Part 1 – 2500 sqft 3 Bedroom Townhouse, Massachusetts

Answer all of the questions to evaluate the design of the house. Note any specific benefits or problems that affect the quality of the design. The Slow Home Score is the total of all of the yes answers. Plot the score on the bar graph and refer to the attached summary sheet to interpret the results. Summarize your opinion of the house in the space provided.

Slow Home Test Results (PDF)
Slow Home Test (PDF)
Slow Home Test Results (JPEG)

Slow Home Test (JPEG)

2500 sqft 3 Bedroom Townhouse, Massachusetts (PDF)
2500 sqft 3 Bedroom Townhouse, Massachusetts (First Floor)
2500 sqft 3 Bedroom Townhouse, Massachusetts (Second Floor – Option 1)
2500 sqft 3 Bedroom Townhouse, Massachusetts (Second Floor – Option 2)
2500 sqft 3 Bedroom Townhouse, Massachusetts (Upper Floor)

  • BradW

    - is the category slow? Y = yes, N = no
    - answers for option 1 are first; option 2 second






    CIRCULATION N N – I think the stair design creates fundamental problems here.







    STUDY N N – This is an unknown but in 2500 sqft you should have room for a study.



    Option 1 9/15 Option 2 8/15 – on the fence

    It is not that any one thing is particularly bad but the overall floorplan just feels awkward…I think the stairs are to blame and this is difficult to correct. I would pass on this unit.

  • Paul C


    Review results

  • Paul C

    Sorry folks about the duplication of images. I attempted to post just the images and it kicked me out for having no comment. When I went back to add a comment the images appeared to be gone so I reposted them. I will also try to improve the image quality going forward, they are a little hard to make out. This was done in powerpoint then saved as images fyi.

  • Terri


    I ended up with the same score for both, because each had its own “no” but in different categories.

    There are a couple of points on the test that could use clarification:

    The words “good connection”–does this mean a window or must we be able to actually get outside?

    The definition of “focal point” could say “central focal point”–this example shows how although we have a so-called focus with the fireplace, it’s in a corner and therefore makes it difficult to arrange the furniture.

    Where do we account for wasted space? Circulation talks about not compromising fuctionality and Organization specifies the grouping of rooms and connection to outdoors, but neither of these actually address the redundant or wasted space scenario so common in fast houses.

  • Terri

    Oops! Even with the separate forms I goofed. My Option 1 form lists “redundant formal dining room” when it was actually Option 2 that had this feature.

    This might be a good place to mention that the test form doesn’t give as complete a definition of a slow DR as it might. It could also add something about not being a space that’s only used rarely. Is the dining room considered a “principal room” BTW?

  • Doug Roberts

    Using Brad’s approach:


    SERVICES — N N — On the issue of services, I think the focus should be on “clean” sources of energy and water and conservation measures that come with the house itself. The fact that the current owner of a house has contracted with their utility provider to receive power from clean sources should not enter into the equation, as this clean power contract will not come with the house — it will be up to the new owner to decide whether or not to enter into a similar contract. However, items that would be taken into account in this category would be whether the house will come with PV panels, solar hot water panels, a microwind turbine, geothermal heating/cooling, additional insulation, passive solar design, CFC or LED lighting, daylighting, rainwater harvesting system, greywater system, low flow toilets, showers and faucets, etc.


    ORIENTATION — Y Y — On the issue of orientation in northern locations (I am not sure whether Boston would be considered northern or not), I thought I would repost here a comment that I posted very late to yesterday’s blog:

    “ORIENTATION — Houses in northern locations with principal rooms facing north, such as this British Columbia house, seem to automatically be labelled “fast” in the orientation category. I strongly disagree with this. If you work outside of the home during the day:
    1) during the months of March to September principal rooms with north facing windows will receive direct sun in the early morning and late evening, times when you are likely to be at home;
    2) for much of the period from September to March it really won’t matter which way your principal rooms face because the sun won’t rise until after you leave for work and will have set again by the time you get home.
    Accordingly, for people in northern locations who work outside of the home during the day, having principal rooms with north-facing windows will actually allow them to enjoy the sun more while they are at home than south-facing windows would.

