Tiny House vs. McMansion

I clearly remember wanting a room of my own as a teenager. I settled for a room in the finished basement of our family home. Austin Hay of Santa Rosa, CA has gone well beyond my teenage aspirations and is building his own Tiny House. As Austin tours his 130 sq. foot home built on a double axle trailer he notes that it is less space to clean and will have a small carbon footprint. Austin's Tiny House brings up a question, 'How big a home does a person need?'

How much room do we need?

People in other countries generally live in much smaller homes than Americans. The Swiss average living space per person is 44 square meters (474 sq. ft.). The per capita living space of urban residents in Beijing was 18.2 square meters (~196 square feet) in 2002. In 2007 the U.S. average household size was 2.61 living in 2521 sq. ft. which equals 966 square feet per person. Compare that to 1975 when an average of 2.94 Americans lived in 1645 sq. feet for 559.5 sq.ft./person.

All other things being equal, a larger house embodies more CO2 in construction and materials, and will require more energy to heat and cool. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2007 the average single-family house completed had 2,521 square feet, 861 more square feet than in 1973. Given that family sizes haven't grown in the last thirty years (actually they've shrunk), what are we doing with 2,500+ square foot homes that we couldn't do in 1,700 square feet?

Well, we're paying more to heat, cool and maintain these bigger homes. Despite increases in energy efficiency since 1970 our homes still use about 70 Million BTU's of energy annually. All that and were cleaning (or paying someone else to do the dirty work) those 2,500+ square feet. Small can be beautiful, especially when you need to clean it. Now, where's my broom?

More Info:

YouTube.com - 16 year old builds tiny home to guarantee mortgage-free future

Santa Rosa Press Democrat - Thinking big, building small

U.S. Census Bureau - Characteristics of New Housing

U.S. Census Bureau - Median and Average Square Feet of Floor Area in New Single-Family Houses Completed by Location

U.S. Census Bureau - Families and Living Arrangements

Switzerland (2000 census) Living space per person - 44 m2 (474 sq ft)

Per capita living space of urban residents in Beijing was 18.2 square meters (2002)

Are American homes more energy efficient? Not exactly.

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