Building Small is the Next Big Thing

A recent study documents the shift from large-scale units of production to smaller mass-produced units that can be dispersed across many locations. This shift promises to change a host of industries, from transportation to power generation.

A recent study out of Columbia University looks at the forces driving "a radical shift from building big to building small-a change that has profound implications for both established and emerging industries...This trend-observable in nascent form in several industries ranging from small, modular nuclear reactors, chlorine plants, and biomass energy systems to data centers-is resulting in a switch from large to small optimal unit scale, the authors found."

So what does this mean for land use and infrastructure planning and design? Here's one example from the energy industry cited in the study's press release: "Rather than relying on custom–built, large–scale units of production - e.g. massive thermal power plants - industries can benefit from a shift to small, modular, mass–produced units that can be deployed in a single location or distributed across many locations - e.g. photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on utility poles." Single-use zoning for industry could soon become a thing of the past. 

Full Story: Building Small: In Many Industries, Economies of Size Is Shifting to Economies of Numbers


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