Smaller Homes Are Greener Homes

Green Construction

That term has now taken on a lot of new meanings. It obviously can mean something as simple as painting a building green. But it more likely means something we do that helps keep our planet user friendly – since we and all living things are the users.

There are many ways to make our planet greener. One, obviously, is to cut back on our amount of construction. In America, most of the fuel consumed is to heat and cool our structures.

So the first question is, do we really need all of those structures? And if we answer “Yes,” then the second question is, do we need them all so big?

An Evolution in Size

During the last few decades, we have reduced the size of our families, but we have more than doubled the size of our homes.

My great grandpa – and possibly yours – never had a mortgage. He lived in a log cabin that he built. He and the children cut trees into logs, laid them in a rectangular pattern, placed poles across the top, laced more poles as rafters, and affixed heavy hand-split shingles to shed the water.

These cabins started as one room. During the day, folks all lived in that room. They cooked, ate, read, crafted, entertained each other and themselves. At night, what they might have sat on during the day became their beds. Or they made a bed of blankets on the floor, which might have been dirt. It was a pretty primitive place.

The next generation had sawn lumber. They had boards that made the cabin nicer, but they still used the outhouse and carried buckets of water from the well or creek into the cabin.

I am fortunate. I remember those days of growing up in the Idaho mountains, in a cabin. But ours was far better than the earlier cabins. We had a linoleum-covered floor and two rooms. That was quite an improvement; we had some privacy.

As years went by, we saw houses grow from one room to two rooms, to four rooms, to six rooms – to whatever one wanted.

A Very Different Time

But now – for the first time in our planet’s history – we have to ask ourselves: Can we afford to continue imperiling our planet with unnecessary construction – including spacious homes with rooms that seldom (maybe never) get used?

Could we modify the home and still make life just as nice and wonderful, but without so much space to maintain and to light, heat and cool?

Smaller but Greener

One way to build greener homes is to build smaller homes. Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about smaller homes.

Most people in most of the world live in one home. Rooms utilized during the day for daytime activities are the same rooms used at night for nighttime activities. Many of us have changed that. We have two homes – one for daytime and one for nighttime.

But we could do it differently – in a more environmentally economic way. We could design dual-purpose rooms. For example, a room that is rarely used for dining could also function as an office, a library, a play or TV area. With the right furniture, that rarely used dining room could even be a bedroom.

How-to Help

For ideas on designing gracious but smaller homes, just google: dual-purpose rooms. Many websites cover this subject. is one of the best. It suggests assessing your room needs by thinking about your family’s activities. Then think in terms of zones rather than rooms.

For example, with decorative screens, shelves, panels, cabinets, even rugs, a large room can be divided into several zones, each for a different activity. Or a single room can have two purposes, such as living room and bedroom.

Advantages and Benefits

Strengthening our country’s and our planet’s greenness by building smaller homes has immediate and far-reaching benefits and advantages, both personal and global.

For immediate and personal, a smaller home means less construction cost and a smaller, more manageable mortgage. Over time, the smaller home saves by needing less upkeep and energy.

Smaller homes immediately benefit America and our Earth because their construction conserves natural resources, the energy used to make manmade products, and the energy used to transport it all.

We have no way of knowing how much wood, water and energy we would conserve and how much pollution we would prevent if we began building smaller. But it would be tremendous – something very much worth considering.