The Smallest Apartment in the World

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The size of the average new single-family home in the US is now more than 2,600 square feet, having grown over the decades. In the 1970s, it was just under 1,800 square feet.  In 1900—when families tended to be much larger—the average home ranged from 700 to 1,200 square feet.

Not everyone believes bigger is better, though, and the desire for a simpler lifestyle with less stuff has launched the “tiny house” movement—a quest to live within a smaller footprint. While a tiny house is technically anything under 500 square feet, some are much smaller than that, often built with wheels so they can be towed to new locations—really more of an RV than a fixed abode. There are custom-made versions (some approaching the cost of a much larger home) and even a TV show dedicated to them.

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Of course, if you’re concerned about the effect of your living space on the environment, it’s not only the size of the house that matters but also where you put it. Sure, your roof is an impervious surface—but so is the road leading to your house, wherever that is, and all the infrastructure that supports it—water lines, sewage pipes, electrical wires—has an impact as well. As this article by John Jacob illustrates, there’s a lot to be said for denser development. Building a tiny house and then towing it to the middle of a remote field might somewhat defeat the purpose.

An architect in Hong Kong, where space is at a premium, has come up with a new twist on the tiny house—and a new use for old water pipes at the same time. James Law’s OPods are self-contained apartments built inside a length of concrete pipe, each with a bed, bathroom, shower, and rudimentary kitchen. The pipe sits on braces—to keep it from rolling away, presumably—and, Law says, can fit neatly into the narrow spaces between existing buildings or on roofs. They can even be stacked. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for an artist’s rendering of what that might look like; I’m still trying to figure out how the residents would gain access to their stacked apartments.)  SW_bug_web

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  1. Are these numbers an average of existing houses or houses being built? 2600 sq.ft. sounds high if it includes a lot of older smaller houses. Mine is 3 br 1300 sq.ft.

    1. Rick, You’re right, I didn’t make that clear–it’s the size of the average new home, and I’ve updated the first sentence of the blog to indicate that. -Janice

  2. With space at such a premium, why not a container or even square / rectangular concrete? Nice opportunity for foam or composite sprayed in place.. Anyways, can’t see any advantage to the round shape.

    1. Several wacky possible advantages to round horizontal cylinders:
      1. when you stack them they don’t require as much structural strength to not collapse.
      2. less touching surface so acoustically more contained w/i each cylinder
      3. some sections can be fitted with roller bearing cabinets so you can have easily accessible storage 360 degrees just by spinning it.
      Sometimes you have to think outside the box.
      Not that I’m recommending this as efficient construction, lol.

  3. Looks like Bruce Willis’ digs in the Fifth Element. Maybe it would be simpler to just control the birth rate?

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