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Re: [carfree_cities] trend to smaller houses in USA

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  • Richard Risemberg
    Eric Miller and I have an audio conversation covering this on our new podcasts page on New Colonist: http://www.newcolonist.com/podcasts.html See Living
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 31, 2009
      Eric Miller and I have an audio conversation covering this on our new
      podcasts page on New Colonist:
      http://www.newcolonist.com/podcasts.html

      See "Living Small."

      We are looking for more people to interview regarding urban
      sustainability, so if you wish to volunteer yourself or recommend
      someone, let me know.

      Rick

      On Mar 31, 2009, at 11:18 AM, Christopher Miller wrote:

      > A not surprising piece of news:
      >
      > http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/home/2009-03-16-small-
      > homes_N.htm
      >
      > A quote that relates house size to the nature of the neighbourhood:
      > "The key to small homes is connectedness," Cusato says, adding that
      > people don't need as much interior space for entertainment or exercise
      > if they live near parks, shops or other people. "I grew up in Alaska,
      > and we played outside all the time. We could walk everywhere in our
      > neighborhood."
      >
      > =========================================================
      >
      > Americans are moving on up to smaller, smarter homes
      > Updated 3/17/2009 10:46 AM | Comments 189 | Recommend 67
      > E-mail | Save | Print | Reprints & Permissions |
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      > (image)
      > By Bob Donnan for USA TODAY
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      >
      > Sarah Susanka, photographed in her office addition, says Americans are
      > embracing living smaller. "There's a shift in the culture," she says.
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > ----------
      >
      > IMPROVE THE SPACE YOU HAVE
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > (image)
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      >
      > Sarah Susanka's remodeling tips:
      >
      > 1. Set priorities. Of three factors -- quality, quantity and cost --
      > determine which two are the most important and let the other "float."
      >
      > 2. Examine your space. Look at what can be done within the existing
      > footprint. List activities to be accommodated, recognizing that a
      > place is needed but not necessarily an entire room.
      >
      > 3. Study storage. A little well-designed storage in the right place
      > can replace a lot of poorly designed storage, opening up floor space
      > in areas that are currently too small to function properly.
      >
      > 4. Bump out a little. Adding just a few feet to a space can contain
      > costs and maintain a house’s scale.
      >
      > 5. Add on with grace. If none of the above strategies meet your needs,
      > and the budget allows, a small addition may be the best option.
      > Consider what each exterior face of the house will look like.
      >
      >
      > ----------
      >
      >
      >
      > By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
      > When architect Sarah Susanka remodeled her kitchen, she didn't use
      > pricey granite or edgy concrete for her countertops. She used
      > laminate. Her cabinets: Ikea.
      > "You can save thousands of dollars" by using simple materials in a
      > well-designed space, says Susanka, author of the best-selling 1998
      > book The Not So Big House.
      >
      > For more than a decade, she has urged people to build better, not
      > bigger. Now, as the U.S. economy struggles to climb out of a tailspin
      > and environmental concerns rise, her message has gone mainstream.
      >
      > New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last
      > year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square
      > footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically,
      > from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter,
      > Census data show.
      >
      > The new motto: living well with less.
      >
      > FIND MORE STORIES IN: Washington | California | Houston |Chicago |
      > Tucson | iPhone | Census | National Association of Home Builders |
      > Industry | Corona | Ikea | Museum of Science| Institute of Architects
      > | McMansions | Gopal Ahluwalia |Jeffrey Mezger | KB Homes | Kermit
      > Baker | Not So Big House| Sarah Susanka | Marianne Cusato | Michelle
      > Kaufmann
      > "There's a shift in the culture," says Susanka, whose new book, Not So
      > Big Remodeling, helps homeowners use existing space better. She says
      > the economy has forced people to rethink McMansions and focus instead
      > on what they need.
      >
      > Other architects agree.
      >
      > "It's a return to common sense and what really matters," says
      > architect Marianne Cusato, who designed the Katrina Cottage, a modular
      > kit house for people who were displaced by the 2005 hurricane.
      >
      > Cusato says the banking collapse last fall prompted her to co-design
      > what she calls "The New Economy Home." In 1,500 square feet, it has
      > three bathrooms, a half-bath and four bedrooms, one of which can be
      > used as a rental unit. "It's a small house that lives large," Cusato
      > says. She plans to begin selling the floor plan on her website as
      > early as April.
      >
      > "It's sad that it took a complete economic meltdown" for people to
      > appreciate smaller homes, but at least something good can come from
      > it, says Michelle Kaufmann, author ofPrefab Green, published last
      > month.
      >
      > Kaufmann, a California architect who designs compact, factory-built,
      > eco-friendly homes, says she's busier than ever because "these
      > concepts are resonating on a mass level." One of her modern homes is
      > on display in the backyard of Chicago's Museum of Science and
      > Industry.
      >
      > She says new gadgets, such as the iPhone, have helped consumers see
      > that bigger is not always better. Now, she says, "we want more out of
      > less."
      >
      > The shrinking dream
      >
      > Kaufmann and others expect the shift in attitudes to persist even
      > after the economy recovers.
      >
      > "This will remain a trend. I don't expect this (home size) to come
      > back up," says Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president of research for the
      > National Association of Home Builders. Nine of 10 builders surveyed by
      > NAHB this year say they're building or planning smaller, lower-priced
      > homes than in the past.
      >
      > "We don't need big homes," he says. "Family size has been declining
      > for the past 35 years."
      >
      > Home sizes tend to stagnate during recessions, says Kermit Baker,
      > chief economist of the American Institute of Architects. He expects
      > that when the economy recovers, many first-time or middle-income
      > buyers may want more square footage than they can now afford.
      >
      > Baker says plummeting home values, however, have caused many people to
      > stop seeing houses as an investment but rather as a place to live. He
      > says home-size declines probably will continue among high-end buyers,
      > who began scaling back even before the recession.
      >
      > Steve Alloy, president of Virginia-based Stanley Martin Homes, says he
      > started seeing that shift a few years ago and as a result began
      > offering smaller floor plans. In the past eight months, he has
      > introduced two models that are each under 2,000 square feet.
      >
      > In the Tucson area, Jeffrey Mezger says two-thirds of his houses that
      > have sold in the past 90 days were less than 1,600 square feet.
      >
      > "In these economic times, people are more practical," says Mezger,
      > chief executive officer of KB Homes, one of the nation's largest home
      > builders. He says consumers, who were hit by record gas prices last
      > summer, are also more concerned about utility bills, so energy
      > efficiency has become more important.
      >
      > Two years ago, he says, the average KB house was about 2,400 square
      > feet, which can easily accommodate four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
      > He expects it could drop to 1,500 or 1,600 this year. In many
      > communities, his models now start at 1,000 square feet. In Houston, KB
      > Homes has an 880-square-foot house for $63,995.
      >
      > "We could have gotten a bigger home" but chose instead better
      > flooring, lighting, countertops and cabinetry, says Jennifer Kovatch,
      > 24, an accounting manager. Next month in Corona, Calif., she and her
      > fiancé are buying their first home. It has three bedrooms, not four.
      > "We traded an extra bedroom for upgrades."
      >
      > Carole Conley and her husband had $1 million to spend when they went
      > house-hunting in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. They could have bought
      > a 5,000-square-foot home but decided against it. "We're a couple
      > looking to our elderly years," she says, adding they want a house that
      > will be easy to maintain when they retire. So they're buying a well-
      > designed 2,000-square-foot rambler and plan to add 700 square feet.
      >
      > As an interior designer, Christine Brun sees a "complete reversal"
      > from a decade ago. Now, she says, her clients are clamoring for less
      > square footage, and manufacturers are responding with smaller
      > furniture and appliances.
      >
      > "You're almost unpatriotic to live so large," says Brun, author of
      > Small Space Living, published last month. She says Baby Boomers want
      > to downsize, and young eco-minded adults "don't care if they live in
      > 500 square feet. They just want cool stuff."
      >
      > Between those attitudes and a crashing economy, she sees big prospects
      > for smaller houses: "It's like a perfect storm."
      >
      > "The key to small homes is connectedness," Cusato says, adding that
      > people don't need as much interior space for entertainment or exercise
      > if they live near parks, shops or other people. "I grew up in Alaska,
      > and we played outside all the time. We could walk everywhere in our
      > neighborhood."
      >
      > How to live well with less
      >
      > For years as an adult, Cusato lived in New York apartments with less
      > than 300 square feet. She says she lived outside, in her community, as
      > much as inside, where she simplified her belongings. She told her
      > family not to give her any more "tchotchkes."
      >
      > "Build what you need. Build what inspires you," Susanka says. "Don't
      > build to impress your neighbors."
      >
      > As a best-selling author, Susanka could have built a grand home. She
      > chose instead a 2,200-square-foot Cape Cod with a big front porch and
      > "three perfectly proportioned" dormers on a lot that looks like
      > country but is close to the airport, a good grocery store and a
      > beautiful lake with walking paths.
      >
      > "What more could we ask?" she writes in her new book. She later added
      > 200 square feet for her office. She and her husband both work from
      > home, so office space accounts for one-third of their square footage.
      >
      > "I don't feel we need more space," she says. If designed right, she
      > says, less space can work well. "There are lots of things that can be
      > done without spending a lot of money," Susanka says.
      >
      > She tells readers to think about how they really live and, if they
      > feel they're short on space, to repurpose rooms that are rarely used,
      > such as formal living and dining rooms.
      >
      > She says rooms can and should do "double duty." If they still feel
      > more space is needed, she says, often a small addition will suffice.
      >
      > Susanka says the push to living smaller "at some point had to happen,"
      > because McMansions use more resources and are not environmentally
      > sustainable.
      >
      > "We're in the midst of a pendulum swing," she says. "What will come of
      > this will be a more balanced home."
      >
      >
      > =========================================================
      >
      > Christopher Miller
      > Montreal QC Canada
      >
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
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      --
      Richard Risemberg
      http://www.bicyclefixation.com
      http://www.newcolonist.com
      http://www.rickrise.com
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