By Stuart Dakin
Outreach Educator

An interesting new trend is redefining home ownership in Australia. In recent years there has been growing interest in tiny houses, with many Australians seeing the potential benefits of downsizing to smaller dwellings. The growing interest is a part of a wider global movement, in which people from all over the world are realising the freedom and flexibility that tiny houses offer.

Leah and I in our tiny home

I have always been drawn to the concept of tiny houses and recently decided to build my own, where I now live with my partner, Leah and our cat, Frankie. Our decision to live in a tiny house was largely motivated by the desire to adopt a more balanced lifestyle. While the reasons for living in a tiny house may vary depending on the individual, some common reasons include affordability, environmental benefits, greater work life balance, self-sufficiency, flexibility and simplicity. Although the idea of living in a tiny house may not be desirable or even possible for many, the tiny house movement does raise the question; how much space do we actually need to live happy and healthy lives?

To spite the recent interest in tiny houses, historic trends suggest a significant increase in average house sizes in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) noted that in the 28 financial years prior to 2013 there has been a 48.5% increase in the average floor area of new houses from 162.4m² to 241.1m², compared to tiny houses, which are typically defined as anything under 37m².

Fred and his family in front of their tiny home in Australia

For many, the ‘great Australian dream’ of the family house on a quarter acre block remains exactly that – a dream. The mean price of dwellings in Australia is now close to $612,000, making Australian house prices among the most unaffordable in the world. Tiny houses, on the other hand, can be built for a fraction of the cost, including our house which cost only $40,000. Although tiny houses may not be a complete solution to the issue of housing affordability, they do offer hope to those who want to own a home without the financial burden of a conventional mortgage.

In addition to the obvious financial advantages to downsizing, many Australians are drawn to the environmental benefits. The construction of residential buildings has significant impact on the environment including the use of land, materials and energy, which in turn leads to greenhouse gas emissions and the production of wastes. Perhaps one of the greatest impacts is the consumption of raw materials. The growth in the average house size in Australia is also associated with an increase in the consumption of construction materials, which can require large amounts of embodied energy during their production. Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the mining and processing of natural resources to manufacturing, transport and product delivery. The difference in the amount of embodied energy in a tiny home compared to the average new Australian home is significant, which highlights the potential environmental savings that can be made by reducing house size. The construction of new homes also generates huge amounts of waste. The average Australian generates around one tonne of solid waste per year, with 30-40% of this waste attributed to the construction industry. (Image on the right shows the embodied of construction materials. Source: CSIRO).

The size of a house can also have impacts beyond the initial construction phase. The operational energy required to service and maintain a house contributes significantly to the energy it consumes throughout its life. Heating and powering a tiny house compared to an average house can amount to large energy savings.

Although tiny houses may not be for everyone, a growing number of Australians are making the transition to smaller dwellings. This can be attributed to a number a reasons including affordability, environmental benefits or the flexibility that they offer. Tiny houses represent a shift from the common perception of ‘bigger is better’ ‘towards a philosophy of ‘less is more’.


By CERES Education – Outreach Team|2019-05-23T16:02:41+10:00July 11th, 2016|0 Comments