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Definition

Room

A room is defined as a space in a dwelling which is used, or intended for habitation, and is enclosed by walls reaching from the floor to the ceiling or roof covering. Service areas are excluded.

The total number of rooms includes habitable spaces such as bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, lounge rooms, studies, games rooms, studios, hobby rooms, habitable cellars and attics. However, service areas such as pantries, hallways, spa–rooms, walk–in wardrobes, corridors, verandas, garages, laundries, toilets and bathrooms should not be counted as rooms for the purpose of this standard.

If a dwelling is built in an open-plan style, then room equivalents should be counted as if they had walls between them.

Room equivalents should not be counted for one roomed dwellings (ie bed-sitting rooms). A one–roomed dwelling should be counted as having one room only.

Ideally, habitable rooms should be at least two metres in height and of at least four square metres in area. However, due to operational difficulties outlined below this is not a critical requirement of this standard. Service areas are excluded from the count of rooms even if they meet the criteria concerning walls and floor space.

Dwelling, dwelling type, private dwelling and service area are supporting concepts for number of rooms and are defined in Glossary and references.

Bedroom

A bedroom is defined as a room in a dwelling which is used, or intended for sleeping in. The following rules apply:

A room is considered to be a bedroom if it is furnished as a bedroom even if it is not being used at the time of the data collection. A room furnished as a bedroom should include a sleeping facility such as a bed or mattress, and could include items such as a dresser and chest of drawers.

Room equivalents should not be counted for one roomed dwellings (ie bed–sitting room). A one–roomed dwelling should be counted as having one bedroom and therefore one total room.

A sleepout adjacent to a private dwelling should be counted as a bedroom if it is used and/or furnished as a bedroom and is occupied by members of the same household as occupy the dwelling.

A caravan adjacent to a private dwelling should be counted as a bedroom only if it is used as a bedroom and is occupied by members of the same household as occupy the dwelling.

A room (such as a living room) that is used as a bedroom at night, either short–term or long–term, should not be counted as a bedroom unless the only bedroom facilities in the dwelling are in that room. If the only bedroom facilities in a dwelling are in a room that is also used for another purpose, (ie in a living room), this room should be counted as a bedroom.

Dwelling, private dwelling and furnished bedroom are supporting concepts for number of bedrooms and are defined in Glossary and references.

Operational issues

The United Nations specifies that ideally a room should be at least two metres in height and of at least four square metres in area. In practice however this requirement is difficult to implement. Respondents often may not know the exact or even the approximate size of each room. Training enumerators or expecting respondents to calculate room size would be complicated and prone to inconsistencies.

The criteria for calculating habitable rooms contained in the standard definition is sufficient to ensure an accurate and practical calculation without the need for strict size criteria. The majority of habitable rooms, which conform to the criteria contained in the standard definition, will be of at least two metres in height and of at least four square metres in area.

In self–completion questionnaires, data quality may be compromised if respondents do not apply the definition of number of rooms/bedrooms correctly. For example, respondents may include service rooms such as bathrooms in their count of the number of rooms, or they may not include sleepouts used as bedrooms in their count of the number of bedrooms.

Explanatory notes

Alternative dwelling size indicators

Number of rooms/bedrooms is the variable that provides an indication of the size of a dwelling. It has been suggested in the past that information on the total floor area of a dwelling would provide a better indicator of the size of a dwelling than the number of rooms/bedrooms.

However, respondents may not know the exact or even approximate area of the dwelling they occupy and training interviewers to calculate the floor space would be complicated and prone to inconsistencies. Calculation of total floor area would also increase respondent burden as the majority of respondents would have difficulty providing this information without consulting official documentation such as the rental agreement and title.

Exclusion of service areas

Service areas, such as bathrooms, toilets and laundries, are excluded from the count of the number of rooms because they are not considered to reflect the living area available to household members. This is consistent with the recommendations of the United Nations.

Number of other rooms derivation

Subtracting the number of bedrooms from the number of rooms can derive the number of other rooms in a dwelling. Note: Service areas are not counted as rooms.

Crowding in households

Crowding in households relates to situations where the number of people residing in a household exceeds the capacity of the household to provide adequate shelter and services to its members.

The simplest measures of crowding provide comparisons between numbers of people and either rooms or bedrooms. There is no consensus however, in defining the point at which a dwelling may be considered crowded.

Crowding is extremely subjective and likely to vary largely according to context. Complex combinations of criteria such as age, gender and relationships can be given varying emphasis when studying the rooms/bedrooms to people ratio. Thus definitions vary between surveys and between international organisations.

There is no contemporary official statistic or index of household crowding in New Zealand. However, the Housing Improvement Regulations of 1947 does have an official definition of overcrowding which specifies an approved number of people per bedroom, taking into account their age, sex and relationship, relative to bedroom size. In the majority of surveys however, bedroom size is not calculated, thus these rules cannot be applied.

The ‘adult equivalent’ concept can be applied in crowding measures. For example, one crowding index weights each individual who is in a couple relationship as one half, as well as children aged under 10 years:

  • Crowding index = [1/2 (number of children under 10 years) + (number of couples) + (all other people aged 10 years and over)] / number of bedrooms

Crowding indicators which take into account both household size and composition have been used in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has used a definition known as the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The Canadian model provides a measure of bedroom occupancy in a dwelling, which can be related to personal and household characteristics.
In the Canadian model, households are considered over crowded where the following standard cannot be met:

  • there should be no more than two people per bedroom
  • children less than 5 years of age of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom
  • children 5 years or older of the opposite sex should not share a bedroom
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom
  • household members 18 years of age or over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples.

Different crowding measures are therefore applied, both in New Zealand and overseas. The application of a consistent definition of crowding may be an area of interest for the future.

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