22 February 2023

Canberrans are building biggest houses in the world, but is that a good thing?

| Sally Hopman
Join the conversation
Canberra houses

A study by the British Buildworld group reveals that Canberrans are building the biggest homes in the world, which is not necessarily a good thing (according to critics). Photo: File.

Canberrans officially have the largest homes in the world, according to a survey that measured dwellings in more than 70 capital cities.

British construction firm Buildworld found the median ACT home had 256 square metres of floor space, compared with the next largest, Cairo, with 189 square metres.

Canberrans also have 560 per cent more floor space than their counterparts in Moscow (256.3 square metres versus 45.5 square metres).

And it wasn’t just a first for Canberra.

house size chart

The capital cities with the largest median houses … Image: Buildworld.

The survey showed that Australia was also the leading nation in the world when it came to the biggest homes, with a median size of 188.2 square metres.

Buildworld analysed house and apartment listings in global capitals around the world from the past year using real estate sites and property studies. It then calculated the median home size for 72 major cities and converted all measurements to square metres.

small house chart

… and the eight smallest. Image: Buildworld.

The study found that Brussels in Belgium was the European capital with the largest average size home (151.8 square metres) while Moscow had the smallest average home size of any world capital.

READ ALSO Home truths: Big houses, bad planning and better design to fix our problems

Comparing Australia to the United States, the study shows that the two nations had the highest average home size, but if you take a closer look at their capital cities, Canberra comes out way ahead.

The average size of a home in Washington DC is only one-third of the Canberra total, 86.6 square metres, ranking 35th of the 72 capital cities in the study.

London fared even worse, ranking 50th (75 square metres), while the Scottish and Irish capitals both ranked in the top 25.

Architect Shannon Battisson

National president of the Australian Institute of Architects and Canberran, Shannon Battisson said building large houses was not necessarily the right decision for everyone. Photo: File.

Critics suggest building massive homes in Canberra is a trend that’s out of control, with developers adding rooms for the sake of it and bumping up the carbon footprint along with the property footprint.

National president of the Australian Institute of Architects and well-known Canberra architect Shannon Battisson told Buildworld that by building such large houses, we were “leaving vast members of the community behind because not everyone can or should afford a huge house, and lots of us who can’t afford these huge houses, but feel the need to build them because that’s what everybody builds, are building them really badly”.

READ ALSO Why are Canberrans so fixated on huge houses?

In what has turned out to be a prescient opinion piece for Region in August 2020, Ms Battisson, wrote: “With 2020 being what it is, a year of natural disaster, climate crisis and global pandemic, it has offered up a great deal of time to think. I have been left with one recurrent thought, why do we invest so little energy into our homes, the spaces we ask to protect us in the most desperate of times?

“I don’t mean the kind of energy that keeps our Netflix powering (the climate crisis makes it clear that we use far too much of that), I mean the energy that we invest in deciding what’s important in our homes before we build the buildings to which we return at the end of each day or, as we now appreciate more than ever before, retreat to in times of danger.

“Despite how vitally important these spaces are, we continue to build in a way that prioritises size over character, outdoor space, and comfort.”

More information about the Buildworld study is available on its website.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Capital Retro7:51 am 25 Feb 23

There are no stamp duty concessions for seniors to downsize which doesn’t really matter as there are no single level townhouses or villas to move into.

I’d like to hear what COTA has been doing about this.

Scott Anthony10:57 pm 24 Feb 23

Canberra would also be the YOUNGEST Capital CIty of all those on the list, home sizes have increased all over the world as fossil fuels lifted the masses out of poverty the world over.. But lets not put context onto a simplistic comparison that can be used to make Canberrans feel guilty for living a more natural lifestyle surrounded by refreshing trees where birds and nature inhabit our front and back gardens… Size, really isn’t all that you can measure for an intelligent comparison..

It’s all about maximising profit. Far more profitable for a builder to build a 4 or 5 bedroom, 2 or 3 bathroom, study, rumpus room plus family room mansion that takes up most of the building block than it is to build a 3 bedroom one bathroom one loungeroom house on the same block. After all they pay the same for the block of land no matter what gets built on it.

