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I am in Oaxaca, Mexico at the moment and almost every building seems to have these – photos from Google Street View. Am I correct that they are to give the fire department access to gas and electricity lines without going into the building? How would one correctly refer to them in English?

gas? electricity?

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They appear to be giving access to meter readers, and nothing more. The one with pipes could be water or gas. Alcove works, as does recess (a multipurpose word, but one meaning is the sort of hole in the wall pictured with meters in it.) Niche could also work.

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