Houses are getting bigger and bigger, further out of reach financially and there are less of us per house than ever before. Do we need all this space?

When it comes to our homes, we Australians have been on a decades long love affair with ‘bigger is better’. Our house size has bloated to what is now the biggest in the world, just as our household size shrinks to a current average of two and a half people per home. Do we need all this space? Are we really thinking through the full cost of the size of our buildings?

If you want to look at the scary statistics take a look at our national data website Australia has an average new home size of 214.6 sqm. Some other examples from around the globe range from the USA at 201sqm to countries like Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy and The Uk; all under 150sqm and many with a new home average of under 100sqm. (The Statistics – Commsec Market Data – Australian Homes the Biggest in the world)

Very large homes intended for the use of two to four people, no matter how many solar panels attached, should seldom be viewed as ‘green’.

Just the materials embodied in these homes will negate any attempt by the inhabitant to turn it into an environmentally friendly home.  We need to remember the trees cut, stone transported, tradies travel time, land used and fittings purchased. Larger homes are also more needy when it comes to furnishings, power, water, cleaning products and maintenance.

Dr Stephen Clune in his RMIT study did a comparison of 72 different houses and found that a reduction of home size by 50sqm (from 249 to 189) would give the same benefit as all of the measures provided for in a move from a 5 to 6 star rated home. Ideally we need to reduce home size as well as implement green measures.

The other vital thing we all need to do for the environment is ditch the car. So hard in Australian suburbia, this can only work in tandem with the move to smaller homes and blocks in the push to densify our cities. Suburban infill, more people per home and smaller homes within the existing urban environment, is the challenging way forward.

How can we best use good, smart design to create beautiful small places to live in while reducing our load on the planet?


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