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Frequently Asked Questions
When planning to build a sun-inspired, passive solar home there are hundreds of questions to ask! If the question is not seen here, elsewhere on our site or in The Sun-Inspired House, please Contact Us. For detailed questions that require research or complex answers, such as those that relate to a specific climate or to a particular Sun Plan, please consider one of our numerous fee-based Consulting Services with the architect.
Can you add more, smaller house plans?
The only time that Sun Plans adds house plans is after a home owner first commissions Sun Plans to Create-A-SunPlan or Adapt-A-SunPlan for them. Like the home owners of our small designs, we hope that at some point you too will have confidence in our ability to Create-A-SunPlan for you. Typically the architectural fee (that is much less than a realtor's fee if a home was being purchased) is justified in the construction cost savings of a right-sized home in addition to the long-term energy savings. Please review what other small-house clients have had to say.
Can you let me know when you have new plan added to the website?
Yes! Please sign up for the Sun Plans E-Newsletter to be notified of newly posted house plans. (Sun Plans will never share your address with others.) While not all custom designs developed by Sun Plans are added to the website, approximately five to ten are added per year.
I'm having trouble deciding where to start!  Should I be looking at Select-A-SunPlan, Adapt-A-SunPlan or Create-A-SunPlan?
First it is suggested that a list be made of your requirements in terms of square footage, bedrooms per floor as well as the compass direction that the front of the home should face.  (Don't have your land yet? You can still look and purchase the smaller Study Plan, but suggest that you not invest further til the land is purchased in order to keep your house plan options wide unless you plan to select the land based on the plan which is possible.) Then start looking for one of our existing designs. You may find that one works perfectly! If not, you may find one that can be adapted slightly. If no plans show up, then it's time to consider Create-A-SunPlan.
You can't go wrong starting with Create-A-SunPlan first since then we will have the most complete info from you.  Sometimes after reviewing that detailed list of requirements, we notice that a adapting an existing design not previously considered may be the quickest and least expensive way to arrive at a customized Sun Plan for you!  And since not all sun-inspired designs are posted on the internet, there could be another one that meets your needs has already been created by Sun Plans.
Also, if you are having trouble arriving at the square footage requirements, that is another reason to start with Create-A-SunPlan. The Sun Plans' architect can help you define the square footage with smallest possible square footage being a primary goal.  Like above, we may then be able to recommend an existing Sun Plan.   
We would like to visit some of your completed homes. Can you tell me where the closest one is?
As an architectural firm and not a building firm, Sun Plans does not have model homes nor agreements with home owners to require them to open up their house for tours. However, Open House is a feature that allows home owners who choose to share photos and comments to do so. With those who engage Sun Plans in Create-A-SunPlan services, we can occasionally arrange for a private tour of a nearby home if there are enough similarities in the home that you will be constructing.
Do you have any photos of the following plans that I am interested in?
If we do, they can be found under the Photo or Open House tab for each particular house plan. Sun Plans relies on the generosity of home owners for photos. They may be sent during construction or after they move in (sometimes years later after the decorating and landscaping is completed). Study Plans have been created of each design to allow a more detailed view of the design. These documents were enough for the original client to commit to building the house; but if that is not enough for you to better visualize the home, Sun Plans can create a 3D rotating model of the house through our Consulting Services. Some customers like this better than photos since they can select their own design colors and materials.
Can you help me find a builder in my area that has built one of your homes or is willing to follow your plans?
At this time, we do not keep a database of builders, but it is in the long term plans since we have encountered some very good builders that usually welcome posting of their contact information. If you know of a builder who has constructed a Sun Plan, please have them contact us.
We are not a large company with houses in every county, so the chances of a recommended builder being in the same county where you will be building is very small. Plus, few clients report back on their builder, which would be a further requirement prior to us recommending them. By all means request that we research builders for you as part of any Consulting Services provided. The extra time searching for a qualified builder can be well worth the effort and it is never too early to start!
To begin selecting a builder, you do not need to have your house plans first, although if you do, that may be a point in your favor. Even a Review Set of a house design that you are considering will place you in the "more serious about building" category, which may increase the time they spend with you initially.
What are a few quick tips to choosing the perfect lot on which to build?
The so-called "perfect lot" for a solar home would have as few restrictions as possible. A sunny south side or solar easement is critical. Few trees would shade this south area in the winter, and there would be no tall mountains or buildings on the south that would shade the south wall of the house in winter.
