The recent discussion on the size of living space, both for New Yorkers and TreeHugger writers reminded me of a report out last month indicating that Australia has now overtaken the United States in the size of new homes. In figures obtained by CommSec (the country's Australia's largest discount stockbroking firm) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that "the average floor area of new homes hit a record high of 214.6 square metres (2,310 sq ft) in the last financial year." Whereas, for the first time in decade American homes are apparently getting smaller, with new homes coming in at 201.5m2 (2,169 sq ft).
The ABC report CommSec's chief economist Craig James saying, "Our newly built homes are 7 per cent bigger than those in the US, double the size of those in Europe, and triple the size of those in the UK."
Table: Commsec. Photo: UK Housing by Warren McLaren / Inov8
It seems Australians weren't content with just being the world's largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases. Being a competitive, sports-loving nation, we had to up the ante.
Interestingly though, the number of inhabitants appears to be rising. Back in 1911, when Australia completed its first Census there were 4.5 people in each house, but almost a century later this had nearly halved to 2.4 persons. Yet this might be now trending upwards with ABS estimates for 07-08 suggesting 2.56 persons per home.
Thoughts for such figures include that the population is getting older, younger generations are staying at home longer, and that people are moving house less, choosing instead to increase their existing homes. The Australian Reserve Bank, for instance, observed that "alterations & additions [...] now account for around half of all investment (spending) on dwellings."
Referring again to the ABC article, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Professor Stuart White, said, "The increased size of houses ... [will] very often ... increase the energy taken, sometimes also the water take of those houses so the environmental impact as well as the social impact." He further suggests that many Australians aspire to larger housing as they are concerned about their status relative to the rest of the community.
According to Professor White urban sprawl results from the extra land required to accommodate larger house. This then puts pressure on public transport services and infrastructure.
So, if the housing trend continues, looks like we stand a good chance of also retaining that crown of world's best carbon emitters. Oh, well, if the possible funding cut for Olympic athletes eventuates, maybe the nation can focus instesad on being world champion energy and land gluttons.
More on Climate Change Challenges for Australia
• We Win! Australia: The World's Best Carbon Emitters
• The Stern Report for Australia From Ross Garnaut
• Australia Commits $25.7 Million to Skills for the Carbon Challenge
• 20% Renewable Energy for South Australia, 10 Years Ahead of Schedule
• Australia: The Politics of Environment - A Brief Round-Up
• World First? Australia Switches Off Incandescent Bulbs
• A Sunburnt Country's Embarrassment of Energy Riches