Britain's Shrinking Houses - Let The Debate Begin

Britain's Shrinking Houses - Let The Debate Begin

24th November 2014

Large rooms with high ceilings seem to be a mark of luxury nowadays, with so many modern, new-build homes seeming to have smaller rooms and lower ceilings than ever before.  Indeed houses in general have become smaller in recent years, with Britain’s new build being the smallest in Western Europe according to a report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).   In the past RIBA has been critical of these smaller houses, describing them as “shameful shoebox homes” while the House Builders Association claims that bigger homes could prove unaffordable. 

RIBA takes this issue so seriously that it has actually undertaken a study of the size of England’s new homes called “The Case for Space” in an attempt to spark off a national debate on the subject.  With the Government and the house building industry (to say nothing of economists and homebuyers) showing concern over whether or not enough new homes are being built in the UK to satisfy future demand, is it the right time to  muddy the waters with a debate on the size of the new homes?  

RIBA believes that this is an ideal time for this debate to take place, fearing that in a rush to build quickly and cost-effectively we are just setting ourselves up for problems in the future.  Space is an important factor when people are choosing new homes and research reveals that a lack of space can have a negative impact on the lifestyle needs of many of us, especially when there is not enough space to store possessions or entertain friends.  The lack of space has been found to impact on health, educational progress and family relationships.  

There has been a number of housing developments in inner city areas in the past ten years that have focussed on providing “bijou” living spaces, tiny apartments that may seem great if all you do is work, go out at night and come home to sleep.  However, when it comes to enjoying life to the full, more space will increase the quality of life in most cases.

In London, minimum space standards have been introduced to try to address this issue, standards that are based on how much space is required in an average household for basic activities and furnishing.  This is currently the best available standard on which to assess whether or not a home is big enough.

In mainland Western Europe new houses and apartments being constructed are bigger than here in the UK, even in places with a higher population density than ours.  In the United States, homes are generally large, with well-appointed and spacious rooms – this is why they have such large TV screens in the States, they’re sitting so far away from the telly!  

People who come to live and work in the UK from abroad are often shocked at the size of our houses and often struggle to maintain a decent lifestyle in such cramped conditions.  Here at Safety Fabrications, we keep a watchful eye on what’s going on in the construction industry.  We welcome the debate on the size of our homes and the amount of living space needed and will keep you informed of future developments in this matter.