Editorial Note: Living Smaller
Andrew shares suprising statistics on where people live and talks about the need for urban dwellings.
The United States is a huge country—currently fourth largest in the world in land area. There’s a ton of land within our borders, and in my mind, I envision people living everywhere. As I dug into the data, though, I was surprised to learn that 80% of the U.S. population lives in just 3% of its land area. Four out of five people in the country live in “urban areas,” defined by the Census Bureau as land areas with certain levels of population density and specific land-use characteristics (so suburbs count as urban areas).
It seems as though we humans stick together, clustered around economic opportunity and our friends and family. And population in urban areas continues to grow. This population growth means we not only need to build more housing in general, but we also need to live together in closer proximity. Finding ways to carve out our own small spaces within areas of dense population is essential for quality living. It’s something architect Tina Govan is passionate about. Her feature story on creative ways to make a small lot feel spacious yet private (pp. 42-47) reminds us that there are benefits to spaces of a modest size.
The sheer number of people who live and thrive in tight urban areas proves that square footage, inside or outside, isn’t essential to happy living. When I think about what I’d really like in a house—comfortable space for my family, a spot to keep up on our hobbies, and a place to work from home—there’s really no need for a giant building with multiple acres of land (or the maintenance that comes with it). With some forethought and planning, a small city lot (or even an apartment in a large complex) can offer space to unwind and relax while also delivering on all those other important human needs of shelter and community. As our industry continues to grapple with rising construction and labor costs, we need to take a look at urban living and make building smaller, better homes a bigger part of the conversation.
— Andrew Zoellner, editorial director
This image originally appeared in the article Downsizing from Suburbia to an Urban Bungalow.