25 Jul 2005

Why Americans Build Big Houses

Pick up an interesting snippet from the Washington Post, via The Week, which I subscribe to. It says that US houses have grown by 55% in floor area in the past 35 years. Today average US house size is 2330ft2, which means, if my maths is right, that in 1970 it was 1500ft2. Jeez: that's just an enormous figure for an average house size. I think the UK figure is around 800ft2, a third of the US size. I know that everything is bigger in the US, but that's a gob-smacking statistic. It's as though the obesity crisis has grown to encompass housing.

Larger houses may sound fine and dandy but they do nothing at all for energy efficiency: in fact, energy usage is closely correlated to floor area. I sometimes come across people asking me about building "in a sustainable way" or advice "on building an eco house." The answer is short and simple. Build small. Live light. Don't collect piles of rubbish that need extensions just to house. I suspect that this, more than anything else, is behind the huge explosion in US house sizes: they have to have someplace to fit all that junk that they keep importing from China.

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