Minimum requirements for a house to be a house

During this time of crisis, I have been asked more than once about the minimum sizes and number of rooms that a new house at the planning stage must have to obtain the regulatory building license.

On one occasion, a client with the look of a hermit and a bit of a misanthrope was looking for a large plot of land roughly 25,000 m2 as far away as possible from any town, where he envisaged building a small house, a very small house in fact, consisting of one bedroom with a small kitchenette built in the bedroom and a toilet next to the bedroom with access from outside.

The gentlemen asked me if I could obtain the mandatory building license and get a few estimates from local builders. Obviously, I had to inform him that a house of those characteristics would not comply with the minimum requirements of an old Spanish building regulation from 1944, titled; "Condiciones Higiénicas Mínimas que han de reunir las Viviendas” (Minimum hygienic conditions to be met by residential properties).

This regulation, which is still valid and in force, even though other local regulations have improved and amended it somewhat, is accepted in some localities as the set of minimum requirements to be complied with for a house to be classified as such.

I will extract some significant articles so that we can get an idea as to the minimum requirements  to of a house design. 


In its first article it states:

1 .- A family dwelling shall consist of at least of a kitchen, a dining room/living room, a bedroom with space for two beds and a toilet, having always to take into account the relationship between the capacity of the house and the number and sex of its inhabitants.

It follows with its second article:

2 .- All rooms shall be independent from each other so that no room shall be used as a way to gain access to a bedroom or to the W.C.

In this article it is implied that no room shall be used as a passageway to go another room including the W.C. Please note that we interpret W.C. as the “lavatory”.

With regards to ventilation, all bedrooms shall have an opening to the outside, and the opening shall be one eighth of the room floor area.

It also allows a bathroom to be vented through chimneys when, because of the layout of the house, it is impossible to have direct access outside though a normal window.

This has been used widely in Spain i.e. to vent the bathroom through a “shunt” or a vertical duct until 2007, when the regulations were changed so that the vent must be fitted with mechanical extraction or hybrid natural and mechanical extraction.

With regards to internal courtyards used to ventilate rooms, the minimum size of such a courtyard must be 3m by 3 m, and preferably these internal courtyards should be large enough to draw a circle with a diameter of 1/6 the height of the building, the minimum acceptable area being 9m2 as described above.

In its 6th article it describes the sizes of the different rooms. These minimum sizes are still widely used in most regions of Spain.

3 .- The minimum dimensions of the various rooms are as follows:

Single-bed bedrooms shall have an area of 6 m² and have a minimum volume of 15 m³. Double bedrooms shall have an area of 10 m² and a minimum volume of 25 m³. Living rooms shall be at least 10 m². Kitchens must have a minimum area of 5 m². Toilets shall have a minimum area of 1.50 m². If the kitchen and living room comprise a single room, then it must have a minimum area of 14 m². The minimum width of the hallway is 0.80 m except for the front door, whose width must be at least one meter. The height of all rooms, from the floor finish to the ceiling, shall not be less than 2.50 m in urban areas, but it may be as low as 2.20 m in detached houses in rural areas. The ground floors of apartment houses shall be insulated by an air or an impermeable layer that protects it from soil moisture.

As we can see here, some of these sizes are in some respects the ones found in some modern apartments, so one needs to be aware of the minimum sizes of the different rooms. I have not seen anywhere in Spain where this 2.2m high is allowed nowadays, even in rural areas. Therefore, no rooms are allowed in Spain where the average height is less than 2.5m, with the exception of rooms used for installations and services.

So, although you may decide to live a very Spartan life, there are minimum requirements to be complied with in order to be able to call a house a house for official purposes. If[dd1]  you want more austere living accommodation than that you can always live in a tent!!



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