Can you help me find affordable blueprints or designs for a green home?
Several companies offer home designs and blueprints for green homes. Dream Green Homes and Free Green are two websites to get you started. You may also be interested in green prefab homes such as those by Michelle Kaufmann.
It is essential to consider the site orientation and to research green building strategies specific to your location. Here are the top three green features I believe you should consider in designing a home:
- The house should take advantage of the abundant sunlight in your area: not only can you install panels on the roof to actively make use of solar energy, but you can also design the house so that passive solar energy is utilized. The best way to do this is to place several large windows facing south to welcome the light into the house, especially in winter when the sun is low in the sky. This provides warmth and light in the winter, and with a properly sized overhang, it will still be cool in the summer.
- Insulation is an essential element of a green and efficient home. If you want to minimize the heat in your home during the summer (and maximize it in the winter), your walls and ceiling should be thoroughly insulated. We recommend applying insulation directly under the roof to stop the thermal bridging at the roofline. Polyurethane spray foam creates a full vapor and air barrier, has structural value, and will not offgas. Other green options for insulation include wool, recycled denim, strawbale, or formaldehyde-free batting. Check with your local building department for insulation requirements.
- Another great option for your area is to build with Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs), which are strong, durable, and good for areas susceptible to floods. If you’re building a two-story home, you can even do the first floor with ICF and the second with standard stick-frame construction.
If your home is designed efficiently, it is possible to reduce the amount of materials used. For example, it is becoming common practice to build a "great room"—an open space that includes the kitchen, living room, and dining room. Not only will this make your home feel bigger, it will reduce the materials needed for the walls of the structure. Smaller is better, not only in terms of the physical footprint on the land, but also because of heating and air-conditioning requirements. I find it helpful to reference these tiny homes to get an idea of how to maximize space.
For green design tips, you may want to visit Build It Green's website. Also be sure to check with local authorities about flood insurance, find out what type of flood zone the property is in, and look into FEMA standards.