Effects of open-plan housing on perceived household crowding among families with children

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Virginia Tech

The purposes of this study were (a) to compare open plan housing to semi-open and closed-plan designs on perception of crowding and reactions to crowding and (b) formulate a theoretical basis for explaining housing and human behavior. The objectives were to determine (a) if the number of people who could occupy open-plan housing without feeling crowded would differ from the number who could occupy semi-open or closed plans and (b) if the crowding accommodation time and reactions to crowding would be influenced by floor plan design. Analysis of Variance statistical techniques were used.

Forty-five women who worked outside the home and occupied households of four or more persons with at least two children under the age of 18 were were randomly assigned to one of the three floor plan groups. Three identical models constructed with varying degrees of openness to 1" = 1'-0" scale represented the public areas of a dwelling approximately 1,150 square feet in size. Figures and furniture were constructed to the same scale. Subjects independently placed figures in the models in four typical family activity scenarios until one more figure was perceived as one too many. The scenarios, which represented goal-directed and non-goal directed activities, varied in the level of social interaction that was anticipated.

After figures were placed to simulate crowding, subjects were asked questions related to their attitudes and responses to crowding. At the .05 level of significance, subjects placed fewer figures in the open plan model than in the semi-open and closed plans when given a scenario in which low levels of social interaction (privacy) were desirable. Significant differences were also observed among the four different scenarios. When scenarios represented goal-directed behaviors, fewer figures were placed, accommodation time was less, and reaction to crowding was greater than when scenarios represented unstructured social activities.

The results suggest that small dwellings constructed for families with children should have some division of space in the living, dining, and kitchen area to support low-social interaction and goal-directed behaviors. Further research is needed to determine if uncontrollable high social interaction within a dwelling reduces goal-directed behavior.