The Design Basics’ team is committed to safeguarding the health of our employees and clients. Please click here for an update on operations moving forward.

What Does Green Mean For You?

As a Nation, We Can Do Better

building green headerAccording to the U.S. EPA, the average home creates more pollution than the average automobile. It’s not surprising there is increasing interest in building environmentally responsible homes, and today it is possible to build “green” without sacrificing aesthetics or livability.

Following is a brief introduction to various aspects of building an environmentally-friendly home and links to helpful articles. Currently, there are several green building initiatives, but it appears consolidation is happening around the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Program. For more information, visit

Reduced Energy Consumption

Perhaps the largest environmental impact is achieved by choosing to build an energy-efficient home. Better insulation, windows and doors can help you create a “tighter” home, reducing air leakage in and out of your home. Similarly, energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling equipment, water heating and appliances can significantly cut energy use. By building your home highly energy efficient, you can help conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides) by thousands of pounds per year.

Homes designed with windows on two sides of rooms increase natural light levels and can reduce the need to turn lights on. Opening those windows ushers in natural cross ventilation, lowering dependence on air conditioning. Large covered porches provide relaxation and considerable shading, too.

Reducing energy consumption may also be one of your best performing investments. Often, spending a few dollars more per month in a tax-deductible mortgage payment can be more than offset by lower utility bills. And as energy costs continue to rise, your future savings will be even greater.

Resource-Efficient Product Choices

Choosing to build a home with engineered wood (e.g., I-joist floors, trusses, etc.) from managed forests instead of traditional lumber saves old-growth forests from being harvested. More durable products, such as siding and roofing backed by a 50-year warranty are also environmentally responsible, as they won’t end up in the landfill nearly as quickly as their traditional counterparts. Paying attention to product content is another important factor. Carpeting made from recycled plastic water/soda bottles is one example.

Homes can be designed around standard building material sizes to maximize efficiency. Carpeting often comes in 15’-wide rolls, so designing a family room to be 15’-6” wide means seaming two pieces of carpet together and often generates waste. Streamlined structural systems require fewer steel beams, structural headers, etc.

Water Conservation

A water-saving dishwasher can reduce water consumption enough to provide all of a household’s drinking water. Some clothes washers save enough hot water to accommodate your bathing needs. Water-efficient toilets and showerheads will make a big difference and “home-run”-type plumbing systems can deliver hot water faster, helping you avoid wasting gallons of water waiting for the shower to “warm up.” Another important consideration is landscaping. Choosing native and drought-resistant grasses and plantings can minimize water used for lawn irrigation.

Minimizing the negative impact homes have on the environment is critical. While home plans themselves are not necessarily 'Green', simple choices in the home’s design and selection of environment-friendly home products can make a huge, positive impact.


building green page

Building Green

Green building can improve indoor air quality, an issue of particular concern to women because of its link to asthma and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children as well as heart and lung problems, headaches, and blurred vision.

Read the article...

building green page

Life at Home
The Paybacks of Energy Efficiency

Totaling up the costs of building a new home can be intimidating. For most of us, it’s one of the most expensive things we will do in our lifetime. Consequently, it’s often necessary to scale back some dreams and make compromises along the way. But one of the places it’s important not to cut corners is energy efficiency.

Read the article...

More Articles on Aspects of Green Home Building

tame your utilities

Tame Your Utilities

When you’re thinking about building a new home, the location of the plumbing, heating, and cooling systems probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Or the second. But if easier maintenance, greater comfort, and lower energy bills sound appealing.

It’s worth giving some thought to where these systems go and how you’ll gain access to them.

Read the Article

silence is golden article

Silence is Golden

Your home is a factory. It has all the equipment and processes of almost any factory: fans, blowers, pumps, cleaning and laundering, waste disposal, heating and cooling, refrigeration, even accounting.

Unlike a factory, your home should also be designed to provide a calm, livable environment – one that maximizes comfort and minimizes intrusions, both from the outside world and from within the home.