Privacy is usually wanted on this south side, because of the many windows, so look for land where a neighbor cannot build to the south or one where your house can be set further back to avoid this. The number of south windows makes land with great south views ideal also.
Land that slopes to the south should be selected for those home owners open to having living areas on more than one level, since placing extra bedrooms not used daily in a sunny lower level tucked into the hill will save more energy than the same spaces placed on a second floor.
If a large front porch is high on the list of must-haves, avoid land where the front of the home would face south as the porch would block solar gain. This applies to homes in the hot south as well. However, porches work very well on the east and west since they can also shade the house from the morning and afternoon sun in the summer.
Land that requires the front of the home to face north typically provides the greatest flexibility with passive solar homes. That allows for a full front porch and the majority of the open, sunny rooms to be on the south.
Can you please give me the phone number or email address for the home owners so that I can contact them about anything they would have done differently or how their house is performing?
While these concerns are justifiable, the response is complex. Sun Plans' home owners who wish to share do so by sending us photos and information that can be posted on our web site under the Detail tab for each house plan or in Open House, which was created to showcase exceptional examples of information and photos. With input from our past clients, we have developed a confidentiality agreement that allows them to share without giving out personal information. For Create-A-SunPlan clients, we can provide email addresses of others for whom we have created custom homes of similar scope with the intention of inquiring about Sun Plans' design services.
Sun Plans is typically not hired to provide services during construction so we may not be aware of changes made. If the home owner recommends design changes, we may incorporate the suggestions into the plans if we feel it is something that future customers may like.
The combination of a particular house plan, construction type (trusses, rafters, basement, slab, SIP, and/or ICF), land slope, views and general climate make it nearly impossible to transfer recommendations from one climate and house plan to another). The decisions are much more complex and interrelated than most realize. Everyone makes at least minor changes during construction, and those who have ordered our CAD files may have made substantial changes.
Custom Specs with construction orders make particular recommendations and suggested options for your climate for that particular house plan. Then, an experienced builder and third party home energy professional will help further adapt for the inevitable decisions that come up during construction. Have detailed questions about a plan before you build? Engage the Sun Plans architect in any of the numerous fee-based Consulting Services where particular concerns are addressed.
Why does plan "XXX" house plan have the "XXX" feature?
The variations on this question have been endless! Every Sun Plan originated from a custom client who may have requested unusual spaces and features. Unique solutions often evolve as a best option when considering the hundreds features to be considered when designing a home.
I just have a few quick questions for the architect, can I just call and talk with her instead of going through one of the Consulting Services?
A very understandable request. Let us explain. First you might like to try to have concerns addressed through our free email with Customer Service. We suggest that you use the detailed Contact Us form that can make the email process of answering questions more efficient. Customer Service often receives some input from the architect with answering emails, or they can help point you to the answer on the web site.
If we said "Yes" to the above, the architect could spend almost all day, every day on the phone with prospective customers. Also, without previous knowledge of the climate, lifestyle, budget, schedule, previous products studied from Sun Plans (book, study plan, review set, consulting services), advice given might be inappropriate or misleading. Speaking with the architect directly is reserved for those who have already engaged us in one of several Consulting Services. And if we find out later that the questions truly end up being ones that can be answered simply, we can credit the remaining amount to a future order.
(We like to use the analogy of a doctor's office visit. As boring as it may seem, it really is in the customer's best interest to fill out a form and tell us as much as possible about past history and current concerns prior to getting good advice. Mostly likely, a doctor would not accept a call from a non-patient.)
I see that Sun Plans designs are copyrighted. I like one of your designs, but plan on making changes.  I am told that it is okay to copy a design from web sites since those are public domain, or from a Study Plan or from Review Set since I purchased those. I want to do what is right. Are these use of Sun Plans' designs acceptable?
Sorry, no. It is not allowed by Sun Plans nor the US Copyright Office:
"Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent."
CAD Files are the only Sun Plans' drawings that come with a copyright release to allow for modifying the design. The CAD Files can be imported into many types of software and then modified or traced.  And since CAD Files come with PDF files, those can be printed and traced by those design professionals that draw by hand.
It is disheartening when someone contacts us about the great sun-inspired home built yet there is no record of a purchase of Construction Prints or CAD Files.  Apparently there are those who do not realize that it is not only morally wrong to copy someone else's work (think cheating in grade school), but also illegal with fines that can exceed the cost of the home.
If as either a purchaser of an existing Sun Plan, or as one who is concerned about Sun Plans posting your custom designed Sun Plan for sale on the web site, the idea crosses your mind that Sun Plans must be "making a killing" off of designs that have already been paid for once, let us explain further. It takes a tremendous amount of time to market a design by posting and hosting on the web site, providing customer service, and then preparing Custom Energy Specs and sometimes updating a design for each order of Construction Prints and CAD Files.
My builder says he can build one of your homes without buying the Construction Prints or CAD Files. Is this true?
While in theory, that is true, morally and legally it is not. The information on the web site and in the Study Plans is very limited and does not contain information for construction. Another web site that sells Sun Plans designs could not have answered this better. Please see the answer that Architectural House Plans wrote to this question.
I did not find any way to search your list of existing designs for universal design (UD) plans - not disabled, but aging and spacious feeling passages. How can I tell which plans are designed for UD.
Universal Design can be very subjective as can designing for wheelchair use. It is important to avoid a one-size fits-all mindset. Each client for whom the original home was designed differed in their requests for specific UD features so consequently each plan is variable in those regards.  Sun Plans strives to integrate as many UD principles as possible in each plan until it conflicts with something else that the client wants. With Create-A-SunPlan, you are the client so we design for your needs!  With Adapt-A-SunPlan, it can be easy to add UD features that you require. Some clients go through a UD checklist and list the things that are important to them.  Most Sun Plans already have the primarily UD elements of a first floor master bedroom along with wider halls and doors. The Conservation Showhome client wanted many UD features including both an elevator and extra wide straight staircase.
My subdivision and/or architectural guidelines have minimum roof slopes, but I can't find the roof slopes listed on your site. Can you please tell me what they are?
Roof slopes are shown on the Review Set or Construction Prints. Roof slope is a relatively minor item to change. A builder may be able to change it as a "field change", but check with the building inspector and any architectural review board of the subdivision to see if this is acceptable. If not, it is not time-intensive to change the roof slope on the drawings, although that would vary from plan to plan. Usually, a roof slope can be increased with few implications, although the overhang length may need to shorten slightly. On a truss framed roof, the attic gets larger. On a stick-framed roof such as 1.5-story plans, the second floor living area increases. (The Details section of each house describes the type of roof framing.) If after reading this, you still need to know the roof slope for a particular plan(s), please email us.
Can you designate which plans work best in either a hot or cold climate?
If it were simple to assign a hot or cold climate designation, we would, but that would be a complex task with many exceptions. Passive solar house plans from Sun Plans could work in a hot or cold climate. However, those plans with higher percentages of south glass would perform better in cold climates without recommended changes to the design, and those with lower percentages of south glass would work better in hot climates without recommended changes. However, many of the changes we recommend in the Custom Specs are really simple to make.
While it can be difficult to add south glass to some plans since there may not be any additional south wall available in which to add south glass, it is easy to reduce south glass. It is therefore easier to adapt for a hot climate than it is for a cold climate.
With Adapt-A-SunPlan services, we first review whether or not climate-related changes are necessary. Energy and climate-related changes such as south glass and overhang changes are typically very easy to make in relation to floor plan or exterior design changes. And even if Sun Plans does not make the changes for you, the Custom Energy Specs that come with Construction Prints or CAD files include recommendations for making any reductions in overhang length or south glass.
So far we have NEVER had a client order a plan that could not easily be adapted for either a hot or cold climate. If, in the unusual case that a design would be ordered that we feel could not be adapted to the proposed climate, we would let you know, suggest a plan change or refund your money! (For assistance in selecting a plan prior to placing an order, please consider House Plan Selection Consulting. If, after the architect is finished with the review, she has not used up the entire consulting fee, then any extra would be credited to a future order.)
Why are some of your plans designed to sit at an angle to the sun with two walls facing south—one southeast and one southwest?
Those plans were designed for clients whose lots make it was impossible to make a house with a long east-west axis fit on the site, or were clients whose view to the southeast or southwest was so great that it exceeded the value that they placed on passive solar. There is some energy compromise in terms of less solar gain and possible afternoon overheating in the summer.
Are your designs consistent with a net-zero home - e.g., 6" outside walls or better, raised heel truss, adding PV cells and solar collectors, and the many other things I've read about related to design of these homes?
