How Much Space Do You Really Need?

I live in the Tea Fire burn area of Santa Barbara.  In November 2008, a devastating wildfire burned more than 200 homes to the ground.  While the cause of the fire is undetermined, many residents have begun the rebuilding process.  The house that I rent miraculously survived, giving me a front row seat of reconstruction. 

What shocks me most is the rather ambitious size of the homes being rebuilt.  Our neighborhood was a quaint middle class neighborhood with decent size houses and middle class character.  However, the homes being rebuilt are of upper middle class character and are estimated to be 1.5 times greater in size.   I am utterly shocked at the “mansions” my neighbors are building. 

Building such large homes seems counter productive to the environmental image that Santa Barbara believes it has.  Here are just a few of the concepts that I struggle with.

  1. Large homes, occupy a larger footprint than smaller homes, meaning there is less “open” space around the home.
  2. Less open space means less room for environmentally clensing plants and/or gardening.
  3. Such large houses require a large amount of material to be gathered and assembled in one place.  A high material to person ratio for a house can’t be environmentally positive.
  4. The larger the house, the more HVAC and resources it takes to maintain it.  Granted HVAC systems are highly efficient these days, but seriously, heating large spaces are more environmentally unfriendly than heating smaller spaces. 

How much space do you really need?

Maybe it is just me and my view of what housing should be.  For me, a small, well designed house of sufficient size for the family on a large plot of land surrounded by nature and sustainable, edible gardens are the future of a sustainable America.   Sure this is highly unlikely to ever materialize given our global, corporate driven, profit and image means everything society.  

So, putting emotions aside, how much space do you really need to live each day?  Is that 7,000 square foot house for you and the partner really needed?   Just asking…