Balloon framing was a way to use wood much more frugally than timber framing without the various issues of structural brick buildings. It really had little to do with talent/skill and more to do with speed and resource frugality. In regions without transportation infrastructure and lots of wood, timber techniques remained for much longer, into the 1940s. The areas with the longest use of timber has the least level of labor specialization. Ordinary people with no construction training could use both English and Scandinavian timber techniques quite well.
Brick buildings also sank in Chicago’s mud flats. It was a perennial problem. Lighter construction techniques were desperately needed there. The superiority of balloon framing made it spread rapidly across the country. Massive timbers weren’t widely available by the 1800s in most of the country—the remaining huge trees were very expensive in the East and simply didn’t exist in the plains. Bricks were expensive to transport, and raw new towns hardly had the infrastructure to create brickworks. Standard framing members were relatively cheap to transport by rail.
We also were much more enthusiastic about plumbing and central boilers and then gas and eventually electricity than in the UK—our poor were much richer than UK’s poor, so there were severe shortages of domestic servants from the earliest ages, and so we were enthusiastic adopters of every labor-saving device and convenience.
This meant providing for the appropriate mechanical infrastructure, which was much easier in a home with wall voids. The British love of masonry construction was much like their affection for open fireplaces long after all of the rest of the developed areas of Northern Europe moved to efficient and clean enclosed stoves—nostalgic but irrational, and aided by a weak labor market.
The introduction of insulation in the first half of the 20th century ensured that modern stick framing (which is superior still to balloon framing, offering better fire resistance, smaller standard members and so a better use of resources, and more modularity) would remain standard in the US. Factory engineered W-trusses are an even more recent cost-and-resource-saving technique that make attics (or lofts, as I suppose you’d call them) less useful for any other purposes and changed the slope-roofed attic bedrooms from a cost-saving measure to an architectural indulgence! Weather is much more extreme here than in the U.K.—my home, for example, gets considerably colder than any place in the U.K. and also has weeks at a time in the high 90s F each summer—so the cost of cooling and heating the same amount of space is higher, making insulation far more important.
London was a brick city partly because much of the stone that became so fashionable in the countryside after the 1760s was eaten by terrible smog and acid rain in London. Other cities weren’t inherently that much cleaner (except for their more efficient heating technologies) but were smaller or had better wind patterns. Common brick isn’t—or shouldn’t be—weaker than face brick; it’s just not as attractive. It isn’t like rubble-filled stone walls, where width makes up for a lack of strength.
Here, structural masonry construction (vs facade construction) is now saved for commercial and larger multi family residential buildings, unless people are doing SIPs or similar or are in a place like Florida, where the poor energy performance doesn’t matter as much as superior wind resistance. Solid brick was once preferred in very hot desert climates before air conditioning was common because brick walls acted as big heat sinks and would equalize the day/night temperature swings, but AC is better for comfort now.
I’ve not made a systematic study of current U.K. building practices but what I do know baffles me. There is a complete lack of respect for the dangers of water heaters (expansion tanks not required????) and an irrational terror of electricity near water while also not showing an understanding of GFCI outlets—and some places still have separate hot and cold water taps, so you must fill a lavatory basin with water to wash your face instead of using a quarter of the water while running out of the tap at the desired temperature. And then there is the bizarre continuing popularity of the wasteful AGA stoves and the disdain for dishwashers and clothes dryers and decent-sized refrigerators that make weekly shopping convenient for two-income families—and new houses without adequate bedroom closets! US building patterns have some absurd elements (floor plans so “open” that everyone wants a bigger house when really what’s needed is a few walls so that people can do different things at the same time, and reach-in closets with enclosed upper parts that are virtually unusable), but not as many that seem to be a stubborn rejection of the 20th century, never mind the 21st!
Of course, I’m saying that as someone using nanotechnology to make cleaning surfaces easier, who has cleaning robots to do 90% of the floor cleaning, and who has a washing machine with 2 compartments and a dryer with an extra compartment for dry-flat items. I’m even experimenting with electrostatic methods of repelling dust from horizontal surfaces to make dusting a less frequent task, and cleanability is a major factor in all my remodeling decisions, so I may be at the other extreme!
The absurdly impractical British houses of the late 1800s do make deliciously fun dollhouses (or doll’s houses, I suppose) though.