Frequently Asked Questions

Why are homes built from architectural designs less expensive to construct?
Architect-designed homes are not only more beautiful, comfortable, and functional than standard homes. They can also be less costly to build!

When building a new home, the most significant factor in overall cost is square-footage. Whatever your family’s needs and desires, you still have a budget to stay within, and a certain amount of land to build upon. Architects have to deal with these issues every time they design a new house, so they use their training, experience and ingenuity to be as efficient as possible with interior space and exterior dimensions. The result is a home that fits a family’s needs, but with no wasted space. A (typical) reduction of 10 to 20 percent of necessary square footage, without any sacrifice in actual living space or comfort, makes a significant impact on the total cost to build.

Also, home plans created by licensed architects (which can contain up to 20 or more pages of information, instead of the 6 pages found in most stock plans), provide much more detail. With stock plans, the builder and/or engineer still has to provide quite a bit of information prior to construction, adding to your overall cost to build, and delaying the start of construction.

How do architectural designs differ from “stock” plans?
You may be one of the growing number of people who want a home that has the quality and craft that architectural plans can provide without investing the time and/or money necessary to have an architect create a custom design for you. To quote Sarah Susanka, author of the highly acclaimed book “The Not So Big House”, you may be someone who wants “the quality that comes with the Ralph Lauren or Liz Claiborne label, without having to hire Ralph or Liz themselves”.

Until recently, people wanting to build a new home have had just two choices: hire an architect, or purchase one of the tens of thousands of generic stock plans available in magazines and on the internet. Now there’s a new and exciting alternative that provides the quality of an architect-designed home for the price of a stock plan.

First the definitions: Architectural designs are created by licensed architects, for specific clients, enabling them to build a one-of-a-kind home. Because these homes have actually been built, we are often able to display photos of the exterior and interior of the house. The original plans cost tens of thousands of dollars to create (5 to 15 percent of the total cost to build). Stock plans are created by designers to sell to builders, developers, and private parties. You will rarely see photos of the finished home (a computer-generated illustration of the front of the home is all that is normally available. And the plans cost nothing to create other than the designer’s time on his or her computer. Both types of plans include enough information (floor plans, elevations, foundation, cross sections, etc.) to enable a builder to construct a house. But the similarity ends there.

It starts with the way they were created. Architectural plans are the product of hundreds of hours of conversation, interpretation, design and drawing. A family with specific real-life needs works with the architect to translate those needs into a beautiful and functional home design. Neighborhood surroundings, climate, soil and personal aesthetic are all taken into consideration. A design is created from scratch to fulfill that family’s dreams as well as their requirements.

But our dreams are often larger than our bank accounts, so a large portion of the architectural design process involves highly efficient use of space and resources to help their client stay within their budget. Serious thought is put into the size and location of rooms, doorways, stairs and hallways, and into choosing construction materials, fixtures and building techniques. The reduction in necessary square footage that results from efficient design provides a significant lowering of the overall cost to build. The architect’s training, past experience and ingenuity are all employed to satisfy his or her client’s needs and desires without going over budget.

Architectural plans also provide much more detail than stock plans. It is not unusual for architectural plans to have 20 or more pages of drawings and technical information (compared to the 6 pages of information typical of stock plan sets). The builders start with much more information, saving them quite a bit of time and effort that they would otherwise have to bill for. The additional pages are also filled with all of the architectural details that are missing in stock designs, providing the features that make the home’s interior unique and visually appealing.

Lastly, there’s the aesthetic difference. Architects often refer to their drawings as the “artwork”, and the homes created from them are often as much sculptural as structural. Interiors and exteriors express a quality of thought and ingenuity not found in standard designs. Architects go through extensive education and training to be able to think and design in 3D, creating spaces that are balanced in scale and proportion, and that provide views and natural light. The result is a home that is beautiful, efficient, functional, and comfortable. There is nothing generic about architect-designed homes. Each is unique, and each has character. We are proud to represent an ever-growing number of award-winning architects, and the exceptional designs they have created. Hopefully one of their home plans will fulfill both your needs and your dreams.

What makes a home healthy?
A healthy home is one that incorporates healthy design elements, non-toxic building materials, and proper construction techniques. It “breathes”, emits no toxic gasses, and is resistant to mold.

Our criteria for a healthy home include the following attributes:

  • Reduction of exposure to chemicals (such as formaldehyde in insulation and particleboard; volatile organic compounds in adhesives, sealants and paints; and pesticides, fungicides and heavy metals used to treat wood) through use of non-toxic building materials and products.
  • Mitigation of mold and rot by employing proper building techniques and materials from foundation to roof.
  • Utilization of passive airflow, daylighting, and fresh air exchange through proper placement of windows and doors.
  • Location of areas of high toxicity and combustible materials (such as the garage and utility room) away from bedrooms and primary living spaces.

The benefits are homes that are safer, quieter, more comfortable, and require less maintenance. A healthy home is also more energy efficient, and therefore incurs lower monthly operating costs.

Why should I build a healthy home?
New homes are constructed with products and materials that are either made of, or have been treated with, a whole host of dangerous chemicals. But you can now build the same home with high-quality, durable, non-toxicproducts and materials, at no additional cost.

