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According to http://www.simcity.com/en_US/game/info/city-specialization, city specializations will influence the look of buildings in your city. For example, it says "Plop a university and residences will transform into frat houses filled with partying Sims!"

Has anyone actually seen anything like this happen in the game? I haven't.

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One example, since you mentioned the university, is that you wont see any demand for high tech industries before your education quotient (EQ) is higher than 150 according to this page. Those factories will contribute to the overall visual style of your city.

Another example, also related to education, is that only educated sims will put solar panels on the roof. Or so I've heard, I dont have any source for this. Heres a picture of the solar panels:

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  • I got those at 4/5 education – user43524 Mar 13 '13 at 11:27
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Obviously they are trying to sell the game with that statement. As far as I can tell regarding City Specialization:

Mining, Drilling, Trading, Electronics - These all lead to bad ground pollution which could be considered changing the "look" of your city. But they do not lead to residential changes from what I can spot.

Culture - Will bring in tourists but won't change the look of buildings.

Gambling - Will lead to crime but won't change the look of buildings. With enough crime the businesses would abandon thus changing the "look". Kind of a vague stretch of their description I guess.

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Regarding the solar panels and educated populace, it does seem to change based on education level. Scanning my city, there is a varied number of solar panels on each of my buildings based on their respective education level.

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