Week of December 11, 2009

Barcelona Student Video

  • Elizabeth

    John, Good to see you back!

    Guess I blew it on assuming you were using a 5-point scale. Couldn’t see any other way that you’d assign such a slow rating to that second house. Y’know, those skating judges are always in trouble.

  • MJ


    I have a bit of an “issue” (for lack of better word) with the way the houses are ranked. I understand that a slower home equates to a lower number and a faster home equates to a higher number but we’ve been taught from an early age that 10 on 10 or 5 on 5 is the best grade you can get. So showing a home rated at 2 on 10 for example as being good goes against what we’re used to. Any thoughts on that?

    Could there be a more intuitive way of rating the houses? What if colors were added in some sort of scale (as shown in the image). We’re all used to “red” meaning “stop” and “green” meaning “go”. What do you think?

  • Terri

    Welcome back, John! It’s a good thing you were in England after Spain, to help get gradually acclimatized to getting back to our recent blast of winter temperatures.

    I noticed on your Results PDF that my cranky “lightning speed” comment came up as my assessment of house 2; my true total was 8.89. It probably doesn’t affect the group totals anyway.

    While trying to evaluate these homes I found some of the Rules of Thumb less helpful than others. Elizabeth noted on the last one how the kitchen checklist could lead one astray. I’m having trouble with the indoor/outdoor living checklist. It seems that this is where you were evaluating the living rooms, usually, yet the ROT list is more general, talking about all “interior living spaces.” And having “a connection to an outdoor living space,” as we saw in house 3 can be a tenuous connection. A Slow Home should have a direct connection to a usuable outdoor living space. This is the kind of clarification that could make all the ROT checklists more useful (IMHO).

  • Terri

    MJ, I like colours: red for stop, green for go and amber in the middle for caution. However, this might compete with the logic of the Slow Home logo…

  • Sherry

    I had the same problem with the lower number being slow (better) and the higher number being fast (worse). I kept wanting to give high numbers when I thought something was good and had to really think through whether I had gone the correct direction each time that I assigned a score. I’m sure that it’s something I could get used to quickly though.

  • Elizabeth

    I like the counter-intuitive (as Terri called it) nature of the “backwards” scale. Makes you think, and someone else referred to “thoughtfulness” of slow home design. I think it all fits.

  • John Brown

    Elizabeth, MJ, Terri, Sherry,

    This is a good discussion about the scale. I am not sure that there is a conclusive “right” way to think about ascending or descending values. We may just have to pick one and go with it. As Sherry, says, once it is defined it shouldn’t take too long to get used to it.

    What do you all think of the idea of just having a fast / slow distinction for each of the individual elements and reserving the 10 point scale for the final conclusion. I thought it might be easier for a newcomer to the system to understand.

  • BradW

    John, I think that it is fine having the fast/slow distinction for each category and using the 10 point ranking scale for the final conclusion. BUT, when you assigned the overall ranking you confused the group. You gave house 2 mostly slow rankings in the categories and then assigned it a 4.5 which tends to be on the slow side of the scale (1 being very slow, 10 being very fast and 5 being indecisive). You need to clarify the ranking scale if it is not going to be linear.

    I think Terri, Sherry and Elizabeth make some good points about the checklist. The thing is, people are going to interpret these items literally and that has caused confusion. I have maintained that the checklist works best as a guideline for discussion. It still requires some experience to get it right whatever right is. For example, are indivdual points equally wieghted or are some more important than others? What about general categories verses room specific categories? Do overall flaws get accounted for twice? What if a problem is easily solved (ie. a door swing)?

  • Murray

    More later, but for now – is it just my computer>? – but I cannot view the students’ video. Thanks.

  • JimG

    Zero being slow, and ten being fast makes sense to me, look at a speedometer.

  • Murray

    How pitiful is this, but I re-evaluated the 3 condo plans using a 4 point scale, along the lines of: slow, somewhat slow, somewhat fast, and fast – these had equivalent numerical values of 1-4. I was anticipating a change, but it turned out that my results were essentially the same for each of the 3 plans as when I used the 10 point scale. The difference, for me, was that the fewer choices made each decision seem a bit more “important” and a bit more difficult.

    In the evaluation exercises most participants chose to give each of the 9 parts a mark out of 10, then average them to come up with an overall fast/slow rating. This averaging was only possible if we gave each of the 9 parts equal weighting. John has previously mentioned a weighted scale where certain factors will have a greater impact on the final analysis and any type of numerical “grade”. This makes more sense than weighing each area the same; as John has said, the kitchen is probably more important than the laundry room or the bathroom.

    Getting involved with weighted categories may be beyond the mathematical abilities of many people who would like to participate in this type of quantitative, yet subjective-though-informed, analysis. I think this type of weighted category evaluation may need to be part of an interactive website. The evaluators would be able to simply plug numbers into a form, then the computer would calculate the numerical result – 0.20A + 0.20B + 0.15C + 0.10D + 0.10E + 0.05F + etc = X/100.

