The Future is Smaller Location Efficient Homes

Large detached houses in car centric communities that at one time typified the Canadian dream, are losing followers to households seeking smaller homes in ‘location-efficient’ neighbourhoods.

In urban centres across the country, building activity that until recently had been almost entirely focused on the suburban fringe, has moved back toward the metropolitan centres to meet the demands of the 21st century household. Increasing environmental consciousness, financial pressures and demographic changes are shifting housing preferences.

Households want neighbourhoods that are walkable and well served by transit. They are seeking communities where amenities like groceries, parks, community centres and office space are accessible by buses and trains or human-powered travel (e.g. walking, cycling and running).

Renters and owners are also looking for affordable housing in an increasingly expensive housing market and they are willing to sacrifice square footage to access more desirable communities. Additionally, households are getting smaller and traditional housing forms are not meeting the needs of empty nesters, one-parent families, singles and multi-generational families.

We’ve built these smaller homes before. We can build them today - better designed, more durable and more ecologically responsible. [1, Small Homes BC]

What then is a Small House?

A research study of small market units in British Columbia defined small housing as a dwelling of any form (apartment, detached dwelling, moveable unit, etc.) that is sized to meet its occupants’ needs with little excess space - more specifically, approximately 500 sq.ft. for 1-2 people, or slightly larger at 750 sq.ft. for a household of 3 or more. The current average size of home is 2000 sq.ft. The size of a Small House is from 100 to 1500 sq.ft.

In 1945, the average size of a Canadian home was 800 sq.ft. and typically housed a family of 4 or more. Today an average British Columbian home easily surpasses 2000 sq.ft. and is providing shelter to 2.5 individuals.

What are the benefits of a smaller home?

There are many individual and societal benefits to living in smaller spaces. People who live in small homes generally own fewer possessions, consume less, and have lower utility bills. Smaller homes require less building materials for construction and use less land, As such, they often cost much less to purchase, maintain, and live in.

Construction of smaller homes can utilize more efficient, natural, healthy, high-quality materials that might not be affordable in larger dwellings. All of these benefits result in healthier, more cost-effective living, and a better environment. According to Jay Shafer, who wrote the Small House Book, people who downsize from a larger home and into a small house tend to report the following benefits:

  • Less time cleaning;

  • Less time maintaining the house;

  • Fewer personal possessions and baggage;

  • More time with family and friends;

  • Less expensive monthly costs for either utilities or mortgage; and

  • Less debt and financial

So now you have decided that one or all of these benefits are desirable, what are the options?

The small house report includes case studies for the available options including Small lot Homes, Cottage Housing, Co-housing, Laneway Houses, Suites in Duplexes, Suites and Tiny Home.

The EcoSmart builds fall into the first category, as we build approximately 1500 sq.ft. infill homes with suites in the basement. This article has got me thinking how to improve our designs. Do we need three bedrooms? 2.5 bathrooms? Walk in closets? We can always do better.

Check out some of our NetZero Small Home builds at

Murray Guy

[1] Innovations in Small-scale Living from North America, Small Housing BC

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