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April 25, 2011

Smaller Condos, Changing lifestyles

by mark mclean

I have been lucky enough to get to a bunch of new condominium launches in the city over the last few months and with the exception of a few, I would say that on the whole developers are getting more and more creative with their designs, architecture and interiors. Marketing companies, the machines behind the condos, are coming up with some great names and slogans all meant to capture our imaginations. The goal in all this is simple; get the customer into the door and sell them a condo. It’s not rocket science.  I’ve probably seen a thousand different floor plans and surprisingly the layouts are all fairly standard.  What is evident is that suite sizes are getting smaller. 20 years ago, a standard one-bedroom suite was 700+/- square feet today its’ more like 450 square feet. When you think about it, the reasons are clear; it costs more to build so in order to build affordable units you need to build them smaller. When it is less expensive to buy, more first time buyers can get into the market.

Well, having smaller suite sizes is all well and good, but I believe there are fundamental changes in the design of these suites that need to be addressed. It is clear that when you live in a small apartment you need to shift your lifestyle accordingly. Think for a moment about appliances. The diminutive condos being built today offer 30” fridges and stoves, and 24” dishwashers.  It seems absurd to have full size appliances when smaller ones could free up more living space.  Today, there are many manufactures who build smaller appliances for smaller homes. They require less space and use less energy. Builders will argue that they get better deals when they buy in bulk but who is actually driving the sales here?  I think it’s the builder who has the ability to demand smaller appliances for smaller units.

Of course the big challenge in all this is getting the purchasers to buy into changing their lifestyles a little. A smaller fridge means shopping for the next few days and not the week or month. With rising food costs, maybe we should be adapting a more European lifestyle anyway. Less food going to waste means less food in the dumpster too.  Today we don’t necessarily consider how appliances impact our lives, we just take them for granted, but in 50 years there is no question that we will be living in a much different world.  How we purchase and consume food may, in fact, cause us to re-evaluate our appliance needs.

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