, assuming 20 percent down on a 30-year fixed mortgage.

    CHASE UTLEY'S TRI-LEVEL PENTHOUSE:

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    2022 24th Ave E  Seattle WA
    Zillow


    By Erika Riggs

    Building a home to get revenge takes quite a commitment. Yet, surprisingly enough, it's a route that several people have taken over the years. A house in Alameda, Calif. was reportedly built on a tiny lot to annoy a neighbor in 1890, and a home in Alexandria, Va., was built over an alley because the owner was tired of the loiterers who passed through. The narrowest house in Boston, at 44 Hull St, was also built out of spite: A man constructed it to block the view and daylight from his brother's home.

    And there's a tiny, pie-shaped wedge of a house at 2022 24th Ave E in Seattle, measuring 15 feet at its widest and just 55 inches at its narrowest (pictured above). The legend behind this one -- presently listed for sale at $397,500 -- is a similar story of revenge: one neighbor trying to get back at another.

    Previous homeowner Peter O'Neil wrote a 1987 piece on the home's history for The Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest magazine: "The man who originally owned the property wanted to sell it to some folks who were building next door," O'Neil wrote. "He proposed they use it to expand their garden and [he] set a fair price." However, the couple figured that their neighbor was selling out of desperation; there was no way he could build on the land, so his only options were to sell or keep it vacant. They offered him a counter price well below his original ask, according to O'Neil.

    The man was furious, so he set out to prove them wrong. He hired an architect to build a home on the "unbuildable" land. His final touch of spite? Painting the wall facing his neighbors solid black.
    Despite the home's odd shape and interesting back story, subsequent owners have only found the house charming.

    "It's nice to have a home that has a sense of humor," O'Neil wrote. Current homeowner Lisa Horton agrees. "It's a very unique, whimsical home," she said. "I like it because it's different. When I'm in the backyard and I see that narrow end, it always makes me smile."

    Listing agent Ev Winningham of John L. Scott also echoes the sentiment. "It's a great house," she said.

    Buyers must agree; there's already a pending offer on the home.

    THE SEATTLE HOUSE THAT SPITE BUILT:

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    Glare From Walkie-Talkie Building In London Melts Property And Vehicles
    Getty Images

    By Brenda Goh

    Britain's largest listed property developer is close to solving the incendiary solar glare problem for the "Walkie Talkie," its landmark new 37-story glass office block in the City of London, and it continues to attract tenants, the company said on Tuesday. "Despite the solar glare issue of the summer, occupiers have not been blinded to the efficiency and location of the building. We are close to resolving the issue and it will not delay occupation nor inflate the budgeted cost," Land Securities said.

    The skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street was dubbed the "Walkie Talkie" by Londoners because of its flared shape but then became known as the "Walkie Scorchie" last summer after it was blamed for scorching the panels of a Jaguar car and the seat of a bicycle parked on a street below. (It's pictured above being photographed by a pedestrian back on in Sept. 4.) But Land Securities said on Tuesday that the scheme was now 56 percent pre-let with a further 20 percent in the pipeline ahead of the building opening to users next April.

    Chief Executive Rob Noel told Reuters that that the cost of the solution -- expected to be in the low, single-digit millions -- would be borne by the project's contingency fund and would include solar shading being applied to the tower's exterior. A temporary scaffold screen was put up in September outside the tower to shield affected shops. "The cost will be minimal. When you are pushing the boundaries of physics when building these tall buildings you won't always get it right," Noel said.

    Land Securities jointly owns the building with Canary Wharf Group, which is majority owned by Songbird Estates. The skyscraper was one of the projects that Land Securities restarted in London after the financial crisis in a bet that the British capital's office market would face a shortage of space after construction plummeted during the downturn.

    "The demand that we said was going to come is now coming," Noel said, adding that it was coming from insurance, business services and media firms as well as a number of foreign banks.

    WHEN BUILDINGS ATTACK:

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    Squatters Organize Co-Op in 'World's Tallest Slum'
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    Courtesy of Factory 63

    By Susan Johnston

    For many Americans, the McMansion and its supersized mortgage payments have lost their luster. At the same time, many people are delaying marriage and living alone for longer periods of time. The shift has led the way for tiny homes with less square footage and almost no wasted space, a phenomenon called micro apartments or micro units. Micro units are catching on in Europe and Asia due to high population density, but stricter zoning laws have slowed their spread across the United States. Some micro units are as small as 200 square feet, requiring a building variance from some cities, since many have minimum square footage requirements for livable units.

    Developers and groups like Citizens Housing & Planning Council, a New York nonprofit, work to support micro housing. Single people comprise almost 30 percent of all households in the United States, according to Sarah Watson, deputy director of the nonprofit. "We have been trying to promote smaller studios because there's so many single people and not enough legal [housing] options for single adults," she says. Her organization has been working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to launch a pilot program on East 27th Street to test the idea of relaxing zoning laws and building smaller apartments.

