One of the reasons I wouldn't want to live in the UK is the houses. I don't know if you managed to survey many of those yourselves, but I will give you the gist of it: the vast majority of UK houses follow the exact same design. A design loyal to the technology and economic state of affairs the way they used to be about a hundred years ago.
No wonder these people are stuck in love with their archaic monarchy.
Question is, are we any better?
I will argue that the way we build our houses tells us a lot about who we are. What our values and aspirations are. We've covered the UK; now let us have a look at Australia and Melbourne in particular.
The first thing you would notice when you step into a Melbourne home during winter is that it's cold. Not as cold as the outside, but compared to what most people consider normal indoor temperature - even during winter - your Melbourne residence would feel quite cold.
There are multiple reasons for this cold. Melbourne goes through extreme temperature variance between seasons and sometimes between the hours of the day; the same house has to deal with both wintery temperatures less than ten degrees as well as summer temperatures above forty. Melbourne houses tend to also be fairly big, which implies heating them up is no simple affair.
Most of all, things come down to Melbourne homes being built to lower standards than their international cold climate colleagues do. Whereas the average UK home is built of double bricks, the average Melbourne home is built of one layer of bricks and a layer of plaster. When Scandinavia utilises double and triple glazing as standard, Melbourne is still mostly built with one. And so on.
It comes down to Melbourne's, and Australia's in general, high cost of labour. And it also comes down to Australia's, in general, low cost of energy; it's cheaper to build a flimsy house and heat it up ferociously, though without much efficiency, than it is to build a house that will look after its own temperature.
Or is it? The world is changing, and Australia seems to lag behind. In yet another arena.
The other week we surveyed a huge apartment building currently being built in our area.
The vultures, otherwise known as real estate agents, circled around us demonstrating their goods in their attempt to go for the kill. Yet, as nice as the apartments were, and they were nicely built at a very nice area, they were simply too small for people - whether singles or families - to happily live in.
It was funny to witness the lengths the builders went through in order to prevent would be buyers from noticing they are like Gulliver at the land of Lilliput. All fittings are smaller: the sinks are smaller, the toilets are smaller, the showers are smaller. To top it all off, we were informed that the buyers of these apartments will even receive a free fridge! We were not surprised to see this was a 300 litre fridge fit in a custom made enclosure; no normal fridge could fit those apartments.
Hundreds, thousands of such apartments are being built in Melbourne as we speak. Apartments that no one really wants to live at. Apartments where only people stuck with no better choice will end up at.
So why do such apartments get built in the first place? They are there because they are not designed to enrich the lives of their residents; they are there in order to lure the prospective property investor, or rather to turn normal folk into official Australian Investment Property Owners. That's all there is to it; no more and no less.
If there ever was a telltale sign for how far Australians can be driven by their greed, it is in the apartments they build for themselves. Those apartments will be there for decades to come, making the lives of our younger generations and those that follow miserable and ensuring they remember us not as fondly as we would hope.
And we let it be the case, driven as we are by short term greed.
Image by Timber Floors, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence