Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect

Sun-inspired houses can be simple and economical, complex and expensive or anywhere in between.  It's an enjoyable experience to create a home that connects you to nature - the sun, sky, hills, trees, breeze and water on your property.

It's Interactive!

Sun Plans' interactive design process involves the clients extensively from the beginning. The architect believes that the most important elements of a home are already nestled in the hearts and minds of the expectant home owner. It's her job to help the home owner birth those ideas into real spaces.

It's fun!

Both home owner and architect have a lot of fun as they see a unique home design take shape! The owner sees how an idea of theirs can be incorporated into the whole. The bright and sunny interior, along with low energy bills, are icing on the cake.

It's affordable!

There are sun-inspired home design services for every construction budget.

  • The services adapt to the level of consulting needed by each client including those who are extremely detailed or inexperienced with design and construction.
  • The goal of the sun-inspired design services is to help home owners save money in both construction costs and operating costs.
  •  Typically, the total cost savings of the home would by far exceed the Sun Plans' architectural design fee in several ways. For instance, a right-sized home can easily save 200 s.f. or about $25,000+ in construction costs. (See Sun-Inspired Benefits for further ways that sun-inspired are cost-effective to operate.)
  • Create-A-SunPlan fees are far below those of a realtor when compared to purchasing a home of the same size.
  • With Create-A-SunPlan services, we recommend a planning budget of approximately 1.5-3% for architectural services. Contact Us for special pricing on DIY:KISS (Keep It Sunny and Simple) design for smaller homes. 
  • When buying a home, the 6-7% realtor's fee is built into the price of the home. When creating a sun-inspired design, a planning budget of the same amount to pay for a combination of all professionals is recommended. There may be a need for surveyors, soil engineers, structural engineers, HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning) consultants, HERS (home energy rater services) raters, or estimators. In addition, local verifiers are required for LEED for Homes, Passive House, NGBS (National Green Building Standard), Energy Star, etc. if the home owners desire to have the home certified to any of those programs.

The process typically takes 1-3 months, but can take longer. It is the most efficient (lower fees) when the process does not have to be stopped and started too often.

Local Professionals

When clients come to Sun Plans with a team - builder, home energy rater (HERS rater), HVAC and insulation subcontractors with experience in low-energy homes, the chances of the home being constructed to high-performance standards greatly increases.

Local professionals can assist the client along with Sun Plans during the planning and design process by providing assistance with estimating based on the local availability of various products and insulation. In reality, few clients have found those professionals when they start the process. That is ok. Sun Plans is accustomed to assisting with the selection of those professionals either during the design process or later with additional construction services if needed.

The Process

Although the Create-A-SunPlan varies with each client, as a rule it follows a path.  (Those who desire Sun Plans to help them select a pre-designed plan also start out down the same path.)

  • The home owners communicate their land information and house desires in the Create-A-Sunplan Planning Package/Questionnaire - not the same as the Adpat-S-SunPlan Planning Package). (Complimentary with any purchase starting with The Sun-Inspired House E-book.)
  • Review Chapter 5 - Custom Design Process: Architects and Options of The Sun-Inspired House
  • Architect then performs an extensive review of the owner's wish lists and information including the site. (See the categories under Services.)
  • Sometimes an existing design may be recommended at this point (even if the home owners did not ask for this option) and then the process can switch to adapting that design.
  • Architect creates house concept diagrams including 3D massing models as needed
  • Architect prepare proposal for design services.
  • Preliminary Design is developed showing furniture and other special details.
  • Optional 3D drawings show the ideas inside and out through colorful images. (The 2D Preliminary Design drawings communicate the design very well and cost less. This is done first. If the client still is not comfortable with the design, 3D services can be arranged, but this a substantial additional cost and takes a lot more time.)
  • Preliminary energy calculations.
  • Construction Drawings include more than the simple set often found in the house plan industry, but less than may typically be provided with full architectural services. (See Construction Prints.)
  • Custom Energy Specs are more than the simple specs often found in the house plan industry, but less than the bound spec book that often accompanies full architectural services.
  • Optional additional services, such as creating more schemes, 3D, extra construction drawings, coordination with structural and HVAC engineers, assisting with builder selection, consulting during construction, etc.
  • Sun Plans also strongly recommends that a local structural engineer review the plans, especially in areas with high winds, earthquake activity, high snow loads or unstable soils. Coordination with them can be a part of Sun Plans' services.
  • Sun Plans also strongly recommends that each client hire a third party HERS rater to help assure that the home is constructed to the Sun Plans specs in terms of the energy-related items. It's the best way to assure that the home will be the comfortable, low-energy home that it was designed to be.
Client Comments

