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As we all predicted - houses getting smaller!

Post in 'The Green Room' started by webbie, Nov 14, 2010.

  1. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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  2. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    It also means relatives can't move back in! My house has a spare room, or should I say had a spare room. I've cousins I've never even met who know about it.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Nice, folks are starting to wake up to the fact that you have to heat and maintain these places. Hopefully this trend will continue. Cathedral ceilings next.
  4. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    I'm all for appropriate sized houses and energy efficient construction, but I wonder how far this movement is going to get before the disadvantages come out.

    "Backyard wind turbines" for starters. How long till the "hip downtown feel" starts feeling like skid row and neighbors from heck. Small, cozy, overfinished, quaint "pukey" homes, that are more expensive to build and maintain than the base model mcmansion.

    Susanka built a career off the mistakes of two story fow-yeahs and toilet to a-hole ratios over 2 to 1, but her simplistic, architect centric style is the same shallow cookie cutter consumerism as any taupe suburb out there.

    If you think a mcmansion depreciates fast in this economy, how do you think think half the square footage with a custom window seat and the same price is going to hold up? Energy efficiency is a cheap label to add to an overpriced papered over pile of sticks.

    I love looking at the dark wood rec rooms and shag carpet houses that have been preserved in all of their glory, they'll be classics soon. It will take a little longer for bamboo and stainless to come back. I'm afraid some of the cuteness we're seeing these days will curse it's owners for decades.
  5. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    High ceilings drive me crazy. There is a big craze in the ADK park for chateau type houses with big, high 2.5 story ceilings. I want to see their faces when they come up to a cold chateau and try to heat it in a reasonable amount of time.


    Matt
  6. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Smaller is also Greener '''''''''''
    Not always, Im rehabbing a 12000 SF Apt building that i may just move into from a 3000SF home. Now with all the extra space i can set up my waste wood heating system that i just did not have room for before,plus it will be more cost effective if it provides heat for more than 1 family. Lots of room for solar installations on a 3000 SF Flat roof. Possibly will set up a banquet hall there providing income without travel. ill no longer need to burn coal for heat or use electric for hot water. Part of the building may be rented out to other families and businesses providing green energy to them as well. Large can be green as well ,sometimes greener than small.
  7. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I've got a 4300sqft house. 3 households combined into one with one address.
  8. dvellone

    dvellone Feeling the Heat

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    I think that instead of advocating for smaller=greener the trend should be for energy efficiency and sustainable and non-toxic building materials if its green you're really after. Its a bit misleading to just associate small with being green. A smaller footprint might have it's merits environmentally speaking, but that's not to say that someone who opts for a larger home while putting extra effort towards the efficiency of the building is impacting the environment negatively because the footprint of the house is larger.
  9. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I want a 500 sqft house and a 3000 sqft garage.
  10. Nic36

    Nic36 Feeling the Heat

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    I'm very close to that. I have an 850 square foot house and a 7500 square foot barn.
  11. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Last weekend talked to our 3 adult children with families, all starting to look for larger houses, and suggested to them we seek a small house "compound" for them plus Mom and Dad, with shared large family and kitchen spaces, shared equipment, shared vehicles, etc. While I can't say they all were gung-ho, none laughed at me and all were open to talk more about it.
  12. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    I mention this to my wife all the time....big living area in the middle and 3 separate compounds.....then I spend about 2 hours with my MIL and then say forget about that :)
  13. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Our place is 1400ft2 and we still have a separate formal living room, familly/tv room, dining room, etc. They just aren't big enough to park a Mac truck in.

    Of course everything is relative. I think my house is a small (I like small), but in some countries they would easily fit 5 or 6 families in the same space...
  14. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Having a large home is only wasteful if its an energy hog,many large homes use less energy than much smaller ones,the one in usatoday about a week ago in the woods used 97% less energy than a similar sized home 97%.
  15. Later

    Later New Member

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    Heating is one problem, painting them is the worst!
  16. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    But a big energy efficient home still uses more energy than a smaller home of similar energy efficiency. I think the point is not that all small houses are greener than all larger houses, but that size of the house is one variable in the green equation. Lots of new houses are excessively large for the average family - the space just isn't needed nor does it add much if anything to the quality of life for the residents, but adds heating costs, cleaning and maintenance effort, construction cost, land use, etc.
  17. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    You may have a good point, but I gotta admit I don't understand most of the references in your post. You are writing to wood stove enthusiasts here. We know Stihl is not a metal alloy, but think Susanka is a brand of instant coffee!
  18. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    House surface area is more important than house size in heat loss. A smaller complicated house can have more surface area, be harder to seal and insulate, cost more to maintain, and cost much more to remodel when styles change.

    Sarah Susanka wrote several books advocating smaller, better designed houses instead of the typical mcmansion with lots of cheap square footage. She argued that her homes were worth her architect's fee because they functioned so much better etc. She was really just making it fashionable for people to build smaller homes so they could afford to indulge their fancy and pretend to be rich, as her homes tended to be faddish and expensive.

    The problem with all of the arguments in favor of her philosophy is that they are based on the same assumption that the rest of the housing bubble was built on, that is a house is the best investment you will ever make and it will only grow in value.

    Housing is an asset that typically depreciates in value in addition to huge carrying costs. When mcmansions become obsolete they will be chopped up into duplexes like the victorian, craftsman and homes from other building booms. These "smaller cuter" homes will be just as obsolete but much harder to remuddle or update.