    Arguably, the ideal approach from an orientation perspective in such a situation would be to have:
    1) principal rooms on the north side of the house, with extra windows facing east or west (to allow direct sunlight to enter the principal rooms earlier than March and later than September), with insulated window coverings on all north, east and west-facing windows that could be closed in the winter to retain heat while you are at work and at night; and
    2) a sunroom/atrium-type space on the south side of the house with:
    (a) large south-facing windows with insulated blinds that could be closed at night in the winter and roof overhangs and light shelves to prevent solar gain in the summer;
    (b) thermal mass structures (eg. concrete floor/wall/fireplace) to absorb heat from solar gain during the day in the winter; and
    (c) a system to circulate the heat from the sunroom/atrium throughout the house.
    With this configuration you could enjoy the sun year round, by spending your mornings and evenings in your north-facing principal rooms and your weekend days in the south-facing sunroom/atrium, while using very little energy to heat your home in the winter.”



    ENTRY — N N — None of the 3 entries has a closet.

    LIVING — Y N — The Option 2 living area is too small. Both options could benefit from a much larger terrace, given that the back yard is nothing but driveway.

    KITCHEN — Y N — The Option 2 kitchen reminds me of kitchens from years gone by and would work well if you had a very long “farm” table and a huge family like “The Waltons” (boy am I dating myself!). The Option 1 kitchen is more in keeping with current lifestyles.

    DINING — Y N — Option 1 has one large dining area with nice windows, whereas Option 2 has a smaller interior dining area plus a second eating area in the kitchen, with a consequential adverse impact on the living area.


    BATHROOMS — Y Y — I do not like the location of the guest bathroom in Option 2, but overall the bathrooms are very good.

    STUDY — Y Y The room on the ground floor would make an excellent study or home office and could easily handle client meetings. Alternatively, you could convert the nook space in Option 2 into a study or home office (I assume there should be some sort of wall or railing between the nook and the stairway leading up from the front door???).

    LAUNDRY — Y Y — A little on the small side, but at least it is located on the bedroom floor, where virtually all laundry is generated, and there is room for dirty laundry and baskets on the floor without having it spill into the hallway.


    Results for Option 1 — 13/15; for Option 2 — 10/15

  • Elizabeth

    I’m using Option1 for the middle floor, since I prefer it. The spacees in Option 2 are too (slap)chopped up.


    SERVICES: ??

    CONTEXT: SLOW, but as a home with no side windows, is it being adversely affected by being connected to adjacent houses?

    ORIENTATION: SLOW. REar faces south.

    ORGANIZATION: SLOW. Similar spaces are grouped, except for main floor if it’s used as a bedroom. Private space are upstairs, public on 1st and 2nd floors.

    CIRCULATION: FAST. Not really minimal hallways with 2 staircases. Although I (probably unreasonably) like the idea of the a front and back stairs, I think the door from the garage could be repositioned closer to the stairs for a to eliminate the need for a second stairway. Upstairs the hallyway is pretty minimal, but it’s ended up with the angled entrances again.

    ENTRY: FAST. No closet, probably especially useful when the next stop is a flight of stairs up! I like that the garage has a closet though.

    LIVING: SLOW. Good connection to outside, angled FP not a huge problem, as you’ll need two furniture groupings (plus circulation space)in a room this size anyway.

    KITCHEN: FAST. No real window, view of stairs. Work triangle looks good, but not much storage space. Is that a pantry way over in the dead area of the dining room?

    DINING: SLOW, I think. I like it but the dead zone by the closet/pantry is quite substantial. Looks like a table would fit easily, but this space is too big and amorphous for a dining room.

    BEDROOMS: SLOW. They look OK despite the angled doorways. I’d change the closet door in BDRM1 to a slider, plus where to put the bed in there? Master looks fine. Master closet is enormous. I’d take some space out of that closet (with ductwork? what is that rectangle drawn like a shower?) and move the W/D in there, accessible from the hallway. Then could possibly square up the other bedroom doors too.