Read the Article

breathe easier article

Plan Now to Breathe Easier Later

If you’re like most who plan to build a new home, you probably have specific ideas of what you’re looking for in an elevation, floor plan, amenities and even color schemes. But have you considered choices you can make now to ensure healthier air quality in your future home?

Read the Article


National Association of Home Builders National -

American Lung Association - Health House

A Healthier Home with Healthier Paint

A Healthier Home with Healthier Paint

Many construction materials are made with formaldehyde, which off-gasses for several weeks to several months, contributing to that “new home smell” which, unfortunately, is quite unhealthy. Sherwin-Williams™ Enhanced Harmony® interior paint has “Odor Eliminating” and “Formaldehyde Reducing” technologies to help reduce the levels of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air from potential sources such as insulation, carpet, cabinetry, fabrics, and other building materials according to the manufacturer. Unlike most paints, Harmony paint itself is a zero-VOC formula and contains anti-microbial agents to resist mold and mildew from building up on the paint’s surface.

To learn more, visit:

Value = Practical + Aesthetic

Value = Practical + Aesthetic

Recessed “can” light fixtures solved the issue of evenly-dispersed illumination throughout a room that a typical light fixture suspended in the center of the room could not achieve, and eliminated having to clean those suspended lighting fixtures. But, recessed can lights are notoriously “leaky” in terms of air movement through the ceilings and associated energy loss. Then there’s the fact that the ceiling framing lumber will dictate where the can lights can and cannot be placed. And while tall ceilings are known for adding drama, that drama shouldn’t extend to changing those hard-to-reach recessed can light bulbs!

ilumigreenWafer-thin iLumigreen LED Downlights look and perform just like recessed can lights, but there’s no recessed fixture and therefore no cutting the ceiling and no energy loss. Rather, these 3.5 ounce downlights simply screw into the ceiling drywall, meaning you can place them anywhere you want. Choose from straight down or angled lights for cathedral ceilings; black, white, or satin finish; and color temperatures ranging from warm white to cool white to daylight. And because they are LED, they will last a very long time while using less electricity.

Stylish innovation that’s kind to Mother Nature and just makes sense…it’s not surprising that iLumigreen is a woman-owned and woman-led company!

For more information, visit:

Homebuilding Gets an Energy-Efficient Makeover

Homebuilding Gets an Energy-Efficient Makeover

John Gerlach, a retired military civil engineer, purchased the Design Basics' Amanda plan and worked with our designers to make desired alterations, such as moving the master bath and bedroom for added privacy. But, the changes that really make his home stand out are the ‘green’ ones.

design-bascis-gerlach-home-re-sideDrawing on his background in civil engineering, Gerlach was knowledgeable of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and the process for a home to be certified. Stationed in Europe for four years, he became familiar with the energy- and cost-efficiency (and comfort) of heated floors. He started with incorporating a reinforced concrete basement using #4 and #5 bars* for durability. By installing a reverse geothermal* process (provides both heating and cooling of the home), solar panels, and a gas fireplace, monthly utility costs were substantially reduced--his last electric and gas bills were each just $17!

The planning began in June of 2013, with construction completed in early 2014. The result is a beautiful home with enviable energy efficiency. And, the home, which was built in Niagara County, New York, is now rated Silver LEED-certified and qualifies for zero or reduced county taxes for up to nine years!

Interior of Master Bedroom and Bathroom within Gerlach residence

As mentioned, Gerlach worked with Design Basics’ plan alterations specialists to flip the layout of the master bedroom, placing the bathroom and closet to the rear, and swapping out the whirlpool tub for a spacious walk-in shower.

Dining room of Gerlach residence

Interior view of dining room, living room, and stairs within Gerlach residence

While all floors on the main level are heated using the geothermal system, only the fireplace is powered by gas.

Design Basics' home plans are designed with buildability in mind. Search our plans, and check out other alternative building methods that might be the right fit for you!

*We do not endorse construction materials suppliers; this reference is for educational purposes only.

