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"just seems obvious to me that if you pump enough money into a building over the course of a period of time (week, month, year, decade -- I don't care) you can make it as valuable and as functional at the end of the time period as it was at the beginning of the period and therefore you have totally offset depreciation."

I don't think so. Back in the mid-1990's I was in charge of the buildings on several Army posts in Germany. We were actively rehabilitating barracks in a multi-year quality of life program.

Due to treaty/status of forces agreements we couldn't tear the majority of buildings down. We had to renovate what was there. In the end, at least when I went back by in 1999 enroute from Kosovo to back to the states, they were leaving most of the exterior walls up and totally gutting everything else.

Basically we couldn't overcome the structural problems. Yes we could make them look like new, but structurally they were still 60 year old buildings.

The worst case was in the nearby community of Schweinfurt which had been severely bombed in WWII. The bombing 50 years earlier had caused some almost undetectable structural problems and when they moved a few minor walls hear and there during renovation they accelerated the structural failure of the building. About six weeks after moving everyone back in they had to condemn the building.

After that we started taking core samples of the concrete and x-raying some of the structural steel in the concrete. All buildings, at greatly varying rates, grow structurally weaker. I don't think there is a cost effective way to reverse that in most cases.

PS: After about 18 months away from the board, most of it out of the country is great to be back.
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