Part 2 – 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 (PDF)
Slow Home Test Results (PDF)
Slow Home Test (JPEG)

Slow Home Test Results (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)

  • Paul C

    The posted SH Test and SH Test Results pdf/jpeg appear to be the non-graduated versions.

  • Terri

    As an advocate for weighted responses for your test, I’m looking forward to seeing how the graduated version of your test looks (as Paul says, we can’t see it yet).
    Also, your example today is most confusing. For Fast Services you’ve put a 2 in the Yes column; yet for a Slow Context, you’ve put a 1 in the Yes column. Are these two elements weighted differently, or is there just an error?

  • Jim X

    Hi John

    I have a couple of comments on the weighted Slow Home Test.
    - Your scores for the Massachusetts Town House seem to be the same except the new weighted scores are about twice the old Y-N score.
    - I think both Parking and Entry should have a higher weight. The Front and Back Entry are the first part of the house we see and the experience can be a seamless transition or an awkward and confusing one.
    Parking is also important because of the large volume a one or two-car garage takes up. A good solution makes the rest of the house more workable and a bad solution will impact other areas and the liveability of the house.

    I’ve mentioned before I prefer the simplicity of a Y-N Test, although the weighted system seems to be transparent.

    Also related to 1-Location and a walkable neighborhood — I came across a site that allows users to type in an address and the site calculates a percentage score based on the home’s distance from various businesses and amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, bars, parks, libraries. (The scoring is complicated and is based on distance from the address and uses an algorithm which I don’t understand)

    Jim X

  • BradW


    You have spent a great deal of time on this site complaining about entries and garages so I am surprised that these categories are weighted a 1. I would make Services a 1 and increase Entry to a 2.

    Regardless, if this townhouse is slow then somehow I think the Slow Home test is flawed and misleading. The sum of its parts does not make it whole. Even assuming great materials and workmanship, this townhouse completely underachieves. If one of your first year architecture students designed something like that I would suggest he/she transfer into accounting.

  • BradW

    Jim X

    Cool site. My walk score is 91/100.

  • jim baer


    i think the weighted version is clear, understandable and easy to use.

    i would still advocate for a non-weighted test that would allow the user to interject their own qualitative judgements on what is important to them.

    i guess, essentially what you have done, is weight the outcome so it reinforces the slow home criteria. unfortunately this may bias against rural living, even if it excels in all other categories.

  • jim baer


    i going to have to disagree with you on this one. this house should fall into the slow range.

    townhouses should already have a leg up on detached housing, because of the inherent density. and this one is well oriented, well organized and well located (per slow home criteria)

    and, it is not nearly as bad as many of the layouts we have seen. if a first year student got this close to a good design, i would encourage them to keep up the good work!

  • BradW

    jim baer

    The stair design and the resulting hallways waste about as space as the average size NY apartment. Given the perimeter of this space, I seriously doubt you would design it this way. And to your argument, poorly designed density is called a ghetto, organization is a soft category at best and location is a function of money having nothing to do with design. I respectfully agree to disagree. :)

  • jim baer


    NYC in general and brooklyn in particular went through an explosion of growth during the late 1800′s. subsequently, many neighborhoods are filled with similar, if not identical, housing. over the years, the fortunes of these neighborhoods have risen and fallen. some are now the most expensive and some are not. some are ghettos, some are not.

    i would contend that the design and density of the housing has less to do with an area being labeled as “ghetto” than do many other factors.

    in fact, some of the dreariest, ugliest housing i have been in were in the most expensive, most desirable, densest neighborhoods. these neighborhoods would not fit most peoples definitions of ghetto.

    again, we will have to agree to disagree :)

  • Terri

    jim b.
    Re: your comment that a “non-weighted test that would allow the user to interject their own qualitative judgements on what is important to them.” Within the weighting system, can’t a person still decide that a fairly fast element– for example, Services–could be given a slower number because it’s not something this person cares about? We all make different value judgements on what matters, even while filling out these tests.

    I like the weighting because some elements really do make a big difference. A bad orientation can grossly affect how the house functions, regardless of an efficient design within that structure. If we don’t weight such elements, then the result is an over-simplification, because too much emphasis (by way of equal scores) is therefore given to details that have less effect in regards to following the pure SLOW principles.

