The Slow Home Movement

Designers in the Slow Home movement are creating homes made for health and comfort rather than resale value.

| July/August 2012

Fast food might offer quick satisfaction and silence a rumbling stomach, but we all know it’s not good for us in the long run. The same can be said of “fast houses”—greenhouse gas-emitting residences designed with only their sale in mind. Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions many of us make, and today more and more of us want to be sure the place we’ll call home will nourish us by being a healthy, comfortable place to live, as well as gentle on the environment.

Quiz: Do You Live in a Slow Home?

John Brown, founding principal of Housebrand, a Canadian residential design firm based in Calgary, is working to create homes that meet these requirements. Together with his partners, Matthew North and Carina van Olm, Brown is the force behind the growing Slow Home movement—a philosophy of home design modeled after the Slow Food movement. The thought behind the philosophy is the belief that our choices in food and housing have similarly significant effects on our physical and emotional well-being—not to mention the planet.

“Slow Food isn’t about expensive ingredients and intricate preparations,” Brown says. “It can be macaroni and cheese, or vegetable soup or a grilled cheese sandwich.” What matters, he says, are the sources of the food, “the thoughtfulness with which you’ve gathered the things you’re going to eat, and how you’ve prepared them and enjoy them. The same is true of your house.”

The Slow Home Philosophy

In a Slow Home, those principles of thoughtfulness and quality translate to well-proportioned spaces designed to accommodate the daily needs of residents, with minimal wasted space, plenty of natural light and a strong connection with the outdoors. Describing acres of treeless McMansions squeezed in developments located miles from daily amenities, Brown, who is an architect, real estate broker and professor of architecture, says that too many North American houses are “designed to be sold more than they’re designed to be lived in.” Builders tout house size, extolling quantity (in square footage) over quality. Even those green household accessories included in many new builds—low-flow toilets and a solar panel or two, what Brown calls “environmental bling”—are inconsequential in a 4,000-square-foot house that’s a 90-minute drive from the owner’s workplace.

To help determine whether a house is laid out to its best advantage, Brown and North created the “Slow Home Test.” Included in their book, What’s Wrong With This House?, the test assesses 12 universal elements including location; conservation of land and water; a good-sized, well-placed entry; a kitchen with an efficient work triangle; private but accessible bathrooms; and an appropriate amount of space for parking, laundry and mechanical equipment. A score lower than 13 (out of 20) means a house needs to undergo some design changes or should be crossed off a buyer’s list of potential purchases.  

6/2/2014 12:37:05 AM

House brand, a Calgary, Canada-based architecture close that specializes in the Slow Home philosophy, adapted this 1912 Victorian for audience Catherine and Aaron Montgomery. Changes included removing a countertop and installing an island to accessible up the century-old kitchen’s floor plan and accomplish it added anatomic for the Montgomery’s and their two adolescent daughters. They as well opened the kitchen to cover a rarely acclimated academic dining room, which is now an accustomed bistro and absorbing space. :: :: ::

5/18/2014 11:56:48 PM

I used the “Slow Home Test” to find out if it was worthy to buy a house for me and my family, the score was lower that 13 and I decided to search more for a better home. After searching on website I found very good offers and a lot of the houses had very good scores, I will definitely pick one of them.

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