NCA Partner J. Michael Abbott, AIA, CNU-A, APA recently spoke at the 2013 Traditional Building Conference Series held at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk Connecticut.

Michael’s presentation was entitled, “Living Small is the Next Big Urban Trend.” 19th-century architect Daniel Burnham left an indelible mark on the built environment when he proclaimed, “Make no little plans.” Nevertheless, today’s worldwide urban housing shortage forces city planners and architects to think little, very little. Small micro-lofts, ranging from 200 to 400 square-feet are the next big housing trend in the United Kingdom, Poland, China, and in American metropolises such as San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and Providence. Even the Big Apple is thinking small. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently amended zoning laws and building codes to allow apartments smaller than 400 square feet and commissioned 80 300-square-foot apartments in Manhattan. At home and abroad, micro-lofts prove to be innovative housing models that offer access to urban amenities at affordable prices. Major furniture retailers IKEA and Crate & Barrel recently joined the micro trend and sell sofas, tables, bedding, and storage specifically designed for smaller living spaces.

The presentation showcased innovative design solutions to better accommodate cities’ changing demographics in cities including a rising number of single people. Participants saw models and drawings of housing designs in Providence, New York, Seattle, Montreal, San Diego and Tokyo. The learning objectives explained how micro-lofts are an economic driver for historic restoration and adaptive reuse of buildings, demonstrated how historic buildings are ideally suited for adaptive reuse as residential and retail micro-lofts, discussed how micro-lofts resolve the shortage of affordable housing for college students and professionals, and determined that adaptive reuse is inherently sustainable and restores a sense of community in historic settings.

Additionally, NCA Associate Holly Grosvenor, AIA, LEED-AP, discused the use of carbon off set credits as a financing technique for large scale adaptive reuse projects. This often overlooked financing technique can be used for historic preservation projects such as the adaptive reuse of mill buildings for housing and commercial purposes.