With the rise in housing prices, there’s been a growing trend of urban dwellers downsizing into smaller spaces. According to Realtor Magazine, nearly one-third of Americans are looking to downsize their homes, with many choosing to trade in larger homes for smaller apartments or condos. This trend towards smaller living spaces is pushing for mass adoption on several fronts. There’s a financial incentive for developers and consumers alike, a legislative incentive that is growing in progressive American states, and a social awareness influencing consumer choices; which could be the perfect microcosm for a shift toward eco-friendly micro-dwelling communities in urban sustainability and environments.
What are Micro Dwelling Units? | Urban Sustainability
A micro-dwelling unit is a small living space, typically less than 500 square feet, that is designed to be efficient and functional. These units are often found in urban areas, such as city centers and downtown districts, where space is at a premium. They can take the form of apartments, condos, or even tiny homes, and are typically smaller than traditional apartments or homes.
According to Forbes, micro-dwelling units are becoming increasingly popular among urban dwellers as a more affordable and sustainable housing option. Developers are also finding that building micro units can be more profitable than building larger, ultra-luxe units, as they can fit more units into a smaller area, which generates more revenue. Additionally, micro-units are also more attractive to consumers looking for affordable and convenient housing options in urban areas.
Micro units can be found in a variety of settings, such as high-rise buildings, mixed-use developments, and even shipping containers. They are becoming more common in major cities around the world, such as New York, Paris, and London, as well as in smaller urban areas, such as college towns and suburban areas. Developers are also building micro-unit communities that are designed to foster a sense of community among residents, such as co-living spaces, and are increasingly being looked at as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. In London, High Street House by Noiascape is exemplary for artistic, elegant co-living, and in Victoria, Australia, Nightingale Housing is blazing the trail for at-cost, low-carbon, affordable micro-dwelling units.
Tiny + The Environment | Urban Sustainability
One of the most obvious benefits of tiny living is the reduction in energy consumption. Smaller living spaces require less energy to heat and cool, which can result in a lower carbon footprint. According to Tiny Homes of Lake Norman, tiny homes use 7% of the energy used in the average American home. This is largely due to their smaller size and the use of energy-efficient features such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems.
In urban commercial applications, smaller dwelling units are more efficient and therefore more sustainable than traditional apartment units.
In addition to energy efficiency, tiny living can also help reduce waste and promote sustainable practices. Smaller living spaces require less furniture and household items, which can reduce the amount of waste produced.
Furthermore, the proximity of micro-living can promote a sense of community and connection among residents. Tiny homes and micro-apartments are often found in co-housing communities, which are designed to foster a sense of community among residents. These communities often share resources and promote sustainable practices, such as gardening and composting. This can not only reduce the environmental impact of individual homes but also lead to a more sustainable community overall.
The Legislative Incentive
Many local governments are now recognizing the benefits of smaller living spaces and are taking steps to make them more accessible. According to a Forbes article, “Smaller Units Mean More Efficiency And Affordability If Local Government Allows Them”, many cities and towns are loosening zoning laws and building codes to make it easier for developers to build smaller units, such as micro-apartments and tiny homes. This is helping to increase the supply of smaller living spaces and make them more affordable for urban dwellers.
In California, the building code has recently changed to require that all new residential construction be net-zero after 2020, meaning that the homes must produce as much energy as they consume. This new building code is a huge incentive for developers to build smaller units, as they are more energy-efficient and therefore more compliant with the new standard.
In addition to building codes, local governments are also offering financial incentives to developers who build smaller living spaces. For example, many cities and towns are offering tax breaks and other incentives to developers who build affordable housing units, such as micro-apartments and tiny homes. This is pulling developers into building smaller units that satisfy code and tax incentive requirements, while simultaneously aiding sustainable development and affordability for urban dwellers.
Final Thoughts | Urban Sustainability
The interconnection between capitalism, legislation, social consciousness, and sustainability is essential to smaller living spaces in urban environments. The trend towards smaller living spaces, driven by financial and economic factors, is highly influenced by current market trends and consumer mindsets which in turn is influencing legislation. Smaller living spaces can play a crucial role in addressing the environmental challenges facing our urban environments. Micro-living has an intake tie to sustainable living including a lower carbon footprint, reduction in waste, and promotion of sustainable practices.
As cities continue to grow, architects need to utilize increased density to promote sustainable and efficient ways of living. Small living paired with smart design can be a solution to the affordable housing crisis, while also reducing the environmental impact of urban areas. By promoting smaller living spaces and sustainable community principles, we can create more livable and sustainable urban environments for the future. The interconnection between capitalism, legislation, social consciousness and sustainability could the essential intersectionality to support a more eco-conscious future.
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Galvin, A. (2019). Council Post: Should Developers Focus On Micro Units Or Large, Ultra-Luxe Units? [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2019/07/02/should-developers-focus-on-micro-units-or-large-ultra-luxe-units/?sh=2e0230b22cce [Accessed 23 Jan. 2023].
Noiascape (n.d.). High Street House. [online] Noiascape. Available at: https://noiascape.com/spaces/high-street-house/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2023].
Norman, T.H. of L. (2021). Lower Energy Costs By Living In Tiny Home | Tiny Homes of Lake Norman. [online] Tiny Home Dealer. Available at: https://www.tinyhomesoflakenorman.com/how-can-you-lower-your-energy-costs-by-living-in-a-tiny-home/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2023].
Realtor Magazine (2022). Downsizing Trend Taking Root as Home Prices Rise. [online] www.nar.realtor. Available at: https://www.nar.realtor/magazine/real-estate-news/downsizing-trend-taking-root-as-home-prices-rise [Accessed 22 Jan. 2023].
Valdez, R. (2018). Smaller Units Mean More Efficiency And Affordability If Local Government Allows Them. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogervaldez/2018/12/03/smaller-units-mean-more-efficiency-and-affordability-if-local-government-allows-them/?sh=2dc20f697209 [Accessed 23 Jan. 2023].