The Big House

I’ve written before about the housing boom in our region of France, with thousands of units going up every years, carpeting what were fields and forests when we moved here in the 1990s.

I’ve also noticed that many single-family houses of the suburban developments are much smaller than those in the United States.

Average floor space per capita. Source: ShrinkThatFootprint
Average floor space per capita.
Source: ShrinkThatFootprint

As it turns out, expectations are vastly different between countries when it comes to the amount of space required for a dwelling. Not surprisingly, the countries with more space and natural resources at their disposal tend to build bigger.

Not only do larger houses use more resources in the making, they require more in the maintaining – more heating and cooling, more furnishings, more products in long-term maintenence, more waste when they are removed.

Over on ShrinkThatFootprint, Lindsay Wilson put together some graphics that illustrate just how far apart our ideas of the right size house are across the globe. (Click through the graphic link for the graphics in sq. ft.)

Average floor space per capita Source: ShrinkThatFootprint
Average floor space per capita
Source: ShrinkThatFootprint

I’ve lived in countries where having enough space to actually go through a door in your own home that didn’t lead to the bathroom or outside was already considered a major achievement. I’m not sure our dreams are any smaller when the rooms aren’t as big as they can possibly be. In general, the trend seems to be towards increasing size, even as we struggle to figure out long-term solutions for providing power and water for what we already have.

But at what point does bigger stop being better? Is it the size of the home that is hemming our ability to grow, or our own desire for more?

Alice outgrows a house. Credit: Tenniel via Gutenberg.org