    With current technology it's very realistic for houses to be able to maintain a comfortable temperature range with negligible purchased energy. Superinsulation, solar, and/or thermal mass are the techniques that will allow this, but they favor larger buildings because of the ratio of surface area to enclosed space.
  19. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    The "a large house can be efficient if built right" argument is ignoring the fact that a larger house takes more energy and raw materials to construct in the first place.

    Unused space is still unused space, no matter how efficient it is to heat.
  20. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    With the typical member here burning many cords of wood per winter, it doesn't seem like we have a shortage of materials or energy. The argument is what is the most efficient use of these materials. I argue that building new houses can be "green", especially if the homes are designed to be simple to build, simple to maintain and simple to reuse. Overly customized and personalized houses are more expensive to build, maintain and reuse. The size of the house is definitely a factor, but it's not as simple as smaller equals more efficient.
  21. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Its funny....we have a fam of 5 and live in 1800/ft
    All our friends have much larger homes, and since we bought them all at the same time for a while I was jealous that we didn't have a bigger home.
    Over time, everytime we would go to a friends house, they always had a "room" that was never used....you know the one with the nice furniture that the kids weren't allowed in :)
    Went to another friends house that is like 3500 ft, and they hate their big family room as its too costly to heat.
    I have learned to love my little home.
  22. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    If you look at tract home construction from probably the 1980s on the "if it's built right" argument is a HUGE factor. Look at any McMansion development or simply any large tract development closely and you can see just how poor the quality of the work can be. Sure, they're using housewrap, gasket material, and better insulation, but if the work isn't done well it's all for naught. Somewhere along the line people began to believe that they could afford a gigantic home for a relatively (compared to the size of the home) small price. The reality was that they could afford it-because the quality of the work and the finishes was so poor. If you ever have an opportunity to visit one of these monstrosities, go inside and look around-look closely. Once you do you'll see wavy walls, bad tape joints, poor trim jobs with visible gaps in the joints, crooked tiles, and the list goes on. The scary part is that's just what you can see! My father-in-law is a project manager for a large design/build firm that does work in Morris and Bergen Counties where all of the Wall Street hotshots and other rich New York types live. If you compare a 5000 square foot home in your average Toll Brothers, K Hovnanian, etc...development vs. a 5000 square foot home my father-in-law builds (which is arguably just as wasteful in many ways) the price per square foot difference is pretty dramatic. If you were to break it down further you'd find that the price per square foot in terms of labor is HUGE. Basically, McMansion development over the past 20-30 years or so not only has caused environmental problems, it's also been a boon to illegal workers and those that hire them/profit from them.

    This goes back to the whole "how warm do you keep your house" thread. Just like I wouldn't want to have to supply enough wood to keep my small house at 85 degrees, I wouldn't want to have to supply enough wood to keep a huge house with a 20' cathedral ceiling in the living room at 70 degrees either. I feel like in many ways we're still working through the hangover caused by the decade long party of excess (McMansions, sub-prime mortgages, Hummer H2s, etc...) and more and more people are just coming to their senses. Lots of people looked at me funny for aspiring to a small home on 20 acres with a large enough woodlot for fuel, raising chickens, putting up solar panels, etc...when the money to do all that could buy a 5 bedroom McMansion in the suburbs in a good school district. Now more and more people think it's a much more interesting idea.
  23. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    ========
    Sometimes it Depends where you spend your time
    I have a large home in the city with small yard ,since i have a small yard i spend most of my time in the house thus a large house.
    I also have a small cabin in the country on large lot,since i spend most of my time outside thus a small cabin.
    And if you have 3 small kids like i do theres no such thing as unused rooms.
  24. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    If you have the money for a large home and thats what you want go for it. Whats the difference if you have a small house and then spend your extra money on cruises and travel,motorhomes,second homes,vacation homes, ect ect and other energy intensive endeavors anyway. Or if you have a large home and stay home and enjoy it.
  25. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Sure, all true, but "large" is a relative word. So is energy efficient. Fact is that millions of those McMansions have already been built, often at less than stellar quality. Someone has to live in them.

    From what I hear, they are simply not selling in most areas. My parents today finally got an offer on their large home in SC.......however, the price is quite a loss for them (and they did not buy in the bubble!). There are literally tens of thousands of such homes just in the coastal are of SC, NC and Georgia.

    I'm not saying large homes will stop existing. What I am saying is that average size of newly constructed homes is likely to decrease over the next decade or more.

    Sure, it's easy to fill a big house with a family and kids, however I know a lot of SINGLE people and couples (married and not) with no kids who own houses of 2500 Sq. Ft and larger. Carrying costs, also, are going to be a killer. This may be OK if your kids are in the local schools...you are getting a deal on those $6K property taxes in that case. But carrying costs can really hurt!

    When my dad told me today that his house had sold, I didn't ask how much. He asked me why I didn't ask. I told him it didn't matter - the big deal is that he is going to save 30K plus per year in taxes, country club, HOA, trash pickup, maintenance, etc......

    The bigger picture part of all this - which relates very closely to "green" is that we have pretty much created this country so that even an 85 year old person cannot do daily activities without getting in a car. This differs greatly from Europe and many other countries. In other words, many of us live in suburban and rural-suburban areas, which often require multiple cars (often one per household member), and the roads and everything else that goes along. So the big McMansion ends up costing more than just the heating bill and the property taxes.

    With stagnant wages and everything else, I just think that particular part of the American Dream is going to be out of reach of many (most) people.

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