  • Tom

    Jim X .. Thanks for the walkscore site, it’s great. Improved my opinion of a house I’m looking at, turns out amenities in neighbourhood are closer than I thought.

    I like the weighting, I was disturbed that some things that are minor and local had as much affect as something pervasive. I think people will fiddle the weights and priorities to their opinions. For example, i want to live close to downtown ( Toronto ) but my job is near the airport. I’ll be commuting no matter what, but a good location will enable me to enjoy city life more. I’ll evaluate location by my priorities, not other peoples’.

  • Doug Roberts

    John — As per the comments I posted (late) on Tuesday’s blog regarding on the weighting issue, I still feel that the weights should be assigned by the user to reflect his or her own priorities instead of being assigned by us and therefore reflecting our collective priorities.

    I look forward to next week’s “search for the slowest homes in the world”!


    PS: My Calgary neighbourhood only scored a “somewhat walkable” 58 out of 100 on — I thought it would have done better than that, but at least it didn’t fall into the dreaded “car dependent” category! ;-)

  • Paul C

    For ease of reference, I wonder if including your definition of Slow Home somewhere on the test/results would be beneficial?

    A Slow Home is SIMPLE, LIGHT, and OPEN. It is simple to use and fits the way you want to live. It is light on the environment and your finances and has open, flexible spaces that have a strong connection with the outdoors.

  • jim baer


    you might be swaying me on this some…. however…..

    i agree that some factors are harder to change than others. location and orientation perhaps the biggest.

    and we certainly always make value judgements….

    but because of the weighting system a well oriented house in the country, i.e. not in a walkable neighborhood, is already a couple of points behind.

    all of the rooms in my apartment face north. not ideal per the slow home criteria. but over the years i have learned to like the consistent light i get. even on cloudy days i usually get enough light to work at my desk without artificial lighting.(it does help that i am higher the building to the north of me, so i get a lot of sky) i don’t know if i would discount a new apartment merely because it faced north.

    and the test as it is assigns a value to the yes, that sways the results, regardless of ones own preference.

    i am just saying, let the test taker enter the value judgement.

  • Elizabeth

    I like the headings: The House in the World, The House as a Whole… they work for me.

    I also like that some categories have different weights. I’d also bump Entry up to 2, and take Services down to 1.

    Services are going to have to be very explicitly described. Somehow I don’t recall seeing a section on this…? “Conserving water use” is, I think, primarily a choice by a home’s inhabitants. Taking shorter showers, and yes, purchasing low-flow toilets and high-efficiency W/Ds. But these appliances are not part of the house structure or design. You don’t have to perform a renovation to buy a front-load washer. I’d be really careful not include things that people may or may not choose to do. Or things that people will check off as a “Yes” because THEY do it, not because the house being evaluated is particularly great in that area.

    However, I’d suggest high-quality insulation is essential for both cold and hot climates and has a huge impact on the amount of energy used, green or otherwise. I guess I imagine that for a house to be a Slow Home, it would have to be “high and dry” and well insulated for starters, then other elements of design etc.

    I think much of this has come up before, but that’s what happens, I guess.

    I also usually wonder where people are going to store their vacuum cleaners.

  • Anonymous

    Elizabeth – Agreed…

    If the Service category is about energy efficiency then it is more a function of build specification and quality than energy provision. The amount of insulation, correct building wrap and vapor barrier installation, HVAC choice, plumbing, window quality, door quality, major appliance selection, etc. all have an enormous affect on energy use. An ideal Slow Home would be as energy efficient as possible but I think John starts to tread on thin ice when lifestyle is preached. Things like recycling, turning the water off when brushing your teeth or taking shorter showers should have no place in this book.

    The vacuum cleaner comment is also classic because, although storage comes up in the discussion from time to time, it is rarely adequately provided for in the WWWTH examples or in the design projects.

    jim baer – And we had been getting along so well…:)

  • Mid Mo

    I started to craft a response before dinner and nice to see more now.