Sun Plans are very adaptable to meeting the standards of the Net-Zero homes. If PV incentives are high in a state, then some home owners choose more PV and less insulation, but we recommend more insulation as a first step.  Most Sun Plans' clients plan on going to Net-Zero at some point either initially or later so our Custom Energy Specs are typically higher than Energy Star minimums.  When a home owner advises us of their desire for aggressive energy-savings, we can suggest R-values as a starting point and provide options for increasing R-values when we prepare the Custom Energy Specs for the particular plan and particular climate.  The recommendations would vary for each plan and location. Detailed energy analyses would then need to be performed by a local HVAC subcontractor, Home Energy Rater, or other energy consultant that used detailed energy analysis software.  Sun Plans has an HVAC consultant should you need assistance with the details of achieving Net-Zero for your particular location.
Are Sun Plans designed to meet the Passive House standards?
Sun Plans are very adaptable to meeting the standards of the German-originated Passive House (AKA Passivhaus) standards that have been recently introduced into the U.S. and Canada.  If you advise Sun Plans that these are your intentions after you place the order for Construction Prints or CAD Files, we can suggest R-values as a starting point and provide options for increasing them (if necessary) when we prepare the Custom Energy Specs which vary for the particular plan and particular climate.  We have already begun to do this for clients who request it. The actual Certification for the Passivhaus (should that be desired) would need to be performed by a Certified Passive House Professional.  Sun Plans would be glad to work alongside a Passive House Professional of your choice or to recommend one that we have worked with previously. 

Sometimes the recommended changes may primarily entail adding insulation to the outside of the walls and roof framing. In that case, the local building inspector and the builder may not require those non-structural changes be added to the plans. However, local design professionals can make the Passivhaus adaptations from our CAD Files which would be ideal if they were also the certified Passive House Consultant.  Sun Plans could perform the adaptations for you too while coordinating with your consultant through Adapt-A-SunPlan

Do your plans or specs suggest radiant floor heating, and is it compatible with your passive solar design?
Radiant floor heating or any other auxiliary heating system for that matter, is determined by the local heating subcontractor along with the owner although Sun Plans can also coordinate that service if desired. Although the house plans and specs address radiant heat as an option and some floors are designed to carry the extra weight, the design of the system, or of any other specific heating system, is typically not included with pre-designed plans, but may be with adapted or newly created designs. In the residential construction industry, the heating and cooling systems are typically designed by the HVAC subcontractor. Codes require them to perform an energy analysis, usually in the form of Manual J. (See Consulting Services for how Sun Plans may be able to help with this through our HVAC consultant.)
In addition, since the heating loads of passive solar homes are often very low due to the solar gain, more complicated heating systems such as Hydronic radiant heating, or even geothermal, may not always be cost effective. Many home owners are electing to have simpler systems to supplement the  passive solar (that is often combined with wood) such as the mini-split heat pumps that can work in very cold climates. 
I am not seeing any of the mechanical stuff (air handler, duct work etc. - HVAC). Is the Review Set of plans complete?

The drawings in the Review Set are the same as the drawings in the Construction Prints which include generic HVAC information; however the Construction Prints come with Custom Energy Specs which include information about mechanical systems in general. Most customers have adaptations made to the plans either with Sun Plans or a local design professional. There is an example of a Review Set on the Review Set page that shows the type of information that is included in the drawings. In addition, the Detail page for each house plan also states which drawings are included. HVAC recommendations vary greatly with the climate and client preferences so HVAC is not a part of pre-designed plans. This is standard in the house plan industry.
In the house plan industry, HVAC design (seldom drawings) is typically provided by the HVAC designer who is typically the mechanical subcontractor. HVAC engineering and is not a part of the plans as it is in commercial design. Occasionally such as in high end custom designed homes a mechanical engineer will provide custom services, but that is not the norm.  With pre-designed plans (such as the plans that are available through Select-A-SunPlan) Sun Plans often removes any custom notes about the HVAC so as to not mislead a future customer into thinking that what was acceptable to the original client for whom the house was created is acceptable for another climate and a home owner that may have different energy priorities. Some customers may desire Passivhaus performance while others may be happy with Energy Star minimum.  In the case of some plans, the client may not have used a ducted HVAC system.
