House sizing

Tiny house
Tiny house

As with most articles on Green Housing, the first and most basic principle appears to be often overlooked, perhaps because it is obvious, or perhaps more likely because it challenges the base of our consumer society.

With out doubt the first rule of eco-housing must be: build less house and what you do build, build simply

So often alternative movements become wrapped up in new trends, cool solutions, tricky technology, Eco-housing becomes focused on no exemption solar cells, strawbale construction, trombe walls, reverse brick veneer, an so on.

In no way am I implying that of any of these technologies are without merit, but I do believe we must always remind ourselves of first princliples: less is more

Build a verandah or a deck, make a space in your garden, spaces that dont require heating or cooling build summer spaces and winter spaces, learn to live with your environment instead of building a fortress against it.

Where is your perfect outside breakfast spot, with morning sun and the sound of bird? Where is that winter sun spot after work, that rainy afternoon roofed area, the barbecue pit or just the space to lounge in the sun?

Building less walls and less house means less resources, less energy consumed, more space for nature, less water runoff and more water absorbtion.

As a former owner of a boutique environmentally focused design and construction firm, I have built my share of eco-houses in all models shapes and sizes. At the end of the day though, most of this was “boutique” (read elite) building. It has been an amazing insight to move to a small village in Indonesia and see families with so much less house and so much more living outside.

It is easy to blame the weather in Australia, even though we have 40,000 years of evidence otherwise from our original inhabitants, who built less and lived long and healthy lives. Known in anthropological circles as the original “affluent” society, Australia’s aboriginal community built less and lived more in harmony with the land.

So please, as you consider your next project, start by asking 

“how little I can afford to build?” rather than “how much can I affort to build?”

You may then find yourself building somewhat closer to what the planet can afford you to build.

Dave Hodgkin
Environmental and Emergency Housing Consultant
Bantul, Yogyakarta

See also