In 2030, about half of the buildings in which Americans live, work and shop will have been built after 2000, according to a discussion paper prepared for the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. The nation had about 300 billion square feet of built space in 2000. By 2030, the nation will need about 427 billion square feet of built space to accommodate growth projections. About 82 billion of that will be from replacement of existing space and 131 billion will be new space.

The paper, “Toward New Metropolis: The Opportunity to Rebuild America,” states that most of the space built between 2000 and 2030 will be residential space. The largest component of this space will be homes. Over 100 billion square feet of new residential space will be needed by 2030. However, percentage-wise, the commercial and industrial sectors will have the most new space with more than 60 percent of the space in 2030 less than 30 years old.

Las Vegas is expected to have 1.34 million housing units in 2030, compared with 656,000 in 2000, according to the report. Austin, Texas; Phoenix; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Orlando, Fla., are also expected to see a high volume of new residential construction from 2000-2030.

Arthur C. Nelson, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, prepared the paper.

Most new growth will occur in the South and the West, though there is tremendous variation in the total amount of buildings to be built between regions, according to an executive summary of the paper. In the Northeast, less than half of the space in 2030 will have been built since 2000, while in the West that figure is about 87 percent. Fast-growing southern and western places – states like Nevada and Florida and metropolitan areas like Austin and Raleigh – will see the most dramatic growth.

Research also found that the projected demand for industrial space in the Midwest outpaces that of the other regions. And states with a strong industrial presence will see the most substantial growth in industrial space even though other areas may witness faster growth. After California – which outpaces the nation in absolute square feet of new industrial construction – the next four largest producers of industrial space are all Rust Belt states in the Midwest: Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. By 2030, 70 percent of the Midwest’s industrial space will be less than 30 years old, according to the executive summary.

Recent trends indicate that demand is increasing for more compact, walkable and high-quality living, entertainment and work environments, and the paper notes that the challenge for leaders is to create the right market, land use and other regulatory climates to accommodate new growth in more sustainable ways.

The challenges to accommodate future development vary by region of the country. In general, Western states like California, Washington and Oregon have a strong history of growth management and will need to continue to find ways to improve upon and implement existing laws and approaches. Neighboring states like Nevada and Arizona, which are experiencing rapid growth, will need to find their own comprehensive solutions to manage the development boom while facing limitations on land and water. Overall, the West will not see reduced growth pressures, and will need to find innovative ways to accommodate growth on existing land, in cities and suburban areas, according to the executive summary. By contrast, the rapidly growing South is more resistant to regulating growth and must make some important choices about the kind of economic and overall quality of life it hopes to achieve.

The modest growth in the Northeast, if left unchecked, will likely disrupt the small-town tranquility and abundant outdoors that define much of the quality of life, tourism and natural resource industries of that region, the executive summary states. For the Midwest, where state and local strategies to address patterns of sprawl and disinvestment have been uneven, the continued stagnation of cities with rapid land consumption in outlying areas will further erode the overall economic competitiveness of whole metropolitan areas.

The paper questions whether policymakers, planners and citizens should maintain the status quo with development patterns, or whether these groups can envision a different pattern of growth.


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