FreeGreen, an online library of over 52,100 blueprints for affordable, green home designs, is an amazing place to spend a few hours.
As noted on the Fast Company blog, 30 percent of residential builds in America come from pre-bought house plans that cost in the ballpark of $2,000; enlisting an architect drives that price up substantially. FreeGreen allows anyone to download a house plan for free whether they're looking for inspiration or actually planning to take it to a contractor. There’s also a perk-filled Premium Membership that costs $19.95 annually.
As someone who isn’t building a home but enjoys sustainable architecture, FreeGreen is a rather dangerous — in a good way — website where getting lost for hours and hours is totally possible. When blogging about the FreeGreen-sponsored The Chain of EcoHomes Competition last September, an entire Sunday afternoon disappeared.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to check out FreeGreen’s Who’s Next? design competition that enlists the general public to help pick the website’s next featured green home design that’s under 1,800 square feet. The competition started with 400 plans submitted from designers the world over and has been whittled down to 12 finalists. Until April 5, you can vote on your favorite of the dozen. Not only will the winner have their design featured on FreeGreen, but they’ll also win a cash prize. Public votes will count for 50 percent of a design’s score with the rest coming from a jury of architects.
Here’s a bit more about the Who’s Next? competition:
Freegreen.com is challenging you to develop affordable green home designs that fit contemporary lifestyles. There are a lot of people who want a new home but don’t want a generic suburban McMansion. The American dream is not one size fits all. Our dreams are changing, and FreeGreen is challenging, you, the residential design community, to develop new ideas for people who don’t dream of the generic.
The single family home is the most commonly built building in America, but less than 5 percent of the homes built in America have direct involvement with an architect. The challenge of the Who’s Next competition is to re-envision the typical suburban home in an ecologically conscious manner that also reflects today’s modern lifestyle.
Everyone wins. Materials companies get advertising that's more targeted than anything else — a big allure, since these firms previously had only a vague sense of how to reach their potential customers. (Ads in places like Dwell or Metropolis don't really cut it, because so few of the people reading those magazines are actually in the market.) Consumers win, because the plans are free (membership to access some of the plans is fairly cheap; full-on custom homes are as little as $1,900). And the green movement wins, because the specific ideas — and the potential benefits — find their way away from just rich people and into the broader market.