Opinion: Van height

The population is getting taller. What are the implications for caravan manufacturing?

In the November ’09 issue of CW, And Another Thing… columnist Lloyd Junor makes the point that the average height of the population is increasing.

Lloyd writes:

Sometimes a little nudge comes along that adds impetus to something that’s been on the ‘to do’ list for a while but hasn’t been attended to. A little while back, a reader put a request in to CW editor Max Taylor:

"Thoroughly enjoy your reviews; however, may I make a suggestion? When a van has an extendable bed, as most do now, would it be possible to include in your comments whether a 6ft 4in person can firstly fit on the bed and secondly, move around the bed without having to climb over the end?"

The internal dimensions of vans built these days haven’t really changed from the dimensions of 40 or 50 years ago, but people have changed. There is scientific proof that people are taller than they were. So our reader’s prompt is very much on the ball.

In the last two generations, the average height of the US male has conclusively increased by a mean of 4.36cm, and for females, by a mean of 2.99cm (Fels Institute growth study, University of Chicago, published May 2005 in Am J of Human Biol; 1:2:143-148). The Australian experience, based on trend data collected in 1970, 1985 and 1993, reported by La Trobe and Melbourne universities on students in the age range of 5-17 years, displays a rate of increase between 0.4 and 2.1cm per decade for males, and 0.01-1.6cm for females (Am J Phys Anthropology, 2000: 3; 4; 545-556).

Recognition of the increasing height of recent generations has resulted in changes in sales for particular sizes in clothing, footwear, bedding and other industries, but the ceiling height, seating parameters or standard bed space of caravans does not seem to have increased in line with increasing tallness.