Shrinking cities pilot

Developing a new method to map shrinkage with electricity and residency data.


︎ Client: Estonian Ministry of Finance
︎ Partners: TalTech

︎ Report in Estonian.

No report in English was produced. If you are itnerested to hear more about this project, write to

What are the effect of depopulation on the built environment?

In 2018 the Ministry of Finance started to received dozens unwanted apartments of apartments from people in East Estonia. The debate on shrinking cities was already open, but this became a turning point and a surprise, particularly given that at the time, interest rates were low, and housing prices were on a steady rise - 5,7% year-on-year. This phenomenon spun a new investigation branch in Estonia, focusing on the relationships between demographic change and the built environment.
︎ Regional electricity consumption data of apartment buildings
︎ Regional building occupancy data (Residency index) of apartment buildings

︎ District heating network data

A year later, we initiated a research pilot for the Estonian Ministry of Finance in East Estonia (Ida Viru region) to design a methodology to map shrinkage and evaluate its risks to socio-economic development.

Our core objective was to find a reliable data source to understand vacancies at the building level.

This pilot revealed that electricity consumption is a reliable data sources an building vacancy reached an alarming rate of 25%, and highly vacant buildings tended to cluster. 

A policy brief was drafted to take further steps in understanading the phenomenon and we hosted workshop with local municipalities to co-design new planning strategies.


Eventually the pilot was scaled up to
︎︎︎ a national study of shrinking cities
with the Estonian Ministry of Economy and Finance.