When we are first approached by prospective clients, we have found that few fully understand what an architect does. Many interview draftspeople and volume builders also, and find it difficult to distinguish between the various levels of expertise and design engagement on offer. Invariably, a large part of our first discussion is devoted to explaining how our services differ from those of other building designers and why there is great value in the cost of on architect.
What follows is the 7th of ten articles that explore the question: why engage an architect? An archive of the series can be accessed here.
7. Quality not quantity
Australia has the largest average house size in the world. Since 1985, our houses have steadily grown from 150sqm to 215sqm. We now eclipse the United States (202sqm) and almost triple the United Kingdom (76sqm). Despite this growth, during the same period the average household size has actually decreased, from 3.0 to 2.6 people. To do some simple maths, this means that in a little over a generation the residential floor area required for each Australian woman, man and child has grown from 50 to 83sqm.
Volume builders play a large part in pushing this trend, with “top range” models like this from Metricon or this from Simonds weighing in at over 400sqm. The impact of these McMansions is twofold. Not only do they provide the opportunity to purchase and live in a supersized home, they shift the entire home-buying public’s expectations of what is normal.
Architects do not design such bloated houses. We will always encourage you to consider a more modest scope for your home. Our reasoning is simple: smaller means less expensive. It means less energy for both building materials and heating and cooling, and less of your valuable time in cleaning and maintenance.
Smaller doesn’t equal meaner however. We aim for fewer corridors and wasted corners. We dedicate ourselves to the smart design of compact spaces: rooms that are trimmed of their fat and serve multiple purposes, but retain their generosity, warmth and access to natural light. Instead of a study you use every now and then, plus a guest bedroom you only use when your mother visits from overseas, we combine the two and use clever storage design to facilitate both. A room for your toddler now can become a music room later. Your laundry can serve double duty as your pantry.
This prioritisation of quality over quantity requires the skill and vision of an architect. It requires our technical understanding of how space works, and our ability to synthesise your lifestyle into smart space. It also requires your enthusiasm and willingness to buck the trend, to make responsible use of our planet’s finite resources.
- CommSec; Australian homes are the biggest in the world; Economic Insights; November 2009.
- Australian Institute of Family Studies; Average household size; Family facts and figures: Australian households; 2011.
- Quality, author’s own image.