Small apartments have potential in Switzerland

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Indoor living - a form of housing that does not require a conventional room layo
Indoor living - a form of housing that does not require a conventional room layout. Source: Genossenschaft Kalkbreite Photo Annett Landsmann; Verein zurwollke eV

There is a high level of interest in small forms of housing among the Swiss population. However, there are clear differences between those who already live or have lived in such a form of housing and those who can imagine doing so in principle. These are the findings of a study conducted by Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

On the one hand, land resources are scarce in Switzerland, while on the other, the concept of sustainability is shaping the personal lifestyles of more and more people. Small forms of housing such as tiny houses, micro-apartments, indoor living or living in containers or vehicles seem to be an obvious answer. For the first time, a study by HSLU is investigating the demand for and market potential of small forms of housing in Switzerland, as well as the interests, preferences and needs of (future) residents. The HSLU experts surveyed 1,254 members of the Swiss population using a re-presentative online survey.

Big difference between wishful thinking and reality

Small forms of housing are attracting interest in Switzerland: Around half of those surveyed already have experience with small-scale forms of housing (referred to as "experts" - 22%) or can imagine living in one (referred to as "interested parties" - 30%). The other half, on the other hand, cannot imagine doing so (referred to as "not interested" - 48%). These tend to be higher earners with higher household assets.

It is interesting to note that the answers between the experts and the interested parties differed significantly in some cases, explains project manager Selina Lutz. "One of the main reasons for this is probably that the experts answered the respective question in relation to their actual living situation or experience with small-scale housing, while the interested parties referred to a hypothetical or desired scenario. There is therefore a gap between wishful thinking and reality."

The survey shows that the majority of those interested (43%) would prefer to live in a permanent home, such as a mini or micro home, while less than 10% of experts have lived in this type of small home before. The vast majority of 84 percent of experts state that they live or have lived in an apartment. It is also noticeable that although there is a demand for vehicles and prefabricated modules, these have hardly been used by experts as permanent residences to date. More than half of the small forms of housing used by experts are in an urban location. In contrast, this location is mentioned much less frequently by interested parties. Only around a third of those interested prefer a city as the location for their small form of housing, while the others prefer to live in the countryside or in an agglomeration municipality.

Sustainability is particularly important for those interested

For those interested, sustainability is clearly a priority, while experts tend to pay more attention to costs. For example, interested parties tend to place more value on locally produced and renewable energies for the electricity, water and heating supply of small-scale housing. A low environmental impact is also a priority. On the other hand, low costs and a high level of comfort are or were more important to experts. In addition, 43 percent of experts stated that financial hardship was a decisive motive for choosing a small form of housing. For those interested, the most important motive besides sustainability is to live more freely and autonomously.

In terms of the desired living qualities, natural lighting and ventilation of the property is important for both interest groups. In addition, experts tend to value more practical features such as storage space and retreat options, while interested parties tend to consider nature-related living qualities such as views and access to nature as well as natural materials to be important.

"The results of the study indicate that small-scale housing can make a contribution to sustainable living; however, more attention should be paid to the cost aspect so that it can be applied in practice," summarizes Selina Lutz.

One study - many partners

The study was developed as part of an innovation project (54769.1 IP-SBM) by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts as a research partner and co-financed by Innosuisse - Swiss Agency for Innovation Promotion and the interdisciplinary ITC thematic cluster of the HSLU. It is an interdisciplinary project of the Departments of Engineering & Architecture (project management), Social Work and Business, together with 13 implementation partners.