The rise and fall of America’s home size

| by Heather Ferrier Laminack
The rise and fall of America’s home size

It takes no one by surprise that homes today are vastly larger than the ones originally built in America. The average home size has more than doubled since the 1950's, reaching its peak at 2,268 square feet in 2006.

One of the greatest stimulants to this growth in size was the increase in modes of transportation, which lent to greater access to a cornucopia of building materials. As time passed, other factors affected the growth in size, such as higher land cost, which forced builders to construct larger homes in order balance their project's value.

As the size of the average American home grew, there was a concurrent shift from a sharing/communal environment in homes (i.e. one bathroom for a whole family and shared bedrooms) to an atomization of families, where each family member had their own bedroom, TV, bathroom, etc. Homes were less a place to gather and share, and more a place for everyone to have their own private domain and seclusion.

However, in recent years there has been a reversal to this seemingly never ending inflation of square footage. After its peak in 2006, homes started to decline in size, and in 2009 the average home size was at 2,100 square feet. Factors behind the trend include smaller family sizes, soaring energy prices, a struggling economy and new homebuyers representing approximately one-third of new home purchases and typically opting for smaller homes.

The NAHB predicts that smaller homes will remain popular even after the recession ends. The green building movement concurs with this line of thought, and has been yelling from the mountaintops the wisdom of living in smaller spaces. And much of the design community has echoed this thought, shifting from McMansion's to thoughtful, more compact design.

Advancements in the efficiency of America's homes are diluted if we continue to build huge, energy guzzling homes. I propose that the winning equation is a balance of smaller home sizes plus increases in home performance. With these two elements coupled, we will see greater change, faster.

Topics: Building Green

Heather Ferrier Laminack
Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques. View Heather Ferrier Laminack's profile on LinkedIn

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