February 6, 2009 / 5:03 PM / 10 years ago

McMansions irk neighbors by towering over them

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It’s not the columns or the sweeping driveways that irk neighbors about the huge modern McMansion next door — it’s the height, according to a U.S. study.

A study by Ohio State University found people particularly disliked the super-sized, modern houses known as McMansions that were sprouting up in U.S. suburbs as they were often more than two times as tall as surrounding homes.

“Participants in the study didn’t have any problem with large houses in general, but they disliked it when one house was significantly larger than the others on the block,” said Jack Nasar, professor of city and regional planning, in a statement.

Previous research by Nasar and colleagues found that about two-thirds of America’s largest cities are now home to McMansions and about 39 percent of these cities had new regulations concerning their construction.

But Nasar said there was still a question mark over exactly what to regulate as there was no accepted definition of what constitutes a McMansion or clear details of what people found offensive about them.

Nasar, who conducted the study with Arthur Stamps of the Institute of Environmental Quality in San Francisco, said this new study would help provide guidelines for communities trying to regulate the construction of these new types of houses.

The study, to be published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, involved six experiments in which 226 college students and other randomly selected residents of central Ohio responded to computer-generated images of various streets.

Some of the images showed McMansions of various sizes and styles mixed in with other buildings and respondents were asked to rate how much they liked or disliked how the block looked.

The results showed that the architectural style of a McMansion had the strongest effect on whether people rated it as compatible with the neighborhood and visually appealing and found it particularly offensive it was much larger than others nearby.

Nasar said he was surprised that people didn’t start rating blocks significantly lower until the McMansion was at least twice as big as the surrounding homes and for participants in the study, size mostly related to height.

“While relative height mattered, people did not react as negatively to homes that were significantly wider than those of the neighboring homes,” said Nasar.

“We found that communities should try to maintain stylistic consistency and limit the size of new homes to less than roughly twice the size of the neighboring houses. Those are the factors that seem to concern people most.”

Editing by Patricia Reaney

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