In today’s society we’re being asked to “live with less” and we see how this positively impacts our environment and living expenses. We analyzed the factors that go into finding the ideal size of homes for one person, and the added considerations when housing a family of 3,4,5 and 6, but here we’ll try to push the envelope further and hop on the Tiny Home train to see what the minimum sizes are for living well.
The minimum size for a house by most codes around the world ranges from 6-12 square meters. This allows a space for a single bed and passageway, which entails a studio apartment or room with just your bed and perhaps a bit of closet space. The area does not include a bathroom and kitchen. Therefore, the “minimum” is having a dorm style setup with a communal bathroom and shared kitchen facilities. This movement is popular in some countries to lower living costs per square meter. Integrate the bathroom into your studio apartment and keep the rest of the habitable areas (living, dining, kitchen) open to the bedroom. This would up the area range to a minimum of 17-20 square meters.
Different Countries, Different Standards
A minimum footprint is highly dependent on your culture and country’s standards. Different nationalities have different living patterns, habits and just different body sizes! This could also take into account the material standards the industry produces, like the typical sizes boards and lumber are manufactured in.
Depending on where you live, the minimum sizes for homes vary. Ceiling heights generally must be 2.1 to 2.4 meters high (7-8 feet). The codes in the United Kingdom prescribe a minimum of 37 square meters. (1) Hong Kong recently launched their “nano flats” with a minimum home size of 26 square meters. (2)
Meanwhile the United States (often dictated by the International Code Council) has different standards per state!
In most of the United States, the minimum plot of land legally is 30 square meters, while the minimum floor area is 11.10 square meters (or 120 square feet). Rooms that are not meant for sleeping can go as low as 6.5 square meters (70 sq.ft). (3)
However, Georgia has the lowest state requirement of 6.5 square meters (70 sq.ft). That’s only enough to fit a single bed and one door cabinet beside your passageway. Some states leave an open gray area for tiny home owners to explore comfortable living standards. (4)
Check your national standards and codes. In the Philippines, there are minimum floor areas for habitable spaces, minimum floor sizes for housing and even smaller ones for those considered “social housing” for people receiving a lower income.
Redefining those Standards
However there’s some study as to these standards being open for review with the advent of the Tiny House Movement and shortage of land.
Some argue these building standards worsen the housing crisis, with some countries setting the “minimum area” as more than they need, when some live comfortably in 5-17 square meters less than the law demands. That’s up to 72% less in floor area, building material, property tax, operating (heating, air-conditioning) and cleaning expenses!
These standards also ask more financially from young adults starting out and trying to make a living on their own. It’s equally a heavy task to those who have to quickly transition into a family setting, asking people to take a huge leap in affording all that extra square meter space. Movements today are simply challenging building standards in, why force people to buy 32 square meters when they’re perfectly comfortable living in 10? (5)
How Low Can You Go?
The Tiny House Movement has tremendous benefits in lessening cost, enjoying the perks of a home, without the burden of mortgage, housing loans, etc. However it does pose challenges like in significantly reducing your closet wardrobe, hobby storage and party furniture.
Several small homes today can be as low as 3 meters wide! That’s smaller than 2 car park slots or about the size of a queen bed with a passageway on one side.
Can it be done?
With the right designer and layout, absolutely! It can feel like you’re not compromising on anything and actually feel spacious.
Check out this “Driveway House”, a 3 meter (or 10 feet) wide frontage that achieves the complete functions of a home. To make up for the loss of windows on side walls, the use of skylights, light wells, light tubes, glass floors, mirrors and internal windows helped brighten the spaces naturally. This is a great solution giving you space in a prime location in the middle of the city while providing beyond the minimum living needs. (6)
This next one is even narrower at 2.5 meters wide!
Images from 3-Meter Wide Driveway Houses (Examples, Photos, & Plans) (matthewjamestaylor.com)
Extremely Small Ones in the World
Looking to push the envelope further? Take a look at the smallest house in the world ranging from Ecuador, Sweden, Japan, Poland, Chile, Lithuania, France the United States — all climates can accommodate a tiny home. Ranging from 15 down to 1 square meter and as narrow as the width of a twin bed!
The crazy idea of even just a One Square Meter Home and the Smallest House in the World that fits in your van is innovative to some, but may be unsustainable or claustrophobic to others.
So just a reminder to be honest with the space your heart needs to be happy.
To Wrap it up in a Few Square Meters,
Smaller homes whether in a condominium/apartment setting or standalone home have greater savings in cost and are more beneficial to the environment. We know that having a smaller space asks us to own less things at home, discouraging the hoarding culture and possibly going towards the “zero waste” movement. However, small living spaces also encourage us to spend more time outdoors. Spend more time in nature, use our legs and walk around the city. This could positively impact our health ten-fold, engaging our senses and exposed to nature.
Smaller homes shouldn’t ask us to compromise our way of life. Otherwise it would defeat the purpose of being a “habitable space” or a place you can call home. Reduce space where you can, to make room for other things in your life like money for hobbies and trips or time for friends and family.
- RIBA: Royal Institute of British Architects. (2015). Space Standards for Homes. U.K., London; RIBA. https://www.architecture.com/-/media/gathercontent/space-standards-for-homes/additional-documents/homewisereport2015pdf.pdf
- Reuters/kg. (2021, December 30). Hong Kong sets minimum home size to counter trend for ‘Nano Flats’. CNA. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/business/hong-kong-sets-minimum-home-size-counter-trend-nano-flats-2407741
- Fredgaard, M. (2021, April 12). Minimum Square Footage For Houses? (7 Helpful Facts). godownsize.com. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.godownsize.com/minimum-house-square-footage/
- World Population Review. (n.d.). Minimum House Size by State 2022. Minimum house size by state 2022. Retrieved February 2022, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/minimum-house-size-by-state. Data from https://www.planning.org/pas/reports/report37.htm
- Breach, A. (2020, January 14). Minimum space standards make the housing crisis worse – here’s why. Centre for Cities. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.centreforcities.org/blog/minimum-space-standards-housing-crisis/
- James Taylor, M. (2022, January 14). 3-meter wide driveway houses (examples, photos, & plans). Matthew James Taylor. Retrieved February 2022, from https://matthewjamestaylor.com/driveway-houses
- Wilson, L. (2014, November 11). How big is a house? average House size by country. shrinkthatfootprint.com. Retrieved February 2022, from http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/how-big-is-a-house