Part 2 – 1900 sqft 2 Bedroom House, British Columbia

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)

1900 sqft 2 Bedroom House, British Columbia (PDF)
1900 sqft 2 Bedroom House, British Columbia (Main Floor)
1900 sqft 2 Bedroom House, British Columbia (Upper Floor)

  • BradW

    Big improvement. For the average person the simplicity is great but it does lead to problems…

    I would say that not all categories are of equal value. For example, a great location may compensate for small living space.

    The example here rated at 9 out of fifteen with yes given in 4 instances (a yes for no study and yes for unknown location, context, services). First off, chances of having green services are next to zero unless this home is located in the wilderness so surely this is a no. That aside, assigning unknowns a yes value skews the result in favour of slow. The true score here would be 5 out of 11 which would by percentage make this home moderately fast.

  • Murray

    Happy New Year to all.

    It is interesting to see how the checklist has morphed into the test based on the feedback from December. You folks work fast (in the good sense of the word)!

    I, too, questioned John’s lenient application of “Yes” rather than “No” for the unknown categories. This is, however, literally a take-home exam, so issues of location, services, and context would be answered realistically by the house hunter. Yes, our current theoretical exploration of the property skews the results, but out there in the real world I think this would be a valuable and fairly accurate tool to have while house hunting, along with a digital camera.

    BradW raises a valid point about equivalent value for each category – besides a complicated formula to weight various categories the only other way I could think to address this issue would be to introduce a lot more categories in the “House in The World” and the “House as A Whole” categoreis so that the “Room by Room” categories took on, relatively, less weight. Alas, this makes everything more and more fast (in the bad sense).

    One thought – I imagine the test will be available to print off from any potential sister site on the web, however, I am a dinosaur, so I would want to easily photocopy the test from the book and take the copy with me on my house hunting safaris – depending if it is a recto or a verso, spine margin, and location within the book this may make photocopying difficult,unsatisfactory and ultimately frustrating. You may (or not) wish to consider this in the book layout.

    I won’t be able to participate the in the way I would wish for the next few months, but, like so many others, I will be watching and learning from John, Matthew, and everyone else on a daily basis. Thanks.

  • Paul C

    Having followed along during the extensive review of the slow home checklist last year and I would say these changes are improvements. A test vs. a checklist, a Slow Home Scale and breaking out into individual rooms are all good changes imo. I agree with Brad W in that not all categories carry equal weight.

    Forgive me if I am repeating commentary previously discussed but I have a few questions. Should the room by room be expanding to include the outdoor room or maybe make them subsets of living and dining? (8a, 10a) Should there be a “materials” component of the test and should the exterior architecture of the home be considered fast or slow?

  • John Brown

    You bring up an excellent point about weighting. You are correct that not all the points are equal. We considered, and are still considering, weighting some of the questions more (basically adding in 5 more points to take the high total up to 20). The downside is that it becomes more complicated for people to work with if it isn’t automated as a web application. I also thought that perhaps we could add in a note that said that the score could be shifted up or down at the end of the test depending on the final judgment of the evaluator in order to compensate for these kinds of differences.

    We found it difficult to decide and so we decided to send it for some “testing” with the group and see what the feedback was.

    You also bring up a good point about the unknowns. This was the first time I had used it as well and looking back I think I might have been too lenient. Perhaps we need to add a line of text explaining what to do in those cases?

  • John Brown


    Thanks for the feedback.

    We conceived of the test as something that you would print off and take with you when visiting a house. While it could be photocopied from the book we will also provide it free of charge as a pdf file on the website.

  • BradW

    The House in the World categories Location and Services I think pay lip service to hot button environmental causes and have the least to do with design.

    I live in a typical midtown Toronto detached home. It is a very walkable neighbourhood with various businesses and public transit available at the end of the street yet I manage to drive 25-30K kms per year. My street is constantly filled with parked cars and traffic in the surrounding area is constant. Is my location slow or fast? It is expensive so I am going to say slow…

    Services used in my home are provided by the city. So are the services used by my neighbors. Except for the rare solar panel or rain water collection system, services are a given. None meet the Slow Home Service criteria here.

  • John Brown


    You touch on one of the biggest of questions – where do you stop the evaluation? Maintaining the consolidation of indoor and outdoor living was a really tough choice. We didn’t want to go beyond 15 questions for ease of use and I can’t see how we could eliminate any of the others (particularly because the room by room discussion already dominates the weighting of the score).

    In terms of materials and exteriors I have consciously left them out of the discussion right from the beginning of the site because I want to focus on the underlying structure of design and not have people get caught up with style. At this point, the design of so many houses is so bad that we really need to bring attention to these fundamentals first. Focusing just on the floor plan does this, although it certainly results in other, very important parts of the house, not being considered.

  • Terri

    I like this test much better than the checklist. It’s much more specific with an understandable grading system. However, I’m in agreement with Brad, Murray and Paul regarding the weighting of categories. It seems that the main guiding principles of Slow Home fall into the House in the World section. The simplicity and lightness of a home depend more on these elements being Slow, whereas openness does not.

    For example, with yesterday’s WWWTH the orientation alone made this house fast in my mind. Yet according to the test, it comes out moderately slow (of course that’s with the assumption that the first three elements are yesses).

  • John Brown

    Good point.

    At some level they are pretty simple in relation to the other criteria. However, I wanted to bring these issues into the design discussion somehow. I don’t think the average person would normally see that the choice of location and the utility provider can have an impact. For services I was thinking about making the choice between a conventional electrical service provider and one who obtains their power from a wind farm (that is an option that we have here in Calgary). It costs a bit more each month but it also reduces green house gas emissions. I agree that these two criteria are imperfect but not having them seems to be an even bigger mistake.

