Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Land Down Under is Over in Terms of Housing Size

These infographics from Shrink That Footprint show the average new house sizes across the world in 2009. Despite the American penchant to do everything a little bit bigger, it’s the Australians who claim the prize for world’s largest homes.

Without getting too pseudo-scholarly about the situation, the three countries with the biggest homes (Australia, US and Canada) began as British colonies a few hundred years ago. Unlike their motherland, all were fairly unbound geographically (no pesky oceans every 20 miles). A good portion their infrastructures were created after the widespread availability of cars. All of these factors surely contributed to the overgrown housing statistics we see here.

per-capita-square-footage-around-the-world

The other infographic concerns per capita space use, which divides housing size by household number (most developed nations average around 2.5 people per household). These figures are predictably correlated with overall housing size. Again, Australia wins the dubious prize for most space per person.

per-capita-electricity-use

We fished around Shrink That Footprint and found another infographic showing per capita residential electricity use. Interestingly, Australia is a lowly fourth place in this heat (behind France, whose homes are 90% smaller!). Canada makes a from-the-behind dash to the front; with its harsher-than-most winters and big homes, it is often crowned the world’s energy gulping king (there is no explanation as to why Australia’s numbers wouldn’t be commensurately higher due to inordinate use of AC, particularly for its large homes).

What’s not shown in the graphics are trends. For example, China, whose energy consumption is a fraction of countries like the US and Canada, has seen a 600% increase in electricity over the last 20 years. New homes in the US are almost as big as ever. And household sizes are shrinking in Europe (albeit by a small amount), which means per capita housing size is increasing there.

The good news is…we’re not sure what the good news is. Housing sizes are bigger than ever and energy consumption continues to increase across the globe (except for the countries in most dire need). One thing to extract is that housing size is not correlated with quality of life; for example, Denmark and Sweden, who both enjoy high standards of living have smaller homes than the Big Three. But then again, their infrastructures–smaller cities with high quality public transport–support those smaller homes (not the case with the Big Three).

What do you think? What can you deduce from these figures? Is there a silver lining or will the world continue to consume until it bursts? Let us know your thoughts in our comments section.

  • Brian Long

    There’s a somewhat over simple explanation for electricity use in Canada vs Australia. Air conditioning, or cooling in general is much less energy consumptive than heating. Air con is just more efficient than furnaces.

  • Greed is evil.

    Unfortunately, I believe that the general world trend will be to continue consuming until disaster and scarcity happens. The whole US culture and economy, which greatly influences the rest of the world, is built on ideas that are unsustainable and fosters greed. Asia is following suit. The population is also ever increasing. I may seem like a pessimist to some people, but I believe that it is likely the reality of the future. However, I also believe it is our responsibility to educate and learn, to innovate new ideas and technologies, to change our culture, to act out our values in the present. If change is to happen, then it must start with the individual and then the collective.

  • Sherry

    I’d be curious to see how they calculated the square-footage. In Texas, USA the realtors count air-conditioned space for their adverstising (unless none of it is conditioned). And very few homes where I lived had basements. In Canada, realtors used to count footprint, but now count above grade footage. But most houses that I’ve seen in Canada have basements, which are not included in either method. That makes a huge difference in livable space.

  • Angela B

    re Australia’s 4th place for electricity usage. It may be due to a milder climate where folks are outside/not at home playing in summer rather than holed up inside keeping warm in harsh winters lke in Canada. A/C use is not a usual amenity – I live in Queensland (hot summers) and only experience A/C in shopping malls and offices. Interesting to note that Aussies feel the need for bigger personal space…reflective of the space we have outside the domestic space in a big wide (relatively) empty land…….so its natural to spread out when there is space to do so…..something that needs to change re urban footprints

    • PerthGirl

      I’m also in Australia but on the west coast (Perth) and have to disagree. Our summers are long (4-5 month) and dry (we’ve just had 60 days with no rain). It’s not uncommon to have 1 – 2 weeks of 35-37C (95-100F) temperatures and with our poorly designed homes, they don’t cool down overnight so the AC runs day and night. Our house sizes remain huge while suburban block sizes are shrinking due to city in-fill. Most Australians haven’t grasped the small home concept.