How big can I make my house?

It is no secret that in the world of residential construction, the new house is the biggest one on the block. Houses are built as close together and as tall as possible. I don’t know when this started, but the effect it has on all of us is startling and completely unnecessary. I share 500 square […]

Project photography credit: Franc D'Ambrosio Architecture

It is no secret that in the world of residential construction, the new house is the biggest one on the block. Houses are built as close together and as tall as possible.

I don’t know when this started, but the effect it has on all of us is startling and completely unnecessary. I share 500 square feet with my dog. I like to cook, entertain, camp, cycle and have tons of gear for a variety of hobbies. Not once have I felt like I am lacking space. With that in mind, why are we building 3000+ square foot houses for a family of 4?

The average size of houses in the USA has increased by roughly 10% every 10 years for the last 4 decades, while the average household has decreased by approximately 2%.

Houses designed in our current market focus on maximizing square footage, lot coverage and roof height. This leads to longer build times, higher cost, more complexity, higher utility bills, higher maintenance costs…and more cleaning! This will only get worse if it remains the ubiquitous and unquestioned strategy. The most successful projects start with people asking themselves what functionality is most important to them.

With the cost of construction constantly on the rise, it doesn’t make sense to spend your money on wasted floor space and cut costs on the things that really matter. Smaller houses use less materials which means less money. Less square footage means you get to move in faster and spend less money on alternate accommodations. Modest footprints are easier to build, more efficient to heat, cool, and clean.

Take a minute to imagine how minor changes in building size could have the power to positively affect your life and the world around you.

Tiny homes are trendy right now, but there is a middle ground that still gives you all the luxury of a single family home with the cost-effective living of a tiny home. If budget and operating costs are important to you – or you just don’t like cleaning – think about what functions you need most in your home. There are limitless solutions for how to use your space efficiently. With a little guidance, strategy and creativity, you can save up to 20% on construction costs by simply eliminating otherwise unused square footage; you can spend that money on a better quality space instead.

Smaller homes have many advantages:

  • More usable outdoor space that can be combined with the interior to blend into the landscape
  • Easier to clean
  • Cheaper to maintain
  • Naturally more energy-efficient
  • Cheaper to furnish

 

With all the new technology and creative design out there, we can easily make smaller spaces ultra functional. Manufacturers are even designing specific lines to accommodate small spaces due to the booming condo market and growing popularity of tiny homes. One example is a series of compact appliances from Bosch. All of these things are great reasons to take a second look at how you can trim the fat.

On top of all this, it is an unsafe way to build. Building right to lot lines means vertical excavation walls which directly defies the safe excavation standards outlined by the WCB. Cities are approving these plans and letting it happen anyways. It is only a matter of time before Worksafe standards are revised and require such excavations to take extra steps to ensure site safety. This will most likely mean shotcrete walls or sheet metal shoring, but either way it will be a considerable expense that homeowners will be responsible for.

I’m not advocating minimalism but rather an approach called Essentialism – doing less but better. This is a strategy we explore with many of our clients where a small budget is top priority. Builders make more money the bigger the project so it is often not in their best interests to advocate building smaller. Given the benefits, it is a strategy that should not be ignored.

Simply put, houses are priced on a per square foot basis; less square feet equals less cost to build.

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