How to Make Your Bathroom More Eco Friendly

The bathrooms in your home can be a central location for overindulgent use of natural resources, excessive waste and the use of toxic chemicals. This is why building or transitioning to an eco-friendly home often begins with the bathroom. There are several approaches to achieving this goal and can range from the elements that make up the bathroom to cleaning methods and product selection. If you are ready to turn your bathroom into one of the most sustainable rooms in your home take some of the following tips and suggestions into consideration.

Conserving Water

This strategy is likely the most effective way to enhance the eco-friendly quality of your bathroom while also cutting down on costs. While there are certain habits that can bring down water use, such as replacing leaky faucets and taking showers instead of baths, there are also changes you can make to your bathroom to conserve water as well. Some of these strategies include:

water efficient toilet

Installing a low-flow shower head

Doing this has the potential to reduce your water consumption by up to 50 percent.

Install motion sensor faucets

Water is often highly wasted at the bathroom sink. Most people tend to use more water than necessary when brushing their teeth or washing their face and hands. One way to reduce this waste is to install a motion sensor faucet. This type of faucet will track when you need water to flow to avoid water running unnecessarily.

Retrofit or retrofit your toilet

Toilets consume more water in the typical home than any other appliance including the washing machine and shower. High-efficiency toilets can save 20 percent more water than older toilets. If you don't want to invest in new toilet it is also possible to retrofit the existing one by installing a controllable flush handle that gives users the options to use different amounts of water for either liquid or solid waste.

By incorporating these items into your bathroom you will save a significant amount of water in addition to drastically decreasing your water bill.

Keep the Air Clean

The bathroom is often subjected to excess humidity, which can result in mold and cause allergies, asthma and other breathing and health problems. Since the bathroom is usually the most humid room in a house it is a good idea to install proper ventilation equipment. By allowing the moist air to be pulled out of the bathroom it will be difficult for mold to grow. This reduces the need to use bleach or other harmful chemicals.

Placing oxygen-producing plants in the bathroom can also be beneficial for the bathroom. This strategy not only reduces humidity but also helps to absorb indoor air pollutants. Good plants for the bathroom should not need direct sunlight and only require light watering.

Green Flooring

If you are considering remodeling or building a new bathroom there are several eco-friendly options to choose from. They can be made from recycled products or other types of green flooring material such as:


This is one of the best-selling green flooring materials on the market. In addition to its pleasing appearance, this material is more durable than many hardwoods and is resistant to water and mildew.


This is an eco-friendly alternative to the more expensive store flooring. Concrete is considered to be a green material since it already exists under many bathroom floors. Homeowners who uncover and use this sub layer create less of a toll on the environment. If the concrete is restored and sealed properly, it is a relatively low-maintenance and green flooring option.


This flooring material is gaining popularity not only for design purposes but also for its eco-friendly properties. Linoleum is hypoallergenic and is biodegradable and easy to recycle. Additionally, it is a resilient material that requires minimal care, is water resistant and is available in a wide range of colors.

Eco-Friendly Products

There are a whole host of options when it comes to purchasing green products for your bathroom. From hand soap to bath towels just about every object in your bathroom can be more eco-friendly. Some of these items include:

Recycled Toilet Paper

There is often no noticeable difference between toilet paper made from recycled products and virgin toilet paper.

Green Shower Curtain

The typical vinyl shower curtains may be resistant to mold but they also release more than 100 toxic chemicals into the air. For this reason it may be a good idea to trade in your old vinyl shower curtain for one that is less harmful to both you and the environment.

Natural Cleaning Products

Many popular bathroom cleaning products contain bleach and other harmful ingredients. Opt for a green cleaning brand or natural household cleaners such as vinegar instead.

The elements that make up your bathroom as well as the products you use within it can largely be made more eco friendly. By purchasing green and certified organic products you can ensure that your bathroom routine has a reduced impact on the environment and is a safer setting for your body. Buying green and sustainable products also supports more ethical business practices. Once you have completed the process of building or transforming your bathroom it will be a space that will contribute to the wellbeing of your home, health and the environment.

Pin It on Pinterest