Rewards of Living With Less

Words by Sophie Sisko

The benefits of consuming less has been measured to have great impact on our wellbeing. Whether that be through food, fuel or other resources, but what about space? Australians, on average, live in the biggest homes in the world, and it comes at a cost – not just to our wallets but to our social and environmental connections. Living in more modest homes that are carefully planned and versatile to our needs has the ability to bring people together and promote these connections.

“Social connections are as important to our survival and flourishing as the need for food, safety, and shelter. But over the last fifty years, while society has been growing more and more prosperous and individualistic, our social connections have been dissolving”.

Emily Esfahani Smith, The Atlantic Magazine

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“This was the sort of challenge we relish: coming up with a functional and ergonomic design that would enable our clients to ‘live small’ without compromising on good design, space and the creature comforts modern families expect. The ‘puzzle’ is to make sure every detail matters and every square centimetre is used effectively.” –Dimase Architects of Bennett Street Project in Fitzroy North

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“Our architecture is about light and air and materials, combined to create spaces for human interaction.”

– Dimase Architects

We seek human interaction, and historically our homes have grown farther and farther apart from our neighbours; both physically and psychologically. As a result of this separation, we are now challenging the principles of a consumer-driven culture which has taught that more means better.

Breathe Architecture have created a model for low-rise apartments that encourage engagement between neighbours. By reducing costs in certain areas like passive heating and cooling due to building orientation, and overall modest floorplans, the architects were able to focus on the fundamental needs of the occupants. The Commons was built on the foundation of a triple bottom line of development; Not only concerned with financial returns, but equally focused on environmental and social returns.

Following on from the success of The Commons is an architect driven initiative called Nightingale Housing that plans to continue this progression towards addressing the housing needs of inner-city residents.

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As the population grows in Australia, architects and designers have the responsibility of creating environments that can best serve its occupants whilst being aware of the spatial restrictions that are being placed on our cities.

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Melbourne’s Nest Architects designed this 80 square metre home with a rooftop garden on a residential block that is less than three quarters of the size of a tennis court. This clever use of space provides director of Nest architects, Emilio, and his family with maximum usability where there is no dead space, and is a truly spectacular example of adaption.

“Each sliding door disappearing to create an open space yet providing the option of closing down each room to create private nooks”

Nest Architects in reference to the spatial planning of the 2 in 1 house

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Everyone can find benefits from a level of this style of living. There is no right or wrong in this equation just a simple question to be considered, “do you need it?” As Jeremy McLeod of Breathe Architecture calls the Architecture of Reduction, we can all start to assess what adds value to our life and what does not.