The EPA has stated that the air pollution levels inside the average new home in the United States is 2 to 5 times worse than the air pollution levels outside! Indoor air pollution from dangerous (and often toxic) chemicals has been linked to the dramatic rises in childhood asthma and respiratory diseases and chemical sensitivity. Relatively few of the chemical compounds used to create or treat conventional building materials have been tested for their effects on humans, and almost none for their effects on children. Many of the most dangerous compounds (e.g. pesticides, mildewcides, urea formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, chromated copper arsenate ) are commonly found in conventional building materials. The energy crisis we experienced in the early 70’s lead to the construction of airtight homes and office buildings that keep heating and cooling costs down, but also trap these chemicals inside with us! Paints, carpets, insulation, caulking, adhesives, composite wood products, soil treatments, and fumes from natural gas appliances all contain toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, there are a number of natural VOCs and other toxins, like molds and radon, found in most homes due to poor construction and design.

The question should really be “Why not build a healthy home’? If you could protect your family’s long-term health and financial assets, without spending any more to build your new home, why wouldn”t you? Non-toxic alternatives to conventional products and materials are now produced by most major manufacturers, available everywhere, and cost no more to purchase. And mold is preventable, eliminating a potential threat to your family’s health and your home’s value. For these a other personal and financial reasons, we believe it makes no sense to build anything other than a healthy home.

At Healthy Home Designs, we believe your home should be a sanctuary. It should be a safe, comfortable, inviting place to retreat from the stress and pollution of the everyday world. While it is challenging to build a home that is completely free of any pollutants, using our Healthy Construction Guidelines (included with every plan we ship) will drastically reduce the toxins in your home.

Cost to build is a crucial factor in your decision-making, so it is information we would like very much to provide. However, there are so many variables in home building that it is impossible to answer this question accurately. Labor and material costs vary greatly from state to state and from community to community; the kitchen and bathrooms are by far the most expensive rooms to build, so the choices you make can affect costs dramatically; site accessibility, type, and soil content affect preparation costs; local building codes and requirements may push construction costs up; and lighting choices and finishing details will have a significant impact as well. The national average is $110 per square foot, but in different parts of the country costs can range from $50 to more than $250. To get a better idea of the cost to build in your area, we suggest that you call at least two local builders with established reputations and ask what their range is. But if you need a precise estimate, or an actual bid, you will need to meet with a builder, show him or her the property, and give them at least one full set of plans. You can speed up the bid process quite a bit by giving them four sets of plans, allowing them and their major sub-contractors to review them at the same time).

Can plans be modified?
All home plans can be modified, but if the changes are structural, you should have them made by a licensed architect or structural engineer. All changes should be approved by your local building authorities before the start of construction. If you intend to modify the plan you have selected, be sure to order the reproducible copy, as this master copy is erasable, and will reproduce clear copies after changes have been made.

Does it cost more to build a healthy home?
We are pleased to report that most healthy materials now cost no more (and sometimes less!) than conventional products, thanks to increased demand and production. Labor costs may rise slightly if the builders are not familiar with the materials or with healthy building techniques, but even then the total increase is typically just 1-3% of total cost to build. Energy savings alone will make up for the extra cost in just a few years, and provide significant savings thereafter. In addition, the real estate industry currently estimates that a healthy house is 5-15% more valuable than a conventionally-built home, providing a substantial gain if and when you decide to sell. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the health and well-being of your family, and the avoidance of costly medical bills in the future, are the best reasons to build a healthy, non-toxic home.

What is the refund/exchange policy?
Since blueprints and vellums are printed in response to your order, we are not able to provide refunds or make exchanges for these items.

What areas are included in Total Square Footage calculations?
All heated living space, except for basements, is used in the calculation of total square footage. Basement and garage sizes are listed separately. Porches and decks are not included in the total. Square footage is traditionally measured to the outside of the house. If measurements are to inside walls it is noted in that plan’s Detail page.

Can I order more blueprint copies after receiving my initial order, or order a reproducible copy after purchasing a single (study) set?
After you purchase at least a single bond copy of one of our plans, you may reorder additional copies as often as you like, whenever you like. If your original purchase was of a Study Set, which comes stamped Not For Construction, all additional copies you order come with a license to build, and are not stamped.

You may also order a reproducible copy of a plan after purchasing a Study Set, and we’ll discount the price by the amount you paid for the single set!

How long does it take for my order to arrive?
We are usually able to process orders in two business days or less. Our standard shipping is by Priority Mail, which normally takes two or three days to arrive. We also offer two-day and overnight shipping by Fed-Ex.

Are there any site limitations (narrow lot, hillside, etc.)?
Our plans were originally drawn for a specific site, with specific characteristics, but land and/or plans can almost always be modified so that the design you want can be built on the land you own. Check under Specifications on the Detail Page to see what type of lot the home was designed for, and what types it can be modified for. If you have a narrow lot, be sure to check the footprint of the home, and its orientation.

Does climate affect my choice of a home plan?
Occasionally, but most often it just affects construction decisions and techniques. For example, if you want to build a house that was designed for a hot and dry climate in a region with severe cold and snow, the plans would have to be modified to provide thicker exterior walls, more insulation, a different HVAC system, and protection against freezing and moisture. Your builder will know about local requirements and conditions, and should be able to make the necessary changes.

How do I find out if the house I’m considering has been built in my area?
In order to protect their clients’ privacy, our architects and designers do not release this information.

Is my credit card information secure?
Completely. All orders are processed through our secure servers. These servers automatically encrypt your confidential information in transit from your computer using the industry standard encryption protocol known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) with an encryption key length of 128-bits (the highest level commercially available). Your encrypted credit card information is sent electronically to the secure servers maintained by a Payment Processing Company, which are heavily guarded both physically and electronically, and are not directly connected to the Internet.

If you have any questions, please contact us. You might wish to visit the portion of our site titled About Our Plans (you’ll find the link on the left side of our Home Page) as well, where many other important questions are answered.