University of Calgary

What’s Wrong With This House?

UToday HomeMay 10, 2012

Book by EVDS professor John Brown reaches third spot on Calgary’s bestseller list. Photo courtesy John BrownBook by EVDS professor John Brown reaches third spot on Calgary’s bestseller list. Photo courtesy John BrownEVDS architecture professor and associate dean (research and international), John Brown, says too many people live in badly designed houses. Too many houses have rooms that don’t get used, kitchens that are hard to work in, living rooms that are difficult to furnish, and front entry spaces with no closets. There are supersized houses and those that, in spite of their actual size, feel too small and cramped.

Brown and Matthew North’s book, What’s Wrong With This House? offers a practical guide to avoiding these problems. Based on the ‘slow home’ design philosophy, the book lays out real-world, down-to-earth design advice that focuses on the substance of the way a house works rather than on its superficial appearance.

The slow home movement began in 2006 when John Brown, Matthew North, and Carina van Olm wanted to create a critical response to the poor design practices that pervade the mass housing industry. They wanted to advocate for a more thoughtful approach to residential design that improves the quality of daily life and reduces the impact on the environment.

“Houses are too important to be so badly designed,” says Brown. “They’re the biggest financial investment most people ever make. They comprise the majority of the land area in our cities, they have an enormous environmental footprint, and they’re our most intimate of places—where we raise our children and nurture our souls.”

In the book, John Brown and Matthew North use example projects from their many years of architectural practice to demonstrate how to evaluate the design quality of a home and make it simple to live in as well as light on the environment.

“Good design isn’t just for the wealthy,” says Brown. “We believe that everyone can, and should, live in a well-designed slow home.”

Brown is a registered architect and a licensed real estate broker. In 2009 he received a Leadership Award from Residential Architect in recognition of his work to increase public awareness about the value of design.

What’s Wrong With This Home is available online through