Small is Beautiful (and Necessary)

Building sizes have been creeping upward for centuries, but green building expert Jason McLennan argues that smaller structures are better, more beautiful, and ecologically inevitable.
March 29, 2011, 12pm PDT | Rebecca Sanborn Stone
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Throughout history, empires have been scaling up their building sizes in order to reflect their power. In modern times, we build oversize buildings to match our oversize corporations, "mega-metropolises," and economies.

But Jason McLennan argues that this can't go on forever. "There is a point where individual accountability, familiarity, and sense of place disappear. And we have reached it," he writes. "We have lost the ability to relate to and understand our food systems, economic systems, energy and transportation systems, and ultimately the environment itself."

McLennan believes that we'll necessarily return to a sustainable scale of building and living within the next 20 years. He predicts that our skyscrapers will shrink, we'll start to live more locally, and start learning to know the land and communities again. "The only oversized movement we need is the one that takes us closer to small, localized solutions."

There's no single right size for buildings or communities, he says, but the key is to find the "sweet spot" for any initiative and he includes a number of tests of scale for identifying it.

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Published on Friday, March 11, 2011 in Yes!
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