As the size of residential housing in Australia overtakes the United States for the first time (216 m2), we need to assess how we live. The average floor area of new free-standing houses was also at a record high of 245.3 square metres, up 4.4 per cent over the past five years.
Currently it seems like the size of housing defines our status – bigger is better.
Housing obesity is a problem – larger houses mean more construction materials (and costs), higher energy bills, larger lot sizes which contribute to urban sprawl, greater pressure for new infrastructure, greater reliance on a car based lifestyle, more carbon emissions and the list goes on.
Unless this ‘bigger is better’ mindset shifts, we as individuals are contributing to an unsustainable future.
While Australian home sizes have risen 10 per cent over the past decade, research shows sizes of new American homes has fallen from a peak of 212 square metres to 201.5 square metres.
In Europe, Denmark has the biggest homes followed by Greece and the Netherlands. Homes in Britain are the smallest in Europe with an average of 76 square metres.
Further, if measured on the same 6 star scale as ours, the minimum energy rating required for residential construction in many European countries is 7 Stars.
(As a reference, obtaining just one extra star – from 6 Stars to 7 Stars – means a drop in energy usage bills by HALF).
Obtaining a 7 Star energy rating necessitates sustainability to be designed into the building (Passive Sustainability) and not added as optional extras after construction (Active Sustainability).
The Way Forward
The German minsdet is that bigger is not better. Quality over Quantity.
As we have seen over the past couple of years, the latest trend seems to be to bring back a more simple life, harking back to the 1950s.
Interestingly, in the mid-1950s, the average size of new houses was around 115 square metres – half the size of an average new house today. Maybe property development should be following this broader trend?