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Living Small

Colleen Marshall —

The world's population is predicted to reach close to 10 billion by 2050. Where are we all going to live?  It's going to be a tight squeeze. 

One solution is to build high. Dubai has built many of the world's tallest residential buildings, and one still under construction will be nearly half a kilometre tall. In China rental housing for their ballooning population is provided by multiple tower blocks located on public estates which optimise the use of localised energy supply and transport. Building high-rise apartment blocks in central Auckland could ease their housing shortage, as urban sprawl exacerbates many infrastructure problems, especially transport.

However high-rise is not an appealing option to many New Zealanders, who value their own piece of land. Another solution is to build small, with a small dwelling that makes the most of a smaller plot of land. The trend is for more households to consist of fewer people, as they are having fewer children and living longer. The incidence of one person households is predicted to grow by 90% in the period from 2001 to 2021. Nearly half of these people will be over 65 (the demographic bubble of the baby boomer generation), and three quarters will be over 45.

Home ownership is a dream for most New Zealanders, but has become increasingly unaffordable for many younger people. Building small is a more affordable option as well as a way of maximising land use and providing housing for more people. It is also a way of living more economically, where energy costs are reduced and living space is cleverly managed by design. The possibility of being self sufficient by using solar power is more readily achievable, along with a more environmentally sound lifestyle.

The tiny house movement has gained traction with the popularity of television programmes such as George Clarke's Amazing Spaces. There are many books published which provide clever design ideas and inspiration from people who have refashioned structures such as shipping containers, silos, bothies, houseboats, caravans and garages, etc into comfortably liveable spaces. The smaller the house we have the less stuff we can fit into it. There are also plenty of books advising us how to get rid of it, such as Enough: Breaking Free From the World of More, The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide, and for the extremely motivated, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists.

Recommended titles:

Small House Living: Design-Conscious New Zealand Homes of 90m or less. Catherine Foster.

XS:  Small Houses, Big Time. Lisa Baker.

Nanotecture. Rebecca Rope.

Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials and Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building and Living Well in Less Than 400 Square Feet. Ryan Mitchell.

George Clarke's Amazing Spaces and George Clarke's More Amazing Spaces. George Clarke.

Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings. Phyllis Richardson.

Homes from Home: Inventive Small Spaces, from Chic Shacks to Cabins and Caravans. Vinny Lee.

Small Homes: The Right Size and Tiny Homes on the Move: Wheels and Water. Lloyd Kahn.