    BATHROOMS: FAST. On second floor, the bathroom is in a funny position, creating wasted space, again, in the dining room and monoplizing the light if a strangely small window. Full bath on first floor may be bogus. This feels much more a family room than a bedroom, unless elderly parents come to live. On the top floor, family bath is OK, bt master bath seems to be all over the place. 4 doors? Wasted space.

    STUDY: N/A

    LAUNDRY: SLOW. Fine, but I’d reposition.

    PARKING: SLOW. Seems unobtrusive.

    9 SLOWs. Moderately Slow. So, somewhat in-between.

  • Mid Mo

    First time I am really using this. Lots of comments and notes.

    1 Location
    The home is located in a walkable neighborhood that minimizes your use of a car.

    2 Services
    The home uses renewable or clean energy sources and conserves water use.

    3 Context
    The home is not adversely affected by neighboring houses and other adjacent uses.

    These first three items I have issue with. It is great to think of these things but they really may not be in someone’s control and/or something they are concerned with.

    I would place these three at the bottom of the test as a kind of optional item. If it is important to someone they need to score them appropriately, if not we need them to mark YES due the nature of the scoring (not counting AGAINST the home).

    I assume the Test should be for new build and existing construction, all kinds of property (single family, duplex, to condo and maybe even rentals?) and population density. Due to community planning/rules/, methods and materials when a property was built, location, transportation structure, and other extraneous circumstances it just simply may not be practical to apply these criteria. Some folks may like a suburban setting and the car it requires. Rural settings have issue with transportation and distance, access to services. Urban you expect close neighbors, streets with traffic, and old or decaying service supply (Toronto Hydro for example). Then community standards. Al Gore of all people had issues with solar for his super sized mansion away from a city. Context …as for what is next to a condo building on the ground may not mean much to someone on the 30th floor but maybe it does to someone on the 3rd.

    I put all of these at SLOW.

    4 Orientation
    The home is oriented to take advantage of the sun to provide passive solar heating and natural daylight to the interior. This has N/S. The majority of space and glass is South. What should we do here? I like the S but not the North. Where I live now the weather pattern tends to come from N and West so North facing windows would tend to be cold. Boston area I am not sure… Also if you want to grow plants inside believe me N does not work. FAST.

    5 Organization
    The house is organized so that like spaces are grouped together and all principal rooms have a good connection to the outdoors. SLOW

    6 Circulation
    The house has a minimal number of hallways and the circulation patterns do not
    conflict with furniture layout or compromise the functionality of any specific room. Few issues – terrace entry, ½ bath pathway, and garage entry from the bedroom. We really do not need the back entry stair. SLOW

    7 Entry
    The entries are spaces not just doors and are appropriately scaled to the house. These are very distasteful. Front has its own space (good) but no closet, feels cramped, and screams LOOK AT MY STAIRS. The back…. Why is there a door next to the garage door? I assume the owner has a remote for the garage, guests should go to the front entry, and no yard work will be done so what is the point? Also it is not separated with walls so in the winter it is cold. Then to make it worse no closet space (I am assuming the closet at the back of the garage is for utilities as I cannot see where else it would go). FAST.

    8 Living
    The living space is organized around a focal point and has a strong connection to a view or outside living space. Option 1 that front window in the Dining is nice. We have a fireplace (though it is on the angle) and you could run with two groupings. SLOW. Option 2 Things get crazy with the ½ bath and closet with circulation and then squeeze of dining room. FAST