    The smaller units appeal to young, single professionals who want the convenience of living in a city and haven't accumulated extra stuff (the popularity of e-books, online video streaming and digital music means they don't need space to store books, movies or CDs anyway). In some cases, the micro units have built-in multipurpose furniture like a lofted bed since traditional furniture may not fit the space. However, they still include a small bathroom and kitchen area.

    "It speaks to this millennial generation that's watched older siblings get handcuffed to houses during the housing crash, and I think they have a different attitude about housing," says developer Michael Rushman of Rushman Dillon Projects. "They're much more concerned about living in urban neighborhoods with lots of things to do within walking distance [than having a lot of space]."
    His company is developing an 87-unit micro housing project that is undergoing the public approval process in Jersey City, N.J. Each unit will average about 340 square feet, according to Rushman. "The idea is that someone could move in with a smartphone and a duffel bag full of clothes," he says. "We're looking at it as a way to create a different lifestyle that's more akin to what college and university students are accustomed to."

    Three hundred and forty square feet doesn't leave much room for entertaining guests, so the proposed building plans include common spaces that can be used for large dinner parties as well as a courtyard, roof deck and gym that will occupy the landing areas on all levels of the building.

    In Boston's Innovation District, several new buildings offer similar collaborative spaces. Factory 63, a shoe factory converted into live/work apartments, opened last spring and features communal spaces including a roof deck with an infrared grill, lobby with complementary wireless Internet and flexible space for residents to entertain guests or business associates. The units start at $1,699 per month.

    Ross Chanowski, a 25-year-old entrepreneur who recently moved from Chicago back to Boston, says he loves the collaborative environment at Factory 63, even though it means living in a small area (his unit is about 450 square feet). "I don't miss having more space at all," he says. "...[There's] plenty of opportunity in the small space. I use the lobby as my office where I can have meetings and conference calls."

    Chanowski also enjoys meeting residents and attending public events the building hosts, including fundraisers for local charities and tech meet-ups. "This building and the area is almost like a playground in some sense," he says. "Every inch of it is usable and discoverable." Buildings with micro units are also in development in Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. [See the slideshow below for a look inside one in Seattle.]

    In addition to requirements about square footage, many developers face parking issues in areas that require buildings to provide a minimum number of parking spots. That's why Rushman says micro units often work best in areas that have good public transportation (his Jersey City site is a 12-minute walk from the ferry). "I don't believe it works well if you're going to have to provide a substantial amount of parking," he says. Some buildings provide spaces for car-sharing vehicles or bikes instead of parking for each resident.

    While many micro housing projects are marketed to millennials, the style of living may also make sense for empty nesters who want easy access to city culture and may be interested in a second residence. "Maybe they would have that for their city place and a smaller country place rather than the big suburban home they've had in the past," he says. "Independent seniors who are further along in the aging spectrum [might want a micro unit]. It can appeal to more than young professionals."

    More from U.S. News:
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    SEATTLE MICRO APARTMENT:


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    Farm of Aunt Annie's Pretzel owners
    Courtesy of Madison Hawk via Zillow

    By Laura Vecsey

    It's the farm and conference center that pretzels built, but for the owners of this multi-faceted, multi-million dollar property in the heart of Lancaster, Pa., a new twist in their journey means it's time to sell it all. Quickly. Jonas and Anne Beiler, founders of Auntie Anne's soft pretzel company, are offering a collection of private homes, commercial/industrial space and land via auction, hoping to quickly dispense of a nice chunk of Amish-country property about an hour west of Philadelphia.

    The couple, who founded Auntie Anne's in 1988 and later sold the company to dedicate themselves to their family counseling service, are moving to Texas, according to James R. Cote, managing director at Madison Hawk, which is handling the auctions. The properties had previously been listed for sale separately, but the Beilers are now eager to close the chapter on it all. The entire property, known as Houston Run and located at 863 Brackbill Rd, Gap, Pa. 17527, will be on the auction block.

    That includes a family center on 94 acres that holds meeting rooms, medical offices and a cafe. The property also includes undeveloped land situated near a new Urban Outfitters distribution center, which could bring new interest to the 106,000 square feet of commercial space included in the Beilers' auction items. The opening bid is $1.9 million.

    Cote said the commercial building housing the family center is being auctioned by sealed bids due by Dec. 5. In addition, the Beilers are seeking bids on their custom-built residence.

    The 5,400-square-foot home has six bedrooms, five bathrooms and sits on 2.78 acres. A second 10.47-acre development parcel adjacent to the home will also be auctioned separately. The parcel could be developed or used as a privacy buffer for the main residence.

