Thursday, April 27, 2017

Study finds that the average family use only 40% of their home's floorpan regularly.

This floor plan hasn't been afflicted with red chickenpox – it's part of a fascinating study into how the modern family uses their home, and it’s contributing to a new field called “Residential Behavioral Architecture.”

What you’re seeing is a “heat map” of foot traffic in one of the subject’s homes in Los Angeles, with each red dot showing a person standing or walking when they took a survey photo every 10 minutes.

The study originated when a UCLA research group used advanced sensors and cameras to follow 32 middle-class families around the first floor of their home over two weekday afternoons and evenings – prime time hours. The UCLA team was trying to track the patterns and use of residential space for today's family and this heat map of the subject group "Family 11," a typical family living in an approximately 1,300 square foot single family home in the Los Angeles suburbs, tell us a lot. 

Even a cursory glance reveals something important about the location of each parent and child on the first floor of Family 11’s home: they don’t use a whole lot of it.

In fact, the study found that the family’s movements were concentrated mostly in three rooms: the dining room, family room, and kitchen. In the case of Family 11, the dining room, kitchen and family room comprised almost half of the total square footage on the first floor, yet the other rooms remained virtually untouched even during prime traffic hours.

While the “hottest” imprint occurred around the kitchen cooking space, kitchen table, and between the computer and TV area in the family room, the living room was untouched except for a piano lesson, the dining room only had one person walk in, and same goes for the pantry/laundry room.

Jeanne Arnold, who ran the UCLA study, said, "The propensity for the family to aggregate near the kitchen with table space is almost universal" among all of the subject families and homes they monitored.

Even the outdoor front porch went completely unused even tough the weather was perfect in temperate LA at the time they family was observed. It’s estimated that Americans use their outdoor living spaces only 10% of the year, even when the weather conditions are welcoming.

In all, it’s estimated that of the 1,344 square feet on Family 11’s first floor, only 528 square feet was used regularly – or just shy of 40%.

This ensuing heat map was featured in a Wall Street Journal article about the book "Life at Home in the 21st Century," which documents the findings of the UCLA researchers.

The map doesn't just document our typical daily lives in a unique aesthetic but speaks to the patterns of how we're living in the 21st century.

For instance, the average home size was about 2,662 square feet as of 2013, but the average home was only 938 square feet in the 1950s. We also had more people per household in 1950, with 3.37 people/house then compared to only 2.54 now.

Even in the 1970s, we had larger family sizes and more people in each home, with 40% of the US population comprised of married couples with kids in that decade. These days, that number has dropped in half to only 20% of our population that’s made up of married couples with children.

But our homes are still big and bigger – even though we aren’t using even half of them regularly according to this study. In fact, 20% of American houses have four or more bedrooms, 41% have three bedrooms, and 26% have two bedrooms, and only 12% are either one-bedroom homes or studios.

With expansively larger homes comes larger lots and. As residential behavioral architects point out, longer commute times, a bigger carbon footprint and environmental impact, and a propensity to purchase things that we really don't need or use. That overabundance includes a whole lot of unneeded square footage that we're not even using, according to this UCLA heat map study of Family 11.

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How much of your floor plan do you and your family actually use? Conduct your own study by putting a notepad in each room on the first floor. Every time someone goes into that room, they are to mark a check on the pad. At the end of the allotted period (one afternoon/evening or one weekend day when everyone is home) add up the check marks, put a red dot on your floorplan graph for each one, and you'll be able to see how much of your space is being used.

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