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Free Green Floorplan
Free Green Floorplan

Stock house plans are as American as apple pie. Andrew Jackson Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis's publication of the pattern book "Cottage Residences" in the mid-19th century, for example, fueled the first nationwide romance for suburban living. And now, approximately 30 percent of all American homes are built from stock plans, says Free Green co-founder Ben Uyeda, "but most of the plans out there are very dated. So we try to sell things around contemporary themes."

Since Free Green launched in April 2008, customers have downloaded more than 47,000 house plans from the website. As a result, the Boston-based company calls itself "the world's largest provider of home design."

Uyeda says he and his team add approximately one new plan per week and the designs are based on housing and trend data. Styles range from Cape Cod cottages to Mediterranean-style mini villas (the website tell users which region is best for a particular house), with some jaunty modernist boxes mixed in.

The contemporary theme they all have in common is energy efficiency. When constructed correctly, Free Green homes beat energy codes by 30 to 50 percent.