    I suggested to John, earlier, the possibility for the individual to create a personal priority list, so that the weightings take into concern their own needs and desires. In the above formula A, B, C etc. would be the ordered elements in the individual priority list rather than those prioritized by SlowHome. Again this may have to be dealt with by an interactive website where an individualized priority list with weightings is generated, and then out pops the answer.

    Back to the scale we have been using most recently. Even if we had all operated as did John with fast, fast, slow and then coming up with a value between 1 and 10, I still don’t understand John’s 4.5 with plan #2. The majority of sections of his analysis were marked fast, so, to me, that meant the house was fast. On a scale of 1-10, for me, fast means 6-10, and slow 1-5, and John’s 4.5 puts it in the slow end of the scale despite his criticisms. John explained his 3 numerical evaluations by saying that none of the 3 plans was all that bad, but that #2 was the least “not bad” (double-negative, I know).

    I am concerned about how I (and others, I think) may have started to believe that there is a magic number that is going to tell us which house to buy. I know this is absolutely not the intention of the checklist, and so I wonder if a numerical evaluative scale should be considered at all. If I had not felt “obligated” to give a numerical analysis I, too, may have come up with the general concept that, yes, overall plan #2 rates as fast, but still it is not all that bad. It would then become a reasonable option if I was trying to decide between the 3 condos on offer. Because of my overall numerical rating – 8.5 – I dismissed it out of hand which then limited my options to the remaining 2.

    Up to now the evaluative process has been highly theoretical – viewing a floor plan versus walking through architecture are two very different things. It would be an interesting experiment to visit an open house, checklist in hand, and see how it plays out in reality. That said I think I will wander around my own house and consider it within the parameters of the checklist – I already know it is fast, but how fast?

  • Terri

    I think the fast/slow grading is a much easier concept to master. I chose some numbers rather arbitrarily (especially on the fast side) since I didn’t have a clear idea in mind what those numbers represented to me, ie, 6 means it’s not too bad because the central issue was minor, or 7 means it annoyed me more, whereas 9 or 10 meant I wanted to discount the place out of hand because of more than one annoyance or my pet peeve was evident.

    So, rating each category fast or slow is okay but then to give a numerical total, I might still have the same problem as I’ve outlined above. Though, with plan 2 of those exercises, it was to me a clearcut case of fast and therefore I’d automatically give it a 9 or 10 to reinforce my overall negative feeling (unlike Murray, I think I’d WANT to discount it completely and never consider it again).

    Murray’s analysis of the grading system is very apt. If you were to tie this website in to the checklist by offering a complete numerical analysis (with weighted categories and/or needs list), you would also be providing more tools for that person, because he/she will find so much more material to consider by checking out this site.

    I realize that you may want the book to be a stand-alone product. However, a direct tie-in between your book and the website would fit with newer publishing practices.

  • Terri

    Forgot to say…I also can’t view the Barcelona Student Video.

  • Jim X

    Hi John

    Welcome back to frozen old Canada.
    Although I used a 10 point scale, I think the two categories – Fast and Slow – are the best system. It is easy to understand, but sometimes harder to apply because it is either one or the other. One has to spend more time thinking about the qualities that make a home slow or fast.
    I think the 10-point scale, especially when decimal points are introduced (5.5) gives a sense of great precision that doesn’t really exist. For example a score of 5.5 means, in theory, that one is choosing between 5.4 and 5.6. Was there a basis for that choice? Probably not.
    The rating and the checklist are not scientific structures in a grand scheme of classification, but a tool, or a set of tools for doing something. The ‘something’ is helping a home-buyer to evaluate a series of homes. The tool works because it is easy to understand and use. Adding complexity doesn’t make the tool better.
    As the Texas 2-bedroom, condo series illustrates, three homes in the same area with similar sq. footage can be very, very different, and the checklist and scoring helped me to see that.
    I have been looking at condos in my own area and the actual visit to the show suite is often misleading because the rooms are brilliantly decorated (track lighting, rich dark wood to contrast with shiny silver surfaces). One overlooks the mechanical systems in the triangular-shaped walk-in closet.
    However the checklist and a set of plans highlight the problems and positive features of a building without the distraction of surfaces.
    PS. I couldn’t access the video.

    Jim X

  • MJ

    I see what you mean with competing with the logo Terri. I think doing the fast/slow (or maybe fast-average-slow)evaluation for each element and assigning the grade point at the end would simplify the process. I think the simpler it is to evaluate the houses, the more people will be able to use it.

  • MichaelG

    Yeah, it seems like the student video has been taken down from youtube. Too many hits from the slowhome clan?

  • Grace

    Trying to catch up a bit! Next time, the crypta, John! Can anyone help me locate the student video? Thanks–Grace