WASHINGTON - The size of new U.S. single-family homes completed in 2009 declined, dropping to a nationwide average of 2,438 square feet and reversing the trend of the past three decades, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported, citing data released by the U.S. Census Bureau that new single-family homes were almost 100 square feet smaller in 2009 than they were in 2007. One reason for the drop, NAHB stated, was homeowners’ desire to keep energy costs in check. This growing energy-efficiency consciousness is one of many trends that the association said was likely to continue.

Despite the tendency towards a smaller footprint, overall energy usage has been growing, said NAHB. One reason could be the spread of air conditioning. Census Bureau data show that less than half of all new single-family homes completed in 1973 had air conditioning; by 2009, nearly nine-out-of-ten new homes were air conditioned. Not surprisingly, there are regional differences in those nationwide findings. The proportion of homes with air conditioning ranged from a low of 69 percent in the West to a high of 99 percent in the South. The Northeast and Midwest were at 75 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

Still, even as energy use climbs, so does energy efficiency. “Residential Energy Consumption Survey,” a U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report released in 2005, indicates that while both floor size and overall energy consumption were trending upwards for decades, energy consumption per square foot was dropping. The survey shows that new households were smallest from 1970 to 1979, averaging 1,863 square feet. They steadily increased through 2005, according to the EIA report. Likewise, overall household energy consumption was lowest from 1980 to 1989, but has been rising ever since. However, even as residences have grown, the amount of energy used per square foot has declined from a high of 89 cents per square foot during the 1970-79 era to 68 cents per square foot in structures built from 2000 to 2005.

Publication date:08/09/2010