Building Small: Designing for the 95%

In Canada, where the average new home measures 2,000 square feet and accommodates 2.2 occupants, I would define a small house as one that minimizes space per person while allowing a comfortable lifestyle for its occupants.

About 1,200 square feet or less for a couple, or under 1,500 square feet for a family with kids, would fit this definition. People often can’t imagine how a small footprint can feel open, expansive and convenient, or that it can fit all their stuff. But with careful design and siting, all of this is possible. Proper site orientation and optimum size and placement of windows is critical to maximize natural light. An efficient layout that reduces hallways and unnecessary square footage is the next step, and providing a range of storage options reduces clutter.

Creating multi-purpose spaces is important, and it’s here that we  “design for the 95 per cent.” Instead of creating special purpose spaces that are used only occasionally, we build for the way we live 95 per cent of the time; the exceptions usually take care of themselves.

There’s a growing trend toward building small, especially in urban centres where people often live alone and housing prices have skyrocketed.

Properly designed small homes are more affordable to build and maintain; use less energy and offer greater resilience in the face of fossil fuel scarcity; and take less time to clean.

All of which frees up more time and money for the pursuits that make life worth living.





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