By Julie Bonnin

If you’re in the market for a custom-built home, there really isn’t a reason not to build green. Who doesn’t want a smaller utility bill? Or to leave a reduced carbon footprint on your corner of planet Earth? FreeGreen, a web site with free green home designs, allows users to browse a listing of green house plans that range from strikingly modern to suburban friendly. Alternatively, you can plug in your dream house must-haves – number of bathrooms, covered patio and so forth – to see more targeted designs.

Better still, the folks at FreeGreen – a group of designers and engineers — have announced a contest they say they hope will open up a dialogue about what constitutes a green home from the homebuyer’s point of view. To do that, and perhaps to also get more people connecting to their site, FreeGreen is giving registered members a chance to win $25,000 by describing their green dream project. FreeGreen will select the entrant who offers the “best, most practical and most exciting green home ideas,” then help the winner realize construction of their new home. A house plan based on the winners’ ideas will be posted on the site.

“For years architects and designers have been prescriptively defining this idea,” a FreeGreen blogger writes. “What they have missed was that this is not a problem with prescriptive solutions. The market must tell us the tolerance for costbenefit around energy saving, what green products seem affordable and useful, what styles work best, etc. Without this we will not have mass market acceptance, and without that we have nothing. We want all of you to tell us what you want to see, which systems are most interesting to you, what passive solar design techniques look the best, etc. “

A few of the general requirements for entering the FreeGreen Custom Design Home Contest: Entrants must own land and be prepared to build a home in the U.S. within 6 months from the end of the design process and be willing to share their design process, story, and finished home photos with other FreeGreen users. More details are on the FreeGreen site.

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