    On Dec. 11, an open-cry auction will be held for a second private home along with a 53,000-square-foot professional building. This auction will also include the 6,000-square-foot Ellmaker House, which dates to 1820 and has been remodeled into offices and more conference space.

    With 1,400 franchise locations sending the sweet smell of fresh-baked pretzels into the air in 47 states and 25 countries, Auntie Anne's twists of warm goodness have tickled the fancy, and noses, of millions of people. But the wild success that the Beilers derived from their pretzel company was used to fund their main passion, which was family counseling. According to The New York Times, the Beilers sold their pretzel company in 2005 for an undisclosed sum. The Times also reported that after relocating to Texas, "Jonas Beiler, 66, plans to continue his philanthropic activities, and Anne Beiler, 64, will pursue her career as a professional speaker (which she is in demand for) because of the success of the pretzel company, which had its origins at a market stall in Downingtown, Pa., in 1988.

    It is an inspirational story, especially considering that the both Anne and Jonas Beiler only had an eighth-grade education. The couple credit their success to their work ethic and Christian faith after being raised on Amish farms in Lancaster County.

    UP FOR AUCTION IN AMISH COUNTRY:

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    Charles McKim's Gusty Gables
    Zillow
    By Catherine Sherman

    Most homes start with a vision -- a picture of how the space will function and the mood it will evoke. To see how famous architects have left their mark on homes across the country, we've gathered a few standouts currently on the market. From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry, the architects behind these homes in the slideshow below are revered for developing design styles that have and will be imitated for generations to come.


    HOMES BY NOTED ARCHITECTS, NOW FOR SALE:

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    dome home 7625 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ
    Photos by Ian Whitehead at Ian Whitehead Photography via Zillow


    By Erika Riggs

    It was built to withstand tornadoes, hurricanes and fires, but even more than that, it was built to stand out. "They wanted to have the most recognizable home in Sedona," said listing agent Ken Robertson of Russ Lyon Sotheby's of the home for sale at $1.2 million. Looking at the home at 7625 State Route 179 -- a collection of 10 monolithic domes painted rainbow hues from red to purple -- it appears the homeowners achieved just that.

    Dome homes are not a new type of structure -- humans have been constructing domes for centuries. But the modern concrete-and-steel dome was developed in the 1960s by Utah resident Paul Ream, who worked with engineering professors at Brigham Young University to create "Ream's Turtle," an enormous dome that was used for Ream's general store. Like most other domes, the Sedona residence began as a polychloride balloon.

    "They blow up a polychloride balloon in whatever shape they want," Robertson explained. "Then they spray foam on that, and then add steel wiring."

    After the steel wiring is fitted over the foam, 4 to 5 inches of concrete is added to the structure. From here, the home is like any other, just with a super strong exterior and rounded interiors. The 10 domes of the Sedona residence create a living space totaling 5,000 square feet. Each dome leads to another, starting with a grand entrance with 32-foot-high ceilings. There's a kitchen dome, a living room dome -- which includes a large water feature and pool -- as well as a theater dome that has incredible acoustics, Robertson says.

    Sitting on 3.5 acres, the house also includes a separate garage and additional parking for RVs.

    Photos by Ian Whitehead at Ian Whitehead Photography.

    DOME HOME IN SEDONA LISTED AT $1.2 MILLION:

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  • 11/27/13--05:40: Homes to Be Thankful For
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    Wisconsin underground railroad home
    Zillow


    By Erika Riggs

    It's always a good thing to consider what you're grateful for, and this time of year we're counting our blessings - in terms of real estate. From big homes with more amenities than a deluxe hotel to simple, beachside retreats, here's a roundup of real estate we're thankful for:


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    Like something out of a fairy tale -- a creepy, nightmare-inducing fairy tale about abandoned children and cannibalism -- but not so Grimm, a chef in Texas has constructed the largest gingerbread house in the world, and one so big that you could easily live inside it. The holiday-themed edible house -- purportedly the first of its kind built outdoors (at least since "Hansel and Gretel") -- has set a Guinness World Record by being more than 39,000 cubic feet.

    Michael Menchaca gingerbread house builder
    AOL On
    And it wasn't easy, admits its baker and builder, Michael Menchaca (pictured at right) the executive chef at the Texas A&M Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas. As he says in the video above, the recipe had to be altered to suit the elements. That recipe, reports Austin TV station KVUE, included "1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 pounds of flour and 3,000 pounds of brown sugar." The calorie count of the home, which to qualify must have an entirely edible exterior, totals at 36 million.

    But it wasn't built to be eaten -- at least not yet -- but to raise money for a charitable cause. About $15,000 so far has been donated by visitors toward a local hospital's trauma center, said KVUE.

    Bryan TV station KBTX reports that tours of the home will continue through Dec. 14.

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