Oct 2018: Is The Housing Market Starting to See the Light?

Regular readers will know that, for years now, I have been banging on about the benefits of smaller, more energy-efficient, cost-effective, low-maintenance homes (like the Greeny Flat) in towns and cities that are designed for people, communities and sustainability (rather than automobiles). In fact I’ve been advocating for this sort of thing for most of my professional career and generally feeling like I’ve been beating my head against a wall. It has been very frustrating to watch as houses got bigger and bigger while their energy performance got worse and worse and the evidence of environmental damage mounted.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight to read this article from Domain last week. I’ve included a few choice quotes below and it’s worth a read because the whole article is about all of the things we like. It’s so refreshing to see this in the mainstream media and to hope that this might signal a shift in the housing market towards much more sensible and sustainable practices.

On the plus side of compact homes, they tend to use less energy in heating and cooling, and demand fewer hours be spent on housework, maintenance and gardening, and mean family members spend more time together…. (not to mention spending fewer years paying off the mortgage and energy bills on some huge, energy-sucking monster).

Sometimes new home-seekers choose to buy smaller houses in the best position they can afford: north-facing to be full of light, warmth and air…. (who would have ever thought of such a radical concept?)

‘We find that people are now also more conscious of sustainability issues and the energy costs of large homes,’ she says. ‘Both parents might be working, so they don’t want to spend so much of their downtime looking after a big house – unless they can afford a cleaner and gardener.’ (Yeah right!)

‘The important thing is the flexibility of the home so it can expand or contract according to how much space is needed as older children stay at home longer, or parents may come to live with their children.’…. (Viva la Granny Flat!)

One of the key considerations when buying house and land, be it large or small, is the precinct or community in which the package is located, and the master-planning principles of the developer…. (the next step will be to get developers to think about master planning in such a way that encourages smaller, more energy-efficient, passive solar homes).

‘The focus should be more on design quality than size,’ he says. ‘And with changing needs, it almost suggests a house should be designed as a series of parts rather than one large house so you don’t end up with two people left in a space that’s too big for them, but in a house that can be easily divided into two.’…. (Amen to that!)

In fact this is exactly what we’ve done with the house we’re building in Queensland – if you look at the floor plan below you can see that the part of the house on the right can be separated from the rest by simply closing one door. By adding a kitchenette it could quite easily be turned into a completely self contained apartment with its own access via the back door.

181012 Reading St Floor Plan

And, just to put things in perspective, the interior floor area of this house is just 100sqm which is less than half the size of the average new home in NSW.

So here’s hoping the market is starting to recognise and value the benefits of smaller, smarter homes.


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