  • John Brown


    From a mechanics point of view, would you find the double weighting of some questions confusing and cumbersome on a paper based test that you self grade?

    I also have a hard time imagining how this could be indicated on the test in a simple, obvious, visually elegant way. Help anyone!

  • BradW

    I would also argue that the answers are not simply yes or no.

    In the end, all my arguments complicate matters too much. You have created a list of items which is consistent with your vision and have given people a simple baseline for making decisions. Despite my arguments, I would leave the test as it is but include a small set of suggestions to help deal with unknowns, weighing categories etc. and then leave it up to the individual to use the test as they see fit.

  • Paul C

    John, I had thought that maybe in the pursuit of “ease of use” some things may have been put aside for now. I think somewhere within the publication, some commentary of Slow vs. Fast on these two topics (materials and exterior architecture) should be included. While the material category could be somewhat straight forward I could see how the exterior “conversation” could get away on you. Maybe that conversation could be addressed at a higher level where Slow suggests a more genuine, honest, functional approach, Fast would imply tacked on, fake, disingenuous, contrived.

  • Terri

    I missed your responses to the others when I posted before. Maybe the sections could have their own scores and then a final total score which then determines where the home falls on your bar graph?

    Brad points out that in the city people don’t have a lot of choice with their services. That might be so, but within our homes we can make choices such as regulating the thermostat and using water-wise fixtures as well as modifying our daily behavior when it comes to consumption of energy. People need to consider these small decisions a little more, so it’s important to put more weight on these elements on your test. Even if people grade themselves as energy efficient and in truth are not really, at least the test forces them to evaluate that factor. Let’s face it, the issue has come up every twenty years or so for the last 40 years, and it’s not going to go away, especially now that there’s more mainstream thought on the subject.

  • Terri

    I’m still running behind the discussion and trying to play catch-up!
    As for the scoring I mentioned, maybe the first section needs 5 points each, the second 2 points each and the last a point each. That gives us a total of 33 possible with full marks throughout. How you would then break down the graph into the fast through slow continuum, I leave up to your discretion.;)

  • John Brown

    Good point. I think it should have a place in the book. Thanks.

  • John Brown

    I had a similar kind of scoring idea but kept running into a brick wall whenever I tried to indicate how it worked on the one page slow home test. It would be simple if the test was a web app that returned a score automatically. However, I think it also needs to work as a paper based test that you can print off and take with you when you house hunt as Murray suggests.


  • jim baer


    i think i would keep the weights all the same and allow the individual to make the qualitative distinctions.

    there may be many reasons to live in a given area…proximity to job, school, family, recreation, etc that might out weigh ones more over-arching concern for sustainability etc…

    we can’t do all things at all times, so at best all we can do is make as many good choices as often as we can. and if we make the choices that move us in a consistently good direction isn’t that a good thing?

    a few small thing on the Test Results:

    why does the graph say “moderately” and the text say “marginally”.

    score between 5-8: If this is not the case, and it IS a house ….

    score between 9-12: …can typically benefit a great deal from SOME sort of moderate redesign…

  • Jim X

    I think most of the changes to the Slow Home Test (formerly Checklist) are improvements. The simple Yes/No choice is clear, uncomplicated and easy to understand. Adding extra weight to certain categories is not a good idea partly because it makes the form more complicated.

    The Slow Home Test should cover a wide range of houses and apartments, from a rural setting to huge city and a wide range of individuals and couples with very different lifestyles and needs. I think it is better to lean towards simplicity so more people understand and use it.

    However I noticed one example of the subtlety in evaluating rooms in two recent “What’s wrong with this house?” One for Jan. 5, 2010 (3-bedroom bungalow in Arizona and another on Dec. 17, 2009 (3-bedroom bungalow in Tennesse). The bedrooms in both houses were remarkably similar. Two bedrooms were well laid out with a bathroom between them and a short hallway connecting the three rooms keeping these private areas separate from the rest of the house (John graded them ‘slow’) The two houses each had a badly-designed master bedroom each with the walk-in closet and bathroom. (both graded ‘fast’). In the Arizona bungalow the slow bedrooms trumped the master bedroom and in the Tennesse bungalow the ‘disaster’ master bedroom trumped the two decent ones.
    I mention this not to be picky but to show how small details alter the final Fast/Slow determination

    Jim X

  • BradW

    jim baer – well said…

  • Doug Roberts

    Sorry that I am coming into this discussion late, but I have two comments:

    WEIGHTING — I don’t think we can pre-assign specific weighting to the different questions in the test, because everyone will have their own priorities. What if we were to make the test more user-specifi by adding a column to the test with the heading “Importance” or “Priority” and let the user assign an appropriate ranking or point value to each question based on how important that question or aspect of a house is to them. One approach would be to ask the user to rank the questions in order of least important to most important, with the least important question being ranked 1st (and therefore worth 1 point) and the most important question being ranked 15th (and therefore worth 15 points). The total points available would be fixed at (1+2+3+…+15=) 120. Another approach would be to ask the user to assign each question a value of either 1 (not overly important), 2 (somewhat important) or 3 (very important) and then total the column to determine the total points available. One problem with this approach is that the total would not be a fixed amount (it could end up anywhere between 15 and 45), which would make it more difficult to set ranges that would tell the user whether a particular house is slow, moderately slow, moderately fast or fast.

    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.

  • James Scott

    Maybe there can be a space for personal additions or variations to the checklist. A work at home professional or someone who is dependent on others for assistance may view this list through different eyes.

    For some Parking may be better labeled as Transportation.

    Overall I like the test.

    On another note did anyone see the Contractors 101 article in the February 2010 issue of Dwell magazine? I do not have the copy with me but a small blurb to the Slow Home way of life occurs near the back of the article. Way Cool!