    As someone that also has issue with the house to the world section (see yesterday part 1 comments) I also see weighting as a solution BUT…

    Value is subjective. People will question why one is weighted more than another, you will have to explain your reasoning, and they still may not agree. When a realtor works with a client or someone meets with a builder they come up with a list of wants. Most of that is driven by stage in life and lifestyle. Location? Do you use your kitchen or eat out? Personally I care more about the entries then the bathroom. I am fine with a mega sized bath or the 5*8. But I would never purchase a place without a front entry closet (a young family of 4 in a two bedroom requires a closet).

    We need to give our slow home client some freedom of choice but we need to make sure within them- it is slow. You can do it a few ways. Thinking …

    In each section you will determine which items are important to you. In the YES column place a number from 1(least) to 3 (most). The sum of these points may not exceed the section total. Go through all the test questions to evaluate the design of the house noting any benefits or issues with the design. The Slow Home Score is the sum of all the Yes answers.

    First you need to indicate which items are important to you. For each question place a number from 1 (least) to 3 (most) in the Yes column. Place the sum of these numbers in the “X” box. Next answer all the test questions to evaluate the design of the house noting any benefits or issues with it. When finished add all the YES values and place it in the “Y” box. Proceed to Result and Summary Page.

    (On the Result and Summary page there is a chart. You would have them do the math for the weighting (have them round this number) and compare to their Y box number for results.)

  • Terri

    jim b.
    I think we’re more in agreement than we may have sounded earlier. Your apt with its north exposure turns out to have large enough windows that there is good natural light, so you might not count orientation as a problem when you did the test on your place. Have you tried using the test to rate your home? I live in a fairly rural place, 5 km from town and though there’s a community bus or easy biking, it would probably come out as car dependent on However, I get full marks for renewable energy source and a great context (mostly forest) and a southern orientation, so the Location part being a No didn’t affect the score so badly, coming out at a 10 total. Of course, my interpretation of a dining room, etc. could be different than another’s.

    Mid Mo,
    Your idea sounds like it could work. I’m having a little trouble visualizing how the form would be structured, but basically it sounds like a good way for each person to personalize the use of the test. It seems that this is the desire that has risen to the surface now–how to make the test personal and flexible yet still easy enough to use.

  • jim baer

    i am afraid that we may be heading off on a tangent and missing the fundamentals.

    i think the criteria and checklist and test and WWWTH are all about a process that teaches people to look and see and think differently about the houses they choose to live in. and subsquently make more informed, and in our opinion, better choices in the future.

    as they learn and look and think they will become more facile with the process and more confident in their opinions and will decide for themselves what does and does not work for them and where they will draw the line in the sand on what is and is not acceptable.

    if we get bogged down in scores and marks and weights, we run the risk of seeing the trees, but missing the forest.

  • Mid Mo


    Taking the test on my present rental would be interesting. It’s in an “old” building (I laugh when others consider late 60′s OLD).

    sorry about the lack of visual and I missed placing the word OR between examples and did not state these are examples. I meant to provide TWO ways one could address the weighting.

    Weighting within a section we would list a number next to the section name.
    OR Client is in charge of weighting all items.

    John, coming to Toronto? Sure some of us would love to meet up.

  • John Brown

    Paul C, Terri, Jim X, Brad W, Jim Baer, Tom, Doug Roberts, Elizabeth, and Mid Mo,

    Thank you all for the very thoughtful and informative discussion today. I have been preoccupied with the final preparations for the launch of the new site and haven’t had a chance to get to the site until now.

    There are some good points raised about the weighting and the “house in the world” categories.

    Fortunately, there is still time for a couple of last minute “tweaks” to the Slow Home Test before it is deployed in the project. I will post the revised version as a comment in tomorrow’s segment.

    Mid Mo – We will be coming to Toronto in about 2 months.

  • Elizabeth

    I agree with Jim Baer.

    The test is designed to objectively evaluate a house, according to the Slow Home principles. It’s there to help make an decision to purchase or renovate (or be smug!), again, based on the Slow Home tenets.

    It’s not there to help you decide what house YOU like best, based on customized categories. Anyway, the test does not include every aspect of a home design and construction, which you’d need to provide if this were a test of what an individual homeowner values. For example, it doesn’t include all the stuff Anonymous mentioned up there: HVAC, plumbing, R-values, windows etc.

    People will just happen to like different features etc. This test gives them objective information about how the house works on a Slow Home scale.