Only way to fix it is to reduce the percentage of a block that can be built on.

devils_advocate10:13 am 24 Feb 23

“ Only way to fix it is to reduce the percentage of a block that can be built on.”


You do realise there are sub-300m blocks in the new suburbs now, and 8,000m+ blocks in Red Hill?

You would simply be disadvantaging the poor and creating more incentives for the wealthy to land-grab

There are more than 10,000 cities in the world, and the survey looked at 70 of them, or less than 1 per cent. The survey only includes one city in USA. So not really the entire “world”. The title should read, Canberrans are building bigger homes than any other capital city in the world. Bit misleading otherwise

Capital Retro10:33 am 25 Feb 23

Why let the facts get in the way of pro-development spin?

It’s all about building receptivity for us to accept Canberra’s conversion to slums and ghettos.

devils_advocate10:22 pm 25 Feb 23

Don’t worry the slums and ghettos of the new suburbs are all on the fringes of the city out of sight

The civilised denizens of the inner city have plot ratios, set backs, solar access requirements, private open space requirements, permeable/plantable area requirements and character rules

HiddenDragon7:44 pm 23 Feb 23

With all due respect to the doubtless diligent people who did the number crunching, some of those figures are very hard to swallow and look like they might have more to do with woolly and inconsistently applied definitions and inadequate weightings than with the domestic megalomania of Canberrans – particularly with the proliferation of poky apartments and townhouses etc. in this town.

If there is a message in these figures, albeit with some caveats and question marks, for the ACT government it should be about keeping dwelling sizes in better proportion to block sizes – particularly for a government which is so fond of fretting publicly about climate change and the loss of tree coverage.

Shannon, that’s a blinding glimpse of the bleeding obvious!

SOME Canberrans, eh? Our home – in which we brought up two boys is 14.9 Squares.

Michael Cuddihy9:29 pm 23 Feb 23

Lots of ex-govie houses in older suburbs would be that size or a bit smaller.

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that somewhere during the 1990’s the ACT government placed minimum size restrictions on new dwellings to prevent smaller low cost constructions dragging the property values down. That was the start of the McMansion phase of building, with the dwellings footprint having to be at least 80-90% of the block size.

Happy for anyone to correct me.

Michael Cuddihy9:28 pm 23 Feb 23

I have not heard of that minimum size requirement before.

devils_advocate10:16 am 24 Feb 23

There are minimum size and value requirements at least as far back as 2000 but they are so modest that they have nothing to do with the dwelling sizes described in this article, the minimum requirement was well below anything people would bother building

I had a house built about ten years ago and it most certainly is NOT 80-90% of the block size. Smaller house than the space wasting McMansions. So you are wrong. This was purely people choosing to buy these monstrosities, because they couldn’t do without the TV room, etc.

Tom Worthington1:28 pm 23 Feb 23

Perhaps Canberra’s large houses could be designed to be divided into two, three, or four dwellings. The idea being, when you no longer need all that space, or can’t afford it, you can rent it out to someone else. This would be something like a “Manor” house.

Michael Cuddihy9:39 pm 23 Feb 23

I keep hearing about Manor Houses, so I googled it. Interesting idea that it could possibly be designed to be a larger family house initially and then be divided up later. Could work for multi-generational families too.

I have seen a few people do that with existing dual occupancies.

And you won’t hear a single anti-apartment person comment on this.
This is one of the reasons houses are beyond the reach of many. If you don’t have two/three garages, 5 bedrooms, a rumpus room, entertainment room, home theatre room, get-away-from everything room, along with the usual dining and lounge rooms you just don’t cut it any more … in fact you’re the laughing stock of the street.

Michael Cuddihy9:33 pm 23 Feb 23

I think high density apartments have their place, and we have been getting more of them in the past and will need a lot more of them in the future. Personally, I think the pretty much the entire Race Course area should be given over to high density development. Same with paddocks around Deakin and Curtin.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.