With Create-A-SunPlan (and sometimes with Adapt-A-SunPlan), often custom HVAC design services are provided. Sun Plans can then make any necessary changes after the custom load calcs are run (by the homeowners or Sun Plan's consultant) and consulting is performed with the local HVAC subcontractor and/or builder. It is often found that many clients who build small tight homes that are well-insulated use a mini-split systems that need no to little HVAC ducts, but that can only be determined after the load calcs are done either by Sun Plans or your local HVAC subcontractor,and then subsequently tested for tightness during construction with a blower door test. Sun Plans can provide custom consulting HVAC services to help the home owner's select a system appropriate to the climate and the particular energy priorities.   
How is moisture controlled esp. for cooling for your designs?
Moisture control is a part of every house - whether one built from a SunPlans' design or  someone else's. It is a building code requirement. The HVAC designer who is often the HVAC subcontractor is responsible for the heating and cooling of the home including moisture control. Energy Star homes have detailed requirements that go beyond building codes so that is why Energy Star performance is recommended as a minimum.
Moisture control can be done with air conditioning when house is sealed, with small mechanical fans (bath and kitchen fans for spot moisture areas), with larger mechanical fans (whole house fans) when the house is open to outside or with extreme passive ventilation with lots of open windows (many more than are needed with a whole house fan). Only the latter is not considered forced air and it can get rather expensive to add extra windows that open and often second story or loft features to maximize air flow.  (Basement plans with lower level operable windows can work well too since its stack effect can be large.) Any plan can be adapted for passive cooling with these features but it can become complex. Extra  analyses need to be made for the particular climate and particular design as well as the home owners own comfort level which can also vary greatly. These extra services can be a part of Adapt-A-SunPlan services and can include detailed HVAC consulting, or a local design professional experienced in passive cooling might also be able to run the analyses,work with local energy professionals and make changes to the CAD files available from Sun Plans.
What is a daylight cooling chimney?

In Sun Plans, daylight cooling chimneys are framed and insulated areas between truss-framed roofs in one story homes that otherwise do not have a very large stack effect (distance between lowest and highest point inside the home) that aids passive cooling. It is a less expensive alternative to a full clerestory or atrium on the roof. The window(s) at the top allows daylight into the middle of the home and hot air out when open. These windows are best opened electronically; however, we typically include information in both the drawings and specs to allow for placement of insulated, wall mounted fans high on the outside wall of the daylight cooling chimneys to aid in ventilation. In homes with daylight basements with operable windows down low, the daylight cooling chimney is less important if the doors are left open between the floors during passive cooling seasons.

What special adjustments do you make to your house designs to accommodate solar hot water panels?
We design many of our roofs to include angles and orientations that allow for the easy installation of hot water and photovoltaic (PV) panels. This often involves a large expanse of south-facing roof. For our custom designs, we can design the roof to optimize the orientation of the panels based on the recommendations of those designing your hot water or PV system. However, due to difficuly of accessing the panels, and the roofing issues associated with mounting panels on a roof, many home owners choose to place them on easy-access poles low to the ground instead if they have plenty of solar clearance and land.
Can you help me find magnetic declination for my area?
Geographical latitude and longitude is what one needs to determine orientation for passive solar design; otherwise, the house could be oriented up to 20 degrees off (or more). A compass's north needle points to magnetic north, not true north and Sun Plans homes should generally be oriented with the south wall facing true south although with our Custom Energy Specs that come with construction orders, often an orientation other than exactly true south is recommended but that cannot be determined until we look at both your location, climate and particular house plan.  (45 degree angled plans must have the corner oriented exactly to true south, not magnetic south.)
Once latitude and longitude is known, it is much easier to find the magnetic declination. The Sun-Inspired House covers this in more detail too.  
This link will help you find magnetic declination for your area by US Zip Code:
Here is a graphic version, which may be a little outdated, but is good for visualization:
If the declination shows west, then rotate the house clockwise that many degrees from magnetic north. If the declination is east, then rotate the house counterclockwise that many degrees.
Google Earth is also a great place to find latitude and longitude.
Are your plans suitable for my location, without modifications?
Sun Plans' Custom Energy Specs that come with Construction Prints and CAD Files address the energy-related elements of the energy codes for the specific location where the home will be built.
For the structural elements, a local structural engineer (preferably with residential experience) should first review the plans for conformance to local conditions for factors like snow loads, earthquakes, high winds or unstable soils.Often a builder may already