Inspiration: The Slow Home Movement

We’ve all heard of the Slow Food movement, the concept of shifting our approach to food from a focus on speed and convenience, to a focus on quality ingredients, careful preparation and enjoying meals as a family at the dining room table.

Well, over the weekend, I discovered that Calgary is at the centre of a Slow Home Movement. Calgarian John Brown is the founder of Slow Home. He’s a registered architect and Professor of Architecture at the University of Calgary. Brown is also a principal in housebrand, a vertically integrated residential architecture firm based in Calgary, Canada.

Brown reminds us that there was a time when houses were built by hand by the families that would live in them. Today, houses are built for sale. In the eyes of developers the best-designed houses are those that can be built quickly and efficiently with little consideration given to how people will actually live in them.

The Slow Home movement advocates shifting our approach to the building and renovation of homes. The three elements of Slow Home are:

1. Site and materiality, ensuring that the home is constructed in such a way that environmental impact is minimized, and that the materials used are sustainable and friendly to the environment.

2. Design and Make, ensuring the house is well designed for the people who will live in the home. Often home owners feel the need for bigger houses, but perhaps the issue isn’t size, but design.

3. How is it lived in? Organize the space and choose furniture to fit how the home owners will live in the home.

Brown offers seminars on Slow Home, Green Home design and Mid Century Modern design at the housebrand retail store (202 – 2212 4th St. SW) each week. The classes are free to the public and incredibly engaging and informative. In addition to the seminars, Brown also runs a design school on the Slow Home website that’s also free. The design school posts assignments Monday-Friday, and together with Brown (via a video feed) participants work through house floor plans identifying what the problems are and potential solutions, keeping in mind the elements of Slow Home design.

In a city known for its urban sprawl and McMansions, it’s refreshing to see other options, and so exciting to have this amazing resource right here in Calgary. For more information, or to register for the free seminars visit the Slow Home and housebrand websites.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009 by Lindsay Bowman
This post was written by - who has written 10 posts on styleNorth.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. KimC Says:

    In my area of the city the trend has been to buy up old bungalows and turn them into monster two and three storey homes. The footprint of the houses can’t grow that much so what you often end up with is a house that now costs $7-9 hundred thousand that would be awkward to live in. Viewing them at open houses (yes, Hooked on Houses should be my blog) I often wonder how a real family would live in one. You envision endless fabulous dinner parties but where would kids play on the main floor, etc etc. I love the idea of the slow home movement and hope it becomes incredibly successful. That so much information is also offered for free as well is just brilliant. Thanks so much for this post Lindsay.

  2. Lindsay Bowman Says:

    I totally agree Kim, we see the same thing in Calgary. Its so exciting and refreshing to see an alternative! After the seminar I walked around my own home, seeing for the first time all the wasted square footage because of poor design, frustrating.

  3. John Brown Says:

    Hopefully the “supersize me” trend has slowed somewhat given the current economic climate. Our cities have so many great established neighborhoods – close to the action, large lots, and streets lined with mature trees. The problem is that many of these houses don’t fit our 21st Century lives. The problem is not that they are too small as much as that they were designed for another kind of life – the 1950’s ideal of mom in the kitchen, dad in the basement shop and the kids in the yard.

    Ripping these houses down and replacing them just doesn’t make environmental sense. Almost every older house can be updated and transformed into a home that really fits the way we live now. But this usually means more than just replacing the bathroom and the appliances. With a few simple design changes the small rooms in these houses can be opened up into a larger loft living space with a great connection to an outdoor living area. The house isn’t any bigger but it feels bigger and works much better.

    We undertake design projects like this every week on the Slow Home site. We use the demonstration cooking model that Julia Child invented to teach basic architecture design skills. Using web based video streaming, we take our viewers through the process of how to analyze and then design renovations to these existing houses. The Slow Home Design School is a place for design enthusiasts to try their hand at the daily exercises before watching me complete them.

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