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  • So, I have an overlooked but potentially lucrative

  • investment opportunity for you.

  • Over the past 10 years in the UK,

  • the return on burial plots has outperformed the UK property market

  • by a ratio of around three to one.

  • There are private cemeteries being set up with plots for sale to investors,

  • and they start at around 3,900 pounds.

  • And they're projected to achieve about 40 percent growth.

  • The biggest advantage is that this is a market with continuous demand.

  • Now, this is a real proposition,

  • and there are companies out there that really are offering this investment,

  • but my interest in it is quite different.

  • I'm an architect and urban designer,

  • and for the past year and a half,

  • I've been looking at approaches to death and dying

  • and at how they've shaped our cities and the buildings within them.

  • So in the summer, I did my first exhibition

  • on death and architecture in Venice,

  • and it was called "Death in Venice."

  • And because death is a subject

  • that many of us find quite uncomfortable to talk about,

  • the exhibition was designed to be quite playful,

  • so that people would literally engage with it.

  • So one of our exhibits was an interactive map of London

  • which showed just how much of the real estate in the city

  • is given over to death.

  • As you wave your hand across the map,

  • the name of the piece of real estate -- the building or the cemetery --

  • is revealed.

  • And those white shapes that you can see,

  • they're all of the hospitals and hospices

  • and mortuaries and cemeteries in the city.

  • In fact, the majority are cemeteries.

  • We wanted to show that, even though death and burial are things

  • that we might not think about,

  • they're all around us, and they're important parts of our cities.

  • So about half a million people die in the UK each year,

  • and of those, around a quarter will want to be buried.

  • But the UK, like many Western European countries,

  • is running out of burial space,

  • especially in the major cities.

  • And the Greater London Authority has been aware of this for a while,

  • and the main causes are population growth,

  • the fact that existing cemeteries are almost full.

  • There's a custom in the UK that graves are considered to be occupied forever,

  • and there's also development pressure -- people want to use that same land

  • to build houses or offices or shops.

  • So they came up with a few solutions.

  • They were like, well, maybe we can reuse those graves after 50 years.

  • Or maybe we can bury people, like, four deep,

  • so that four people can be buried in the same plot,

  • and we can make more efficient use of the land that way,

  • and in that way, hopefully London will still have space to bury people

  • in the near future.

  • But, traditionally, cemeteries haven't been taken care of

  • by the local authority.

  • In fact, the surprising thing is that there's no legal obligation

  • on anyone in the UK to provide burial space.

  • Traditionally, it's been done by private and religious organizations,

  • like churches and mosques and synagogues.

  • But there's also occasionally been a for-profit group

  • who has wanted to get in on the act.

  • And, you know, they look at the small size of a burial plot

  • and that high cost,

  • and it looks like there's serious money to be made.

  • So, actually, if you want to go out and start your own cemetery,

  • you kind of can.

  • There was this couple in South Wales,

  • and they had a farmhouse and a load of fields next to it,

  • and they wanted to develop the land.

  • They had a load of ideas.

  • They first thought about making a caravan park,

  • but the council said no.

  • And then they wanted to make a fish farm

  • and again the council said no.

  • Then they hit on the idea of making a cemetery

  • and they calculated that by doing this,

  • they could increase the value of their land

  • from about 95,000 pounds to over one million pounds.

  • But just to come back to this idea of making profit from cemeteries,

  • like, it's kind of ludicrous, right?

  • The thing is that the high cost of those burial plots

  • is actually very misleading.

  • They look like they're expensive,

  • but that cost reflects the fact that you need to maintain the burial plot --

  • like, someone has to cut the grass for the next 50 years.

  • That means it's very difficult to make money from cemeteries.

  • And it's the reason that normally they're run by the council

  • or by a not-for-profit group.

  • But anyway, the council granted these people permission,

  • and they're now trying to build their cemetery.

  • So just to explain to you kind of how this works:

  • If I want to build something in the UK,

  • like a cemetery for example,

  • then I have to apply for planning permission first.

  • So if I want to build a new office building for a client

  • or if I want to extend my home

  • or, you know, if I have a shop and I want to convert it into an office,

  • I have to do a load of drawings,

  • and I submit them to the council for permission.

  • And they'll look at things like how it fits in the surroundings.

  • So they'll look at what it looks like.

  • But they'll also think about things like what impact is it going to have

  • on the local environment?

  • And they'll be thinking about things like,

  • is this thing going to cause pollution

  • or is there going to be a lot of traffic

  • that wants to go to this thing that I've built?

  • But also good things.

  • Is it going to add local services like shops to the neighborhood

  • that local people would like to use?

  • And they'll weigh up the advantages and the disadvantages

  • and they'll make a decision.

  • So that's how it works if I want to build a large cemetery.

  • But what if I've got a piece of land

  • and I just want to bury a few people, like five or six?

  • Well, then -- actually, I don't need permission from anyone!

  • There's actually almost no regulation in the UK around burial,

  • and the little bit that there is, is about not polluting water courses,

  • like not polluting rivers or groundwater.

  • So actually, if you want to go and make your own mini-cemetery,

  • then you can.

  • But I mean, like -- really, who does this? Right?

  • Well, if you're an aristocratic family and you have a large estate,

  • then there's a chance that you'll have a mausoleum on it,

  • and you'll bury your family there.

  • But the really weird thing

  • is that you don't need to have a piece of land of a certain size

  • before you're allowed to start burying people on it.

  • And so that means that, technically,

  • this applies to, like, the back garden of your house in the suburbs.

  • (Laughter)

  • So what if you wanted to try this yourself at home?

  • Well, there's a few councils that have guidance on their website

  • which can help you.

  • So, the first thing that they tell you

  • is that you need to have a certificate of burial before you can go ahead --

  • you're not allowed to just murder people and put them under the patio.

  • (Laughter)

  • They also tell you that you need to keep a record of where the grave is.

  • But that's pretty much it for formal requirements.

  • Now, they do warn you that your neighbors might not like this,

  • but, legally speaking, there's almost nothing that they can do about it.

  • And just in case any of you still had that profit idea in your mind

  • about how much those burial plots cost

  • and how much money you might be able to make,

  • they also warn that it might cause the value of your house

  • to drop by 20 percent.

  • Although, actually, it's more likely

  • that no one will want to buy your house at all after that.

  • So what I find fascinating about this

  • is the fact that it kind of sums up many of our attitudes towards death.

  • In the UK, and I think that the figures across Europe are probably similar,

  • only about 30 percent of people have ever talked to anyone

  • about their wishes around death,

  • and even for people over 75,

  • only 45 percent of people have ever talked about this.

  • And the reasons that people give ... you know,

  • they think that their death is far off

  • or they think that they're going to make people uncomfortable

  • by talking about it.

  • And you know, to a certain extent,

  • there are other people out there who are taking care of things for us.

  • The government has all this regulation and bureaucracy around things

  • like burying a death, for example,

  • and there's people like funeral directors

  • who devote their entire working lives to this issue.

  • But when it comes to our cities

  • and thinking about how death fits in our cities,

  • there's much less regulation and design and thought

  • than we might imagine.

  • So we're not thinking about this,

  • but all of the people we imagine are thinking about it --

  • they're not taking care of it either.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

So, I have an overlooked but potentially lucrative

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B1 US TED burial cemetery death people council

【TED】Alison Killing: What happens when a city runs out of room for its dead (What happens when a city runs out of room for its dead | Alison Killing)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/12/15
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