66: Individual space

A Thousand Things to Talk About
66: Individual space


How much space do you need to call your own?

Show notes and links:
Measuring Overcrowding in Housing (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
Area Per Person (The Engineering ToolBox)
Downsizing – 1,000 square feet per person, a new American standard (Green Home)
Amount of land per person (Permies)

Full episode text

A few weeks ago, we talked about ideal homes, and it brought up this very intriguing question. After all, the amount of personal space one individual needs is dictated by everything from cultural norms to individual personality, not to say anything about tasks or intent.

In a report commissioned by the department of Housing and Urban Development in September 2007, and a 2003 report commissioned by the United Kingdom Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, overcrowding was measured primarily by number of people per room or people per bedroom, with the idea that, quote, “while room size may vary considerably, custom and building codes will establish either a de facto or an explicit minimum size for rooms to be considered healthy and safe.”

That same report came to the conclusion that when it comes to square footage, anything under 164 square feet per person would likely lead to negative health outcomes due to overcrowding in homes.

What’s too little, however, versus too much, is a whole different question. The Sierra Club Green Home blog suggests that a “new” standard of no more than 1,000 square feet per person would be a positive step towards sustainability.

Of course, living space is just one measure. The space a person requires may be much more than living space, including food, clothing, and natural resources. Many self-sustainability advocates and practitioners debate exactly how much land would be required per person for a truly self-sustaining lifestyle. The United Nations estimates around half a hectare per person, or 1.2 acres, with .17 acres being the absolute minimum in the absolute non-existent ideal situation, and in many countries we’re down to below that already.