“Strictly speaking, a micro unit is something that’s about 250 to 400 square feet, and they manifest in various forms,” says Frances Anderton, author of Community Land: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles and host of the radio show DnA: Design and Architecture. This can mean ADUs, tiny houses, dorms, co-living spaces, and even some retirement homes. While tiny life is often met with mixed reviews, there’s a case to be made that this kind of setup can—and perhaps should—be a standard for everyone.
“If we want to live in a decent world in the next decades, because of climate change, architecture has quite a big role to play,” says Matthieu Torres, an architect in Paris who lives in an apartment of about 258 square meters foot living . He bought the unit in an unlivable condition and used his background in architecture to create a lofted sleeping area, a small closet, a bathroom and a kitchen. “Many experts actually recommend that we stop building,” he says. Currently, the built environment contributes around 40% of global CO2 emissions between construction and operations.
Still, with an ever-growing population, it’s not always possible to stop construction altogether, so building less becomes one of the next best choices. “You don’t need to be the smartest man in the world to know that there is less impact if your space is smaller,” says Torres. Smaller homes use less material, reduce construction waste, require less energy to heat and cool, and reduce urban sprawl, which reduces the need for cars. “It’s just a simple fact of scaling your energy and material needs,” he says. Since they often cost less to build, micro units are more likely to use high-quality materials.
Of course, micro-apartments can be undeniably tight, but there are many solutions that make this arrangement more comfortable. Consider co-housing, which Anderton describes as the “closest cousin” of micro-apartments. “They are all micro units,” she says. “However, these are micro-units that are offset by shared amenities.” She points to a building in Los Angeles called Treehouse as a model. Here, residents have the option of renting a room in a shared apartment or a private studio – all with a relatively small footprint – and they get access to various amenities such as an art studio, a recording studio, a gym, a library, a roof. , a dining room and a lounge. Projects like this mean that each resident, around 50 people, gets access to the type of spaces that are often only found in larger houses without building 50 mansions, which is not only unsustainable, but often unaffordable for many.