– Why do some cultures utilize roof space (Mexico, Middle East, NYC) and other’s don’t (Canada, Mid-west America)

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– Why do some cultures utilize roof space (Mexico, Middle East, NYC) and other’s don’t (Canada, Mid-west America)

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Generally speaking roof shape is determined by climate. In much of the northern us and Canada, for example, winter snow is too heavy on a flat roof and a sloped roof is preferable. Obviously that’s not a problem in tropical areas. (There are lots of other considerations, though.)

In places it snows, having a flat roof can lead to a building’s collapse if not rigorously maintained during storms. The weight of the snow accumulates quite quickly, and can be deadly. Just a few years ago where I live, part of a school collapsed during a particularly bad ice storm because of the snow. No one could reach the building to scrape the roof, and part of the building buckled.

The slanted roof on most houses leads to snow sliding off naturally once a certain amount has accumulated, and helps to bare the weight of the snow that has fallen.

This is not necessary to consider in warmer climates.

NYC: Land is insanely expensive. It’s worth it to waterproof the top level to provide a useable roof top outside area for building tenants as the increased rent pays for the increased cost.

Hot-dry climates: Low rainfall and zero chance of snow allow for flat roofs without risking water getting in your house and fucking it up.

Areas without heavy snowfall are more conducive to useable, flat roofs. In northern climates where it snows a lot, it’s much more costly to engineer a roof that can withstand that extra weight load. Additionally, more stringent fire code in North America means legal rooftop areas need 2 means of egress that have to be built into the architecture. As such, it only makes sense to make the added investment where the alternatives for outdoor space are too costly or unavailable — dense urban places like NYC, where having a yard isn’t feasible. It’s also more common in other urban areas. I live in a townhouse in Chicago and I have a roof deck on top. However, you’ll very rarely see one in a suburban area where they can have ground level outdoor space.

A lot of the regions you listed, like north Africa and Mexico the summers can be unbearably hot. Daytime highs well over 100f and nights only dropping into the upper 80s. Many people can’t afford air conditioning, or at least historically couldn’t or it had not yet been invented when building styles were developed.

It’s not uncommon for people to sleep on the roof in the summer.