The total volume of residential development on Martha’s Vineyard has slowed in recent years, while the size of houses has increased steadily and sometimes dramatically, data compiled by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission shows.

Data on Island home construction from the last 40 years was compiled over the winter by Bill Veno, a senior planner with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. The work was done as the commission prepared to review and update its criteria for development referrals.

An analysis of the raw data paints a striking picture of development trends on the Island over the past four decades, including the increasing square footage of new homes and volume of new construction.

Pulled from assessors records in the six Island towns, the data includes nearly every residential building constructed on the Island between 1980 and 2018. It divides home construction into four different categories: under 4,000 square feet, between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet, between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet, and above 6,000 square feet. West Tisbury was not included in the square footage analysis because the town's database could not be configured at a necessary level of detail. The report does not include renovation data.

Mr. Veno estimated that the Island in total has about 17,000 residential buildings. More than 50 per cent of them have been built in the past four decades, accounting for more than 10 million square feet of new construction, not including home renovations or additions.

The data also shows that in Edgartown, which has seen the most development since the 1980s, average home size increased by about 30 per cent in the 2000s when compared to the last two decades of the 20th century, from an average of 1,699 square feet between 1980 and 1999 to an average of 2,230 square feet between 2000 to 2018. Oak Bluffs home sizes increased 10 per cent during the same time period. In Tisbury, the average home size increased 26 per cent.

But even more striking than the increase in average home size is the increase in the percentage of homes being built that are over 4,000 square feet. Between 1980 and 1999, 6,014 homes were built on the Island. Only three per cent, or 217 houses, were over 4,000 square feet. Between 2000 and 2018, 323 of the 2,861 homes that were built on the Island were over 4,000 square feet, accounting for 12 per cent of home building. And there have been twice as many homes built that are over 6,000 square feet — 66 compared to 33.

“The homes over 4,000 square feet, their numbers, basically, doubled in the last two decades,” Mr. Veno told the Gazette in an interview about the data. “And 4,000 is an arbitrary number. Going lower might make that differentiation more pronounced.”

The increases were most pronounced in Edgartown, where 62 homes over 4,000 square feet were built between 1980 and 1999. In the 21st century, the number increased to 169 — even as overall new construction decreased by about half. The only town that has not seen a two-fold increase or more in the number of homes built over 4,000 square feet is Chilmark, which adopted a strict new zoning bylaw in 2013 that limits residential construction to 3,500 square feet per three-acre buildable lot size.

The data also provides a timeline for residential development on the Vineyard over the past four decades. Beginning in the 1970s, the Island began to see a steady pattern of subdivisions that cropped up off the main roads in down-Island towns and West Tisbury. Some were properties that developers cobbled together by clearing titles and buying up small lots.

The commission was created in 1974, a first-of-its-kind regional planning agency chartered by the state legislature and introduced by Gov. Francis Sargent. The state bill was a compromise to the Nantucket Sound Islands Trust Bill, controversial federal legislation sponsored by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy that would have placed the two Islands in federal trust, much like the Cape Cod National Seashore.

The formation of the commission coincided directly with the onset of the heaviest development years on the Vineyard.

Subdivisions — all still in existence today — eventually came to line the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road, West Tisbury Road, County Road in Oak Bluffs and Old County Road in West Tisbury, transforming old fields and wooded areas into slices of mainland suburbia. In 1987 alone, 535 homes were built in Edgartown, the commission report shows. (It was also a time when Edgartown had pulled out of the MVC in a political squabble; the town later rejoined the commission.)

“The 20 years from 1980 to 2000 was almost the heyday,” said Arthur Smadbeck, a longtime Realtor with Priestley and Smadbeck, and an Edgartown selectman.

“It started in a little bit of a dribble in the seventies. And by the eighties, it was really cranked up,” he said.

But few of the new subdivisions had large houses over 4,000 square feet. While a stark contrast with the historic farmhouses of Chilmark sheepherders or the white-shingled whaling mansions of Edgartown, the newly-built homes were generally small and relatively affordable, allowing a middle-class buyer newfound access to the Vineyard.

By the early 2000s, a shift began to occur. Available land for large subdivisions, especially down-Island, had dried up. There was far less new construction. But the new homes being built were different.

“The house of 20 to 30 years ago was a fairly basic house that you could build with fairly basic drawings,” said Ben Robinson, a member of the Tisbury planning board and the MVC. “Now, you can get a building set that is hundreds of pages of drawings and details . . . every house that is over 2,000 or 3,000 square feet is soup to nuts, a whole different ball-game with construction.”

Mr. Smadbeck said the change began even earlier, just after World War II. The Vineyard was just two decades behind.

“In the fifties, everyone wanted your 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom, one-bath, one-car-garage home,” he said. “Fast forward to the nineties, your standard home was four bedrooms, two and a half baths, and 2,400 square feet. Today that has morphed into 3,500 to 4,000 square feet. You have this sort of expansion of what in people’s minds they think they need.”

Mr. Smadbeck said code words such as chef’s kitchen, have cemented themselves in the Island real estate vernacular. “When someone says chef’s kitchen, it doesn’t mean that a chef owns it,” he said. “What they’re signaling is that it is a big kitchen . . . It’s got granite countertops and stainless steel and the giant, Subzero fridge. People have been getting bigger and better and better and bigger.”

Mr. Veno said the increasing number of large homes on the Vineyard mirrors a national trend. Meanwhile, residential home construction and how much it should be regulated continues to be a hotly debated issue on the Vineyard. “The large house issue, it touches a lot of people’s buttons, in both directions,” Mr. Veno said.

“But that’s what regulation is all about. What is an appropriate level of regulation. That’s the hard part.”

A previous version of this article stated that West Tisbury was not included in the analysis because of a flaw with the town data. The West Tisbury database was not able to be configured at a level of detail needed for square footage analysis, so it was not included. This has no bearing on the accuracy or completeness of the town’s assessment data, the MVC clarified.