WE ALL require food, clothing and shelter, but just how much do we really need?
It is surprising in a country where we love our wide brown plains and coastal vistas that we should bother having the biggest homes in the world.
The average size of a new Australian home increased between 1984 to 2003 by about 40% and kept increasing until in 2013 it was officially declared that Australians live in the biggest homes in the world at an average size of 243sq m.
This is even 10% bigger than US houses. Compare this with Hong Kong, which requires only 15sq m a person, or the London Plan, which requires 61sq m for three people.
It is even more surprising given that the average size of Australian households has decreased from 4.5 persons to 2.6 persons over the past 100 years.
The consequences are varied, but first of all bigger houses cost more to build.
Now that the costs of electricity and water have trebled in the past few years, people are realising that big houses also cost a lot to light, heat, and cool, and all those bathrooms encourage wasteful water use.
It is not surprising that the approvals for new residential dwellings are now dominated by units and townhouses, which are smaller and more efficient than many houses. These also help to address our current huge mismatch of housing types.
More than 80% of home owners over 70 are in homes too big for their needs, while many families are stuffed into small houses because that is what they can afford.
PHOTO: TREVOR VEALE – WHY? Australians now live in the biggest homes in the world at an average size of 243sq m.