Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Slow Home Movement in New Jersey New Home Construction

The "Slow Home Movement," pioneered by John Brown, architect, realtor, and professor in Calgary, Alberta, is gaining momentum with builders.  The philosophy of home design that emphasizes livability and sustainability. It’s about building a home that works for the occupants.

Brown explains, "“You can think of the typical cookie-cutter house as being like fast food—often supersized and designed to satisfy our craving for beauty.  It’s a house that’s designed to seduce us into buying by feeding our fantasies of a more glamorous life, not one that’s necessarily easy to live in or easy on the environment. 

"A slow home, on the other hand, is reasonably sized and carefully designed to support its occupants. It might have an entry where family members can easily take off their boots, stash their keys and store their backpacks, for example. It might have a living space that encourages people to talk or read, not just watch television or surf the Internet. It’s energy efficient, filled with natural light and designed for easy flow among rooms and access to the outside. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be easy to live in." 

Visit his Slow Home Studio or read his book, What’s Wrong With This House? Fast Houses, Slow Homes and How to Tell the Difference, for more insight into his ideas.

Brown isn't the only advocate for sensible building.  Architect Hallie Bowie of Akron, Ohio, uses a similar philosophy.  She sees the movement as a marriage between green building and the “not-so-big-house” idea, a concept championed by architect Sarah Susanka.  At its heart, a slow home is really about good design, she said. “It seems to me the slow home has a real values kind of focus.  Its design grows from the occupants’ emphasis on the quality of time they spend with family and friends, not on the quantity of their possessions or their desire to impress people."  A family who wants less emphasis on television, for example, might create a viewing area that’s separate from the great room,  A family who wants to interact more with neighbors might have a front porch.

Brown feels slow homes eliminate the little annoyances that tend to add stress to our lives, annoyances such as entries without closets, bathrooms that open directly to living areas, or laundry rooms so close to the back door that people are constantly tripping over laundry baskets when they enter.

Author Shannon Honeybloom envisions a slow home as one which creates an environment that supports your goals for how you want to live or raise your family.  She explains, “I think the reality of life these days it that life is really fast-paced." She advocates creating a way of life and a home that put less emphasis on instant information and entertainment and more on encouraging interaction, imagination and learning.  Home elements that could achieve this might be a backyard garden, a computer room separate from the children's play room, or putting the TV in a cupboard so the doors can be closed.

Ideally, Brown said, a slow home would be designed from the start by an architect who takes into consideration the occupants’ interests, needs and habits.  But he adds that you can "slow" an existing home with gradual changes made by an understanding of what inside your home is causing stress.  While older homes, designed before the 1950s, were "simple" and created to "work for the occupants."  But in the last 60 years, homes became "products" designed for quick resale instead of livability. 

Basically, the slow home movement is a way of helping consumers get homes to better serve their needs.  Call or email me to find builders here in Mercer County NJ and surrounding areas who will work with and listen to you.

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Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor

Find homes for sale using my new mobile app. Just text JOEG to 87778 and you will be sent download instructions. Once installed on your device, you will be able to do searches and see complete listing details including photos and prices. If your device is GPS enabled you will also see the listings on a map. (Data rates may apply.)

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