Efficient use of living space. How to build yourself a small house.

Reducing habitable floor area. An affordable home in a smaller space.

There are many reasons for space-efficient building. Reducing the habitable floor area, for instance, makes sense from both a sustainable and a financial perspective. After all, those who use the habitable floor area efficiently can get a lot out of a small house and save on costs.

New ways of using living space are becoming more important

There's no place like home – according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the Swiss require approximately 46 m2 of living space per person for their own personal cocoon. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for space tends to be growing: The 2022 real estate study by Credit Suisse shows that an increasing number of households would like an extra room to use as an office as a result of new work-from-home opportunities.

However, this use of space contradicts the planned measures against urban sprawl. With regard to financing as well, large-surface owner-occupied homes are hardly affordable for many Swiss. From this perspective, the efficient use of space becomes increasingly interesting. The aim is to create sufficient useful floor area and a high-quality living area using less space. This doesn't just potentially save costs, it also contributes to sustainability.

Space efficiency: The size of a house is a significant cost factor

The planning of home construction starts with the selection of the building plot: In this context, a more modest plot of land is sufficient for a smaller house. After all, the following also applies to home construction: Every square meter of living space costs money. If you are striving for cost-efficient home construction, you should take a critical look at some points regarding how much space is needed and clearly define your priorities:

  • How many rooms are needed?
  • Is one bathroom sufficient?
  • Is a recreation room or guest room needed?
  • Is a separate office needed?
  • Is a covered garage necessary or is a parking space sufficient?

Depending on the answers to these questions, the house size can be reduced. This generates multiple savings: from construction and material costs to heating and maintenance costs once the house is occupied.

Five tips for space-efficient home construction

Giving up certain rooms is not the only way to reduce living space. Even within the specified number of rooms, a fair amount of living space can be reduced or simply planned more efficiently. 

1. Reducing traffic paths

A traffic path refers to a hallway or a stairwell. These are often used exclusively to access the next room and have no other purpose. In order to avoid this, the traffic paths can be integrated into the living spaces. This also has the advantage of making the living space seem more open and larger: Such combined living, dining, and cooking areas are often already implemented in new buildings.

Efficiently using habitable floor area: Reducing traffic paths

Efficient use of habitable floor area

Source: Credit Suisse

2. Creating multi-purpose rooms

The possibility of hosting friends and family for the weekend plays a key role for many when planning their owner-occupied home. Instead of a separate guest room, however, various rooms can also be combined. One option would be an office/bedroom combination, for instance. Such multi-purpose rooms enable you to save on habitable floor area and, consequently, on building costs.

3. Creating storage space

Large cabinets take up a lot of room and visually reduce the space – an undesirable effect in an already small space. Built-in closets are therefore an attractive alternative in terms of space-efficient construction. They not only create valuable storage space in the entrance area, but they also work very well in bedrooms. Another space-saving option is cabinets integrated into stairwells. In this case, however, additional costs for manufacturing must be taken into account.

4. Reducing the number of bathrooms

Two bathrooms – one with a tub and a toilet as well as an additional small toilet – not only increase building costs, but they also take up a corresponding amount of space. In order to use said space efficiently, doing without a second wet room may be an option. Even more space can be saved by installing a shower instead of a tub. 

5. Movable walls

Maximum space efficiency can be achieved with what are known as "movable rooms." In this context, the bathroom usually forms a fixed construction element in the center of the home. Movable walls can be shifted around it via rails in the ceiling. In order to form a bedroom with a foldaway bed, for instance. Furthermore, the exterior walls provide additional storage space in the form of shelves. In addition to a keen sense of organization, additional installation costs must also be planned for here.

Efficiently using habitable floor area: Incorporating movable walls

Efficiently using the habitable floor area with movable walls

Source: Credit Suisse

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