    9 Kitchen
    The kitchen has a compact work area with ample storage, continuous work surfaces
    and a reasonable number of appliances. Option 1. Traffic can flow outside (as long as we have that 4 plus feet in front of the breakfast bar counter), plenty of counter and prep, and we can live with that upper cabinetry. The space being open without walls and the home not being too deep the lack of window I think is fine. Oh in this instance we need more appliances. For a home this size and age there is NO excuse for not having a dishwasher. SLOW. Option 2. The refrigerator is too far from the action at the sink and even more from the actual dining areas. How many times do you have to get another thing from the refrigerator after sitting down? It really should be near the stairs. Again no dishwasher! Eating nook – The space on the east wall is wasted as a table is forced toward the work space in order to fit. FAST

    10 Dining
    The dining area is a principal space that can accommodate a table suited for daily use. Option 1 I can see a nice 6 seat with possibility of a hutch in front of that window. You can seat at least 4 at the counter or choose not to and that would be ok. Weird thing again by the bath with space. SLOW Option 2. The extra dining space was not needed and I think we would have a problem with centering a 6 seat table in the dining room and in centering one in the kitchen. FAST

    11 Bedrooms
    The bedrooms have good natural light and ventilation, an appropriately sized
    functional closet and are properly sized to fit a bed without wasting space.

    Sizes are fine. Closet space is adequate though not in first floor bedroom- there is none. Dislike the angle on the entry on bed 2 and 3 as it takes away from functional space. The first floor bedroom layout is also odd with angles, a door to a garage!, and this bath in the corner. The beds are forced to be in one location with all that window space. No cross ventilation is possible and being south these rooms could be quite warm at night depending on solar gain in the day. FAST

    ****This is the one room I have the most problems with in the Test. Note I have not looked back at the discussions on this room. I would expand or change the criteria somehow. Storage/ bed /desk space/ flow of a room I think should also be considered? This room is a great place to stretch people to think differently about the amt of stuff they own, storage organization, and function. As for me a room must NOT require I shove a bed to one wall to accommodate a chest of drawers or a desk. I also know some folks that would not consider a single bed for a secondary room (though the room may have been designed just for it). I cannot see people readily giving up the use of a chest of drawers and moving it all to a closet unless someone helps them to envision that. And as we have seen a desk is also sometimes needed though it could be in another space. I am thinking of this blurb: The bedrooms have good natural light and ventilation, a functional closet, and the size and flow (orientation?) can fit your necessary furniture without wasting space.****

    12 Bathrooms
    There are an appropriate number of bathrooms which have ample storage, continuous counters, and no supersized features, wasted space or other awkward elements. Except for the water closet entry in the ensuite they seem fine. I wish there were linen closets (is that just a thing of the past? Where do they expect you to store the towels and a few bed linens?) SLOW

    13 Study
    The study, if appropriate, is located in a private but accessible location and has good natural light and ventilation and properly sized to fit a desk without wasting space. There isn’t one. Though the first floor bedroom is a great candidate. We assume SLOW??? Need to make note or something to score an item as YES if it is not applicable. This way we do not throw the actual score off what it truly is.

    14 Laundry
    The laundry is located in an accessible but private location and has sufficient
    workspace in front of the machines that does not conflict with other uses. I do like the swing of the doors is into the hall. The clearance from the appliance is probably not enough but I will assume there is (I had one of these closet types with a three foot clearance and it was not enough- I had stuff spilling out- SLOW.

    15 Parking
    The spaces devoted to parking do not dominate or interfere with the working of the house or lot and do not restrict natural light and ventilation into the principal living areas. I think this is fine. SLOW

    So Option 1 is 12 mod. slow
    Option 2 is 9 mod. slow

    Wonder what tomorrow will bring.

  • Frank


    Regarding possible scoring methods for the test. Here is a suggestion for your consideration and comment. (As well as the team). Have you considered the option of a baseline of zero for each question and a plus one or two points for slow homes with a minus one or two points for fast homes. This would allow you to weight questions (one or two points each plus of minus) and questions that were not applicable or information is lacking would remain zero and not impact or influence the known elements one way or the other.

    Of course this would mean you end up with a neutral between moderately fast and moderately slow on your scale and the possibility that a home was neither fast nor slow. Fast homes would end up with negative total values and slow homes with positive values.

    Just some thoughts for consideration.