Nothing to fear… …but four itself

Nothing to fear… …but four itself

THE lift at 1009 Expo Blvd in Vancouver goes directly from the 12th floor to the 15th. The omission of the 13th caters to Western superstitions. The absent 14th acknowledges an Eastern anxiety. The numeral four sounds in Mandarin and Cantonese like the word for death. Fourteen sounds like “certain death”; 24 is “easy death”. 1009 Expo is missing the fourth, 24th and 34th floors as well. 

Developers in Vancouver have been building four-free apartment blocks for a decade to attract Chinese buyers, among the biggest customers for luxury condominiums and a prime cause of a boom in property prices. The city will not change street names but is relaxed about house numbers: 224 can become 223B.

First responders argue that it is the numeral’s absence that is lethal. The omission of a 14th floor can confuse firefighters, who often take the lift to a level below a reported fire and walk up. The consequences could be dire, warns Jonathan Gormick, a fire-department captain in Vancouver. Though he cannot point to a disaster in real life he says that “at some point we had to draw a line.”

The city of Vancouver agreed. In October it banned non-sequential numbering schemes. Existing buildings can remain four-less but new ones may not skip numbers. Chinese buyers will normally accept an unluckily numbered unit for a discount, but property developers fret that the new rule will depress prices. No one can accuse the city of cultural discrimination: tall buildings will have to have a 13th floor as well.

Scrunter: Check the number

Baron:  Merry Christmas Medley

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