Decline of McMansions

This weekend I read about the decline of McMansions – the average house size has begun to decline with the crash of the housing market. (The new home builders have really been hurt by the current housing market – they built and promoted the McMansion “lifestyle”).

I was reading about the housing trends and thinking about how this could help or benefit the preservation/restoration niche of the building industry when I started to read the comments section. I was glad to read about people making smaller spaces work when I read a comment from someone who had been sadly misinformed about older homes and energy efficiency. The comment is copied here:

Listed: MSN Real Estate’s daily blog – MSN Real Estate: “p.s. The modern McMansions actually use about the same amount of energy to heat and cool as our tiny premodern depression era house. Oh I can’t wait to update the horsehair board insulation and large *original* windows. We’ve learned our lesson about buying older unimproved houses, let me tell you….”

The preservation/restoration community has a lot of information about the truth of older building energy efficiency in print and on the Internet – but obviously we are missing a large number of older building owners.

The argument that a 900 sq. ft. house (referenced in her first post) uses less energy than a McMansion at 7,000 plus square feet doesn’t even make sense from a logic stand point and goes to show the marketing for the new building products is working.

A few facts (based on her comment):

  • Buildings built from 1950 through 1970 are the least energy efficient (actually the federal government has done studies on their older buildings and they consistently use less energy than their newer buildings).
  • Heat rises – it makes more sense to insulate the roof than the walls in an older home
  • Plaster is not insulation – it is a wall finish
  • It has been scientifically proven that well maintained wood windows with a storm window (either interior or exterior) are as energy efficient as replacement windows. The energy savings is $0.60 per year – the replacement windows will last at the most 30 years. Will the money saved balance with the amount the windows cost?