Study: Open Floor Plans May Expand Waistlines

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2016

Open floor plans are in demand in today’s housing market. But listings lacking one may not be hampered after all. In fact, if a new study is right, you might even turn that closed floor plan into a selling point: Its results suggest that open floor plans cause home owners to overeat, which in turn could make them gain weight.

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Easy access to the kitchen in an open floor plan could prompt more visits to grab something to eat, the study suggests. Researchers in the study, recently published in the journalEnvironment and Behavior, found that participants in an open floor plan made about 10 percent more serving trips than participants in a closed floor plan scenario. Each time they got up to snack, participants ended up consuming an average of 170 more calories in the open setting plan than in the closed floor plan.

"Open kitchen-dining area floor plans remove visual and physical barriers between humans and food," says study co-author Kim Rollings, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. "Our results suggest that people may eat more in a dining area with direct view of and access to the serving area, versus a separate dining space. … In order to reduce food consumption, results suggest that serving areas should be placed out of sight from diners. Diners may also choose to eat in areas facing away or separated from buffet-style serving areas."

For the study, Rollings and co-author Nancy Wells, an environmental psychologist from Cornell University, tracked the eating behaviors of 57 college students in two dining scenarios: one in which they had a direct view of the food-serving area (an open floor plan) and another in which they did not have direct views of the kitchen (a closed floor plan).

Rollings says that open floor plans may be great entertaining spaces by putting the kitchen on display, but she suggests architects may want to rethink their design approaches given that too much openness of a kitchen and eating areas may prompt people to overeat.

Source: “How Your Open Floor Plan Could Be Affecting Your Health,” Chicago Tribune (Sept. 23, 2016)