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UK Architects Fight Shrinking Homes

Friday, May 3, 2013

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Feeling cramped in your home? Consider this: A new one-bedroom home in the UK is now about the size of a railcar on the London Underground’s Jubilee Line—46 square meters, or 495 square feet.

That makes Britain's homes the smallest in Western Europe.

The Royal Institute of British Architects wants to change that, with larger and brighter spaces.

The association recently launched a campaign called HomeWise that calls on government officials to mandate minimum size and light standards for new homes in the country.

Not 'Rocket Science’

“This isn’t rocket science,” says British TV personality Kevin McCloud, who is the spokesman for the campaign. “We all instinctively respond to the opportunity for a view, a connection with the outdoors, fresh air, light and space.”

England does not have national minimum standards for the size of new homes, and there is limited guidance about the size and number of windows in homes, the Institute says.

The average new home in the UK has 4.8 rooms and is 76 square meters (about 818 square feet), compared to 115 square meters (around 1,238 square feet) in Holland and 137 square meters (1,474 square feet) in Denmark. (In the U.S., the average new single-family home is 2,233 square feet, according to 2011 U.S. Census data.)

Basic Needs Unmet

“People are concerned about the space and natural light when they are looking for homes, but these are not luxuries," the architects' association says. "They are basic needs which are proven to impact our health, happiness and well being."

The architects report that 69 percent of people moving into new-build homes in the UK said there wasn’t enough space for their possessions and 60 percent of people who said they would not buy a new home in the country claimed that room size was a major factor.

“The country is in the grip of the worst housing crisis in decades, and there is an urgent need to provide more affordable, quality homes,” institute president Angela Brady said.

“In their rush to build, the government must avoid the temptation to reduce current standards and give the go-ahead for builders to produce another generation of poor-quality homes, without adequate space and natural light.”

The institute urges the public to share its concerns in letters to local Members of Parliament and on social networking sites.

UK government officials will consider new building standards over the summer, the architects say.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Color; Color + Design; Design; Home builders; Lighting; Residential Construction

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/3/2013, 8:49 AM)

So.... builders are supposed to produce larger, higher quality homes for a lower cost? Am I reading this correctly?

Comment from John Fauth, (5/3/2013, 9:04 AM)

Actually, I think Britains are supposed to conceive smaller children who feel the smaller housing units are more spacious.

Comment from Patrick McKeegan, (5/3/2013, 12:43 PM)

Right after WWII my Dad built hundreds of 800 SF 2br homes to meet the demand of new families. Moving up to a 1200 sf home was the next step. A lot of homes in the US are being built smaller and more efficient. There is even a trend in micro home about the size of a camp trailer (caravan in UK). Let the market decide, if there is demand for the small spaces let them be built.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/7/2013, 8:51 AM)

Patrick, I agree. While there is a significant public interest in minimum standards for safety and related build quality, I don't see the compelling government interest in size restrictions. There is definitely a growing (ha!) "small house" movement.

Comment from John Fauth, (5/8/2013, 8:48 AM)

Tom, if only the "compelling" standard were applied to all legislative social engineering regulations.

Comment from Alan Mays, (5/8/2013, 11:57 AM)

Tom, Architects have been repeatedly to do more for less fee for years even though the cost to the client is less than 1% of the cost of the building. It doesn't surprise me that the builder is next to be asked to provide more for less.

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (5/8/2013, 12:25 PM)

The International Codes currently in use in most parts of the US today(not created, but 'adopted' by governments) are full of size, height and area restrictions for all types of buildings, including residential. Size restrictions often relate to safety.

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (5/10/2013, 2:56 PM)

Maybe the 69 percent of people who said their new home " wasn’t enough space for their possessions" should consider reducing their number and volume of possessions instead of adding more space for more possessions?

Comment from Paul Braun, (5/13/2013, 8:47 AM)

As George Carlin observed: "A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else's house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff" It's worth watching the whole routine.

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