Why are American houses so badly built

In the middle of the Hamburg suburb of Aumühle lies a piece of America. It consists of white wood, a large veranda, sliding windows and doors that only open when you turn their round brass knobs. "The only thing missing is the foresight over the prairie," says Olaf Haase and lets his gaze wander over the front yard. A white wooden fence can be seen, a carefully trimmed lawn and - typically German - several garbage cans. For this a "Grand Wagoneer", built in 1985, is parked in the carport. More America is not possible.

The unusual house has been in Aumühle since 2017, and its architectural style could also be based in New England or the Midwest of the United States. Olaf Haase, 50, and his husband Patrick Biller, 56, have thus fulfilled a long-cherished dream. "We wanted something of our own, but Germans always build so ugly," says Haase, who works as a marketing manager in the medical technology sector. The idea for the America House came to them by chance. "We watched the 'Gilmore Girls' series and were thrilled," says Haase. "We wanted a house like that too." Your wish came true.

If you step through the wooden front door today, you actually seem to step into a piece of the USA: There is no cellar, but a concrete floor slab. There is a fan in the bedroom and the taps in the bathroom are separated for cold and warm. Behind the sink in the kitchen there is a sliding window that can also be opened while washing up. The so-called "Plantation Shutters" provide for darkness: window shutters with slats that can be folded down. "In the beginning there were people standing in clusters in front of our house," says Haase, who himself lived in New York and Kansas for a long time. "You see something like that pretty seldom here."

In fact, there are only a handful of providers in Germany who specialize in US-style homes. One of the best-known is the Berlin-based Boston Haus Baumanagement GmbH. Since the company was founded in 1993, it says it has built around 90 houses. Managing director Andrea Lissner makes no secret of the fact that she is operating in a niche. "Most people in Germany want the golf as a house," says Lissner. By this she means the principle according to which most single-family houses functioned: front door, hallway, guest toilet, "sealed off from the front like a medieval castle". It is depressing, says Lissner. And uniform.

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Their own customers attached great importance to more individuality. "Many of them have been abroad and want to take a piece of memory home with them," says Lissner. Americans, on the other hand, are almost never among the builders - whoever moves to Germany obviously wants to live like a German. The company has eight different house types on offer, from the inconspicuous bungalow to the 180 square meter property with five bedrooms. Most important feature: there are no stones. Wood, nails, screws and plasterboard are used. Lissner does not accept the often made assertion that American houses are not durable. "Every German house also has a roof made of wooden slats," says the manager. "So it can't be that bad." She puts the lifespan of her wooden houses at 100 to 500 years, comparable to a German half-timbered house. "I'm not saying that a window will last that long," adds Lissner. But that is no different with concrete structures.

When it comes to technology, love for America has its limits. Air conditioning systems, which are part of the standard of living in the USA, are generally not installed by "Boston Haus" for ecological reasons; a cellar is only available on request. "To do this, we install underfloor heating that can also let cold water run through the floor," says Lissner. This can reduce the temperature by up to three degrees. The building services and the thermal insulation correspond to German standards, which one does not notice in everyday life. In other words: even if the wall is better insulated, the house still looks American.

Another company that has America houses in its portfolio is Switzerland-based Greenville AG. The demand is great, says owner Carmen Knote. Many former au pairs who are now entrepreneurs were among her customers. "People want it to be nice," says Knote, and a bright house with a "porch" (veranda) is just more charming than a run-of-the-mill standard property. Most of their customers wanted something subtle and cozy. But there are also extreme cases: "Some have a pick-up truck standing in front of the door and hoist the American flag," says Knote. "Others are in the western club and go shooting." As a reminder: she speaks of German citizens. "It's just a completely different attitude towards life," says the entrepreneur and laughs.

Before the "American Way of Life" takes hold, those willing to build need a lot of patience. Not everything can be copied one-to-one, many materials have to be imported at great expense - and sometimes the personnel too. "Our foreman is Canadian," explains Andrea Lissner from Boston Haus GmbH. "Nobody else can do that here." In the past, she even imported the wood and the finished walls from the United States, but this is no longer necessary. This has made it possible to reduce costs. At Boston House prices start at 500,000 euros; Greenville AG names 300,000 euros as the lowest limit (plus property in each case).

There is also an American house in Giebing near Dachau: 190 square meters of living space, blue wooden slats, integrated garage. "I used to spend many summers in New Jersey with my parents," says owner Elisabeth Askaryar, 41, explaining her love for the unusual architectural style. "This is our dream home," she says. Strangers often stopped at the door to look around. "Our postman spontaneously told us about his trip to Texas," says Askaryar. "Sometimes we even give people a spontaneous tour." Her husband Jama Askaryar, 39, is satisfied with the structure of the building: "In February we had a storm with wind force ten," says the patent attorney. "The neighbors' roof tiles were blown away, but our roofing felt held up."

The couple has lived in the Amerikahaus with their three "girls" since 2018. It should have been authentic, emphasizes Elisabeth Askaryar. "We looked at other houses of this type beforehand," she says. Some were downright "Germanized". "One even had a roof with red tiles," she says, laughing. You didn't want something like that - either completely or not at all. If you ask the "architecture Americans" what hooks there are in their houses, they have to think for a long time. Jama Askaryar is most likely to think of the building codes: "The direction of the roof and the height of the house were predetermined," he says. On the whole, however, the implementation of their project was easier than expected. Nobody complained.

In Aumühle, Olaf Haase's only negative point is the clairaudience that the wooden construction brings with it. "I wouldn't necessarily want to live with our house on the main street," he says. And there is one more little thing that is different with him and his husband than with many American models: There is a small anteroom in the entrance area. "We didn't want to be in the living room when you walk through the door," says Haase. "Maybe we're too German for that." However, the flag is also missing. Olaf Haase and Patrick Biller made a conscious decision to leave out the "Stars and Stripes" in front of their own front door. Are you too German for that too? "No," replies Haase. "But as long as Trump is president, something like that won't come into our house."