Regardless of the size, budget or style of the custom designed home, one thing that Sun Plans' clients seem to share is enthusiasm for their new home. Conni and Craig looked through house plan after house plan. Being outdoor people and having three children on the downhill side of growing up, they sensibly realized that they only needed a small home. Unfortunately, there was not a small enough plan on the Sun Plans website to meet their needs and their budget. They could have "settled for" the relatively small first floor of an existing Sun Plan with around 1400 s.f., but instead chose to Create-A-SunPlan. They saved over 300 s.f. with a custom design.

That was almost $50,000 worth of first floor and daylight basement square feet. The Sun Plans' design fee was only a tiny fraction of that savings. That sums up a primary goal with custom design - to save the clients money in construction costs.  The operating cost savings (energy bills) of another $25,000 to $50,0000 are a bonus.


Conni was very excited after Sun Plans sent the preliminary design for their home: "Wow, wow, wow! We love the last set of floor plans you sent. They are perfect! We really can't think of a thing we'd change. I guess that means it's time to move on to the next step. Let us know what you need us to do and we'll get right on it. Thanks a million, Craig and I were visiting and know we never could have come up with this plan on our own.  You're great! :-)"
Later after they moved in, Conni shared: "...we LOVE it! It has performed amazingly well. We've had an exceptionally cold winter and it's so nice to come home to a cozy, warm house - often over 70 degrees Fahrenheit - when it's been below zero all day (and the heat is free!) After working on this house, our heating guy is sold on passive solar and highly recommends it to others. We're comfortable when just the 2 of us are home, yet the house handles crowds well too (30+ for a 4-H mtg/lunch, 16 for Thanksgiving, etc.) There was never a "breaking-in" stage; this house immediately felt like home.

"I could go on and one about our new house, but suffice it to say it has exceeded all of our expectations. We are very satisfied customers!" - Conni, French Cowgirl

Steve was a very involved client and enjoyable to work with.  "I figure if I am going to go through all the effort of building a new house, I really don't want the design of it to fall prey to unproven brainstorms by an inexperienced designer....Your point of custom design costing less than a typical realtor's sale commission is right on, but until you mentioned it recently, I had never made that illuminating comparison. Custom design may not be for everyone but I imagine that your typical client has more knowledge of the process and has some definite ideas about what they want. Once I realized I couldn't find anything 'pre-designed' to fit the bill, it was clear that custom design was necessary.
"As I mentioned, I started with two other architects in the past 7 years, but quit after a disappointing preliminary phase. I made my own efforts at design and that helped solidify my ideas and wish list but I couldn't resolve spending ... dollars on my own unproven house design. Hence, I went looking and happily found you! You have an excellent balance of the creative mind for solving design issues while keeping the technical details in mind. Sometimes, architects garner the reputation (fairly or unfairly) of drawing beautiful designs without consideration of how to build it. I found that you can provide both a great design as well as foresight into the engineering issues." 
- Steve, Adirondack Atrium

"Working with Debbie was easy, fun and extremely successful for us....this is the very first house that we have ever had built, and neither one of us knew the first thing about construction before the process started. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that Debbie made every effort to understand what we were looking for in a design and to help us better understand the important special aspects of passive solar design. We spent a LONG time filling out the questionnaire that she sent--and she paid attention to every detail. There were many changes made in the preliminary designs as we refined our ideas. Debbie was extraordinarily patient with our changes and questions, and the final plans were still produced by her with a minimum of delay. We exchanged LOTS of emails and phone calls, and actually didn't have the pleasure of meeting her face-to-face until we got to give her the tour."  - Pam & Paul, Solstice 

Read more Reviews with comments from home owners about their sun-inspired home and working with Sun Plans.

Ready to get started on your custom sun-inspired home?

Contact Us with the location of your land, your time frame and a few of your ideas!