Small is Sexy: Lessons from European Cities

Milan in May/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

According to Robin Mellon of the Green Building Council of Australia, Australia now has overtaken America in building the largest homes. " Our typical new home – replete with parents’ retreat, home cinema and triple garage – is now around 215 square metres, (2314 SF) up 10 per cent in a decade." He was travelling in Europe in June, a month after I was, and learned some lessons that are worth repeating; here are two of the four that he writes about in The Fifth Estate:

It’s not the size that counts. First and foremost is the question of building size – it really isn’t how much you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts. Many of the offices, houses and apartments I saw were simply smaller – there was less space available and a much greater demand for what there was, and so small apartments were the rule rather than the exception. There were also many more good design and good technology solutions for coping with small spaces – whether new development or retrofits. The bottom line is that smaller homes are cheaper to run – how much less would a 100 square metre apartment cost to operate than a 150 square metre apartment?

Small cars are sexy and cheap to run (although probably not this old Ferrari)/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

And my favourite:

Old world ideas for a new age. Most of Europe’s older buildings were built at a time when ‘sustainability’ was not a buzz-word – they depended upon natural ventilation and natural daylight, shading from the sun, eaves, shutters, balconies on which to grow plants, dry washing and sit outside, and thick walls and insulated roofs to keep the buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. Many of these older buildings, therefore, have good opportunities for retrofitting, now that we can combine good passive design with good technologies and good behaviour.

Read it all in The Fifth Estate

Tags: Italy | Less Is More | Living With Less

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