More Kiwis are downsizing their lives into smaller spaces than they imagined.

And despite the headlines, some are delighted to do so. It's not about being squeezed into a shoebox because that's all they can afford.

An apartment, duplex or terraced home can be homely and it's cheaper to run and has less maintenance.

The New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) says data published by BRANZ shows that an average New Zealand house size has increased by more than 65 per cent over two decades while the occupancy rate had dropped from 3.1 to 2.7 persons per house over the same period.


Ironically it costs around as much to build an 80 square metre home in New Zealand as a 130 square metre one, says architect Karl Baker of Construkt.

But building smaller homes means that Kiwis can still have the all important back yard on a smaller piece of land.

Although smaller homes aren't proportionately cheaper to build, the land costs less, points out Baker.

Construkt designed the Axis small homes that were built by Universal Homes at Hobsonville Point. Two distinct groups of buyers were interested in those homes, says Baker.

One was young couples, who, although they'd grown up on the standard quarter acre sections, had lived in apartments at university and hadn't accumulated lots of belongings. The other was 50-60-something empty nesters who no longer wanted the responsibility of a rambling home.

Living in a smaller home isn't necessarily commensurate with the exact reduction in size. A small home, says Baker, uses clever design to make up for the lack of space.

Where possible, architects will avoid having corridors in smaller homes and they can also "borrow space" from one room to another.

For example, says Baker, the dining room is usually dropped from a smaller home with the dining table being incorporated into the kitchen.

Storage is the most problematic issue with designing a smaller home, says Baker. Roof pitches can be heightened to allow for loft storage in individual small homes, but not always for apartments. Other options include a storage shed outside to accommodate a bicycle and outdoor equipment.

Clever tricks include putting the laundry under the stairs or building drawers into the stairs can help, although this can be expensive.

The bedrooms in the Axis homes, as with many small homes, tend to be 1.5m by 1.5m smaller than standard suburban properties. Albeit small, the bedrooms will fit a queen size bed and bedside tables and there will be room to walk around the bed, says Baker. They won't usually fit other furniture such as a chest of drawers.

Smaller homes have many advantages. They may be lock up and leave. In remote beach areas, for example, some owners have chosen to build small baches with lockable shutters adding to security.

They know that these homes aren't going to be broken into. Or they use them as a Kiwi base while travelling the country or overseas.

Another advantage of thinking small is that tiny homes have less of an impact on the environment. They use less in terms of building materials.

Andrew Eagles, chief executive of the New Zealand Green Building Council, adds that as well as using fewer resources when they're being built, smaller homes have a positive benefit on how a town or city deals with flooding - which is a growing issue in New Zealand.

"A smaller house has a smaller roof, meaning less rain is hitting the roof and running off to be dealt with by the stormwater system. Smaller homes and developments are more likely to have a higher proportion of garden or lawn space, which is a permeable surface (meaning) water is absorbed into the earth instead of running off concrete surfaces and swamping the stormwater system."

Not all small home buyers go for individually architecturally designed homes. Group home builders such as Keith Hay Homes and other household names often have stylish small options, which may even be relocatable. Even shipping containers are being turned into functional and smart small homes.

Sometimes design allows two homes to be bolted together to expand the home as needs must or finance becomes available. That can be the case with container and modular homes.

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Unfortunately one of the issues of smaller homes is that government, council and the banks can have hurdles to get over.

They have all been through the leaky home crisis so are nervous about something that doesn't fit the norm. Yet they would provide more homes on less land.