All across America, blocks of older, smaller buildings are quietly contributing to robust local economies and distinctive livable communities. This groundbreaking study demonstrates the unique and valuable role that older, smaller buildings play in the development of sustainable cities. Building on statistical analysis of the built fabric of three major American cities, the research demonstrates that established neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings perform better than districts with larger, newer structures when tested against a range of economic, social, and environmental outcome measures.
The Older, Smaller, Better study is the first phase of a broader Preservation Green Lab research agenda focused on the role of older buildings in sustainable development. With the help of interested funders, local governments, and partner organizations, the research scope is expanding into additional cities with different economic, social, and physical contexts, including weak real estate markets and high building vacancy rates. The Green Lab’s goals are to identify opportunities and to share solutions that benefit residents, property owners, investors, and community leaders alike.
The complete Older, Smaller, Better report provides more detailed results and recommendations that expand upon the findings and principles discussed in this post. The report details the research methodology, statistical modeling results, and mapping analysis, and includes community case studies from the three study cities. Recommendations based upon the research are offered for community leaders, developers, and policymakers, along with directions for future research and empirical investigation.
The Older, Smaller, Better project was made possible through the generous support of the Summit Foundation, the Prince Charitable Trusts, and the Kresge Foundation. The project was managed and led by the Preservation Green Lab, a department of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that researches the sustainability value of older and historic buildings and identifies policy solutions that help communities leverage their built assets. This project benefited from collaboration with Impresa, Inc., Gehl Studio, and State of Place™.