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New Trends in Housing

Updated on June 8, 2011

Over the last twenty years or so in Australia, there's been a distinct fashion for very spacious, ultra modern but essentially boxy-like houses, known colloquially as Mc Mansions. They are often built on smallish sized blocks and because they are big there's not much room to do anything creative with the yard. Opportunistic real estate developers have built these houses as close to each other as possible, which, ironically, counteracts the interior sense of space.

While impressively big and modern, these houses are not particularly well-built and some have predicted that they will at some point become ghettoes of degraded architecture, only faintly reflective of their former suburban glory.

Mc Mansions are often built in the outer suburbs,called the 'mortgage belt', where the infrastructure leaves something to be desired. Not only services, but transport is a problem - in many cases there is no train service and commuters must do daily battle with increasing congested highway traffic. In terms of energy costs, these houses make little sense and many argue they outsize the actual needs of the occupants.True, they do match the proportionately equally big four wheel drives that sit majestically in the driveways but if the housing futurists are to be believed, the age of biggism is comiing to an end.

The mortgage belt. Image from
The mortgage belt. Image from
Making the most of space. A new trend in gardening. Image from
Making the most of space. A new trend in gardening. Image from

Smaller Spaces, Larger Living

Those who keep a sharp eye on housing trends are predicting a move to smaller homes with the focus on organization and well laid out spaces that can be effectively utilised rather than large spaces. However windows are getting bigger, strategically placed to maximise the movement of the sun as well as to let in the natural world.There is now a much greater emphasis on sustainability and clever house design is one of the cornerstones of environmentally sensible living.

Greenery too, is making a comeback with a growing greater appreciation of the natural world. More and more people are forsaking the low maintenance white pebble and cactus look for an actual garden space with a variety of plants.While the garden spaces may not be large, they can be well organised and designed to maximise what room there is to the best potential - even extending to small fruit and vegetable plots or large pot plant mini market gardens.

Space saving Japanese  house  designed by Yashuhiro Yamashita and measuring 44 sq metres
Space saving Japanese house designed by Yashuhiro Yamashita and measuring 44 sq metres

Breaking a Housing MIndset

At a 2010 seminar about real estate trends and forecasts in Australia, it was noted there was a major impetus to push the idea of smaller housing on Australians,who, with the help of developers, have in the last few decades, developed a big is better mindset when it comes to housing.

The average size of a new house in Australia is 260 sq. That's 83 sq. metres per person. Compared this with 68 sq. metres per person in America and 32 sq. metres in Britain. It's a large discrepancy. State governments would like us to build small houses on tiny blocks with no backyards, similar to small, European-style housing. While at the present time, our housing is disproptionately large, small yards should not be discarded in the equation. After all, gardens do not suck up energy costs. In urban areas, private gardens are of course, a premium but in the suburbs there should be a little room to move.

Innovative smaller housing makes sense from an economic and sustainability point of view but we shouldn't forget the human equation - psychologically, families benefit from a patch of land and children need room for creative outside play. Unless we want to be piled up like rats in laboratory cages, I see no reason why we can't have smaller housing and still have a yard.


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