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Green Home Trends: Building Small
We know you love to be green on your sustainable vacations with Global Basecamps, but isn’t it time you brought the green home with you?
One latest trend in green design is fairly simple—build less. You probably know the three ‘R’s of conservation: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Well, what better way to reduce than by reducing your house’s square footage?
But of course, building a smaller house is more difficult than it sounds—for many, a big home is more of a status symbol than a convenience. Nevertheless, the days of 'garage mahals', 'McMansions', 'hummer homes', and 'starter castles' are limited.
Why should I build smaller?
It’s all part of a blossoming movement in green design being called the “small house movement” (for obvious reasons). Homeowners who build smaller will use less material, reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ needed to make the home livable, and drastically reduce their energy and water bills.
Some quick facts to convince you:
- The average size for an American single family home in 2010 was 2,438 square feet, or about 610 square feet per person in an average household.1
- In 1950, the average American single family home was 1,100 square feet, or about 290 square feet per person.2
- The average American home size peaked in 2007 at 2,521 square feet and has been decreasing steadily since (mainly due to the mortgage and housing crisis).1
- In the UK, the average family home is only 818 square feet.3
- In America, some regional governments specify minimum sizes for houses; for example, in Atlanta’s Fulton County, one-story houses must be bigger than 1,800 square feet.4
How can I build smaller?
Unless you’ve just bought a new McMansion, it’s never too late to start building smaller! A lot of the changes we need to make are strictly cultural—Americans have a hard time imagining life without separate living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. But did you know that in traditional Japanese homes, no rooms served a certain purpose save for the kitchen, toilet and entrance room? All furniture was portable and easily stored, so your bedroom could become a living room in the morning.
Here are some helpful tips on getting started:
- Do your research! Architect Sarah Susanka launched the Small House Movement when she wrote the book titled The Not So Big House (1998), in which she goes into how to “build better, not bigger”. The amount of internet resources on building smaller is also endless.
- Do you really need that second bathroom… and that third one? Walk around your house and decide which rooms you don’t need. A separate bathroom for guests and for private use may be convenient, but not necessary. Would you use a guest bedroom often, if at all? What about putting a dining table outside instead of dedicating an entire room to it? The basic rule of thumb is: if you don't use the room everyday, you DON'T NEED IT!
- Scale it down. Carrie Bradshaw’s closet may be the Four Seasons of walk-in closets, but how big is too big? Master bedrooms and bathrooms may be large and elegant, but there’s definitely room for downsizing. In a typical British bedroom, a standard King-size bed won’t even fit in the room. Perhaps you too could opt for a Queen- or full-size bed and scale down the room a bit?
- How much stuff do you need? If you have enough clothes to fill a Carrie Bradshaw sized closet, for the sake of the environment, let some of it go! The same applies to kitchen appliances and wares, food items, home entertainment systems, and cars—if you could live with just one, don’t buy five. The less stuff you have, the less space you’ll need to store it in.
- Make a commitment, but take it slow. The decision to build smaller is smart, but difficult. Letting go of stuff and space is hard, but definitely worth the money you’ll save and the environment you’ll help. If you now live in a 5,000 square foot mansion, make a long-term commitment to live in a 3,000 square house within five years. You’ll need the time to figure out what you truly need and to get rid of any unwanted belongings. Any faster and you’ll only be hurting yourself.
Of course, living smaller also applies to when you travel—boutique hotels tend to have smaller rooms and more cozy common areas than mega hotel chains. Global Basecamps can help you find the best boutique hotels for your next vacation so that you can travel smaller too!