Since the development of The Smarter Small Home ™ by Brett Blacklow & Kevin Doodney in 2009, which focused on the combination of a small lot, smart small home, smart choice of materials and an efficient construction method, there has been increasing interest in constructing more homes with similar features and functionality as well as more effective space use.
Australia still has one of the largest average home sizes in the world, approximately 10% larger than American homes, but it has reduced over recent years with increased attention on more effective use of space and more efficient use of natural resources.
The motivation for this strategy is spearheaded by a desire for more affordable housing as market prices have risen so dramatically over recent years, especially in Sydney and Melbourne. In order to achieve this, many lot sizes have become smaller, resulting in the need for a smaller footprint without losing functionality. With rising costs of living as well, strategies for more efficient use of energy & water have been utilised to further reduce ongoing expenses.
The Smart Small Home
The Australian Government is very committed to the development of smaller, smarter homes, providing free downloadable plans and elevations for 2 and 3 bedroom homes, with or without studies, which can achieve a 7 star Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating, which is the accredited energy efficiency certification strategy in Australia. Additionally, there are Specification Guides for different climates throughout the country.
The Qld Government states: “Smart and sustainable homes demonstrate good practice in their design and construction, making them more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.
By carefully considering design, builders and renovators can build houses that perform better in the local environment with comfort and cost benefits for their occupants.”
As with any building, sustainable, smart small homes need to consider a number of aspects.
- Socially Sustainable
- Safe to minimise injury
- Secure to reduce crime
- Universal to be flexible and comfortable for people with varying abilities at different stages of life.
- Environmentally Sustainable
- Water efficiency to protect natural resources and save money
- Waste efficiency through the initial construction phase as well as reducing the need for expensive future modifications.
- Energy efficiency utilising passive solar design and building orientation, ventilation, insulation and adequate shade to reduce the need for heating or cooling appliances. Smaller sizes means less heating or cooling will be needed.
- Economically Sustainable
- Cost efficient building materials
- Reduced ongoing running costs
- Designed to reduce living costs, such as replacements, repairs or cleaning
- Long term maintenance costs reduced by careful planning in the initial construction
- Incorporating future design needs into the initial construction to avoid modification costs
- Resale Value can be protected by making the home appealing to a wider range of people and ages
- Peace of Mind that careful consideration has been given to the needs of the occupants
- Cost efficiency for the community by avoiding the impact on health and infrastructure.
Property developers who continue to build larger dwellings are beginning to reconsider the overall use for these to create more affordable living options.
Multiple Tenancies incorporating a smart small home
A boarding house model, with personal bathrooms for each bedroom space, but shared living, kitchen and outdoor spaces are proving successful. They are an effective use of land space, and allow a number of occupants or generations to share whilst respecting personal privacy. The same attention to environmental, economic and social sustainability can be implemented, as it is for smaller homes, which will hopefully, eventually translate to more viable construction and housing industries into the future.
Kevin Doodney, from the Future Housing Taskforce, which created the Smarter Small Home, similar in design to a home and granny flat or boarding house, says, “Mortgages have always been greater than you could ever earn, so basically this is the first step to mortgage-free housing for first home buyers,” Mr Doodney said.
Mr Doodney said the property looked like a modern one- or two-storey home from the outside, but was actually three or four dwellings – separated by firewalls – on one block.
“Instead of taking a typical four-bedroom home – which by the way means you’ve got 12 million vacant bedrooms as a result – we create a three-bedroom home using the same space, adding this to it, and then with a 200-square-metre home you’ve now got three separate tenancy opportunities,” Mr Doodney said.
He said a couple could buy the property for about $400,000 and live in one dwelling and rent out the others.
“If you chose to live in the smaller space while there’s only two of you and rent the bigger home, your mortgage is free,” he said.
“So for the first time we’ve actually beaten the banks.”
Unlike a boarding house or granny flat, the only shared aspect might be a laundry or pathway.
Smaller, smarter properties were key to resolving affordability and practicality issues.
Small homes, and sustainable homes are generally quite innovative. Fresh ideas are being implemented and techniques are continually being refined for better efficiency. To showcase these ideas, Australia has a Smart House Day to be held September 16th nationally where anyone looking for inspiration, ideas and the key to sustainable living can register to tour some of the country’s most environmentally progressive homes.