Small is Beautiful U.S. House Size, Resource Use, and the Environment


Building Green 122 Birge Street, Suite 30 Brattleboro, Vermont 05301, USA <> <>


As house size increases, resource use in buildings goes up, more land is occupied, increased impermeable surface results in more storm-water runoff, construction costs rise, and energy consumption increases. In new, single-family houses constructed in the United States, living area per family member has increased by a factor of 3 since the 1950s. In comparing the energy performance of compact (small) and large single-family houses, we find that a small house built to only moderate energy-performance standards uses substantially less energy for heating and cooling than a large house built to very high energy-performance standards. This article examines some of the trends in single-family house building in the United States and provides recommendations for downsizing houses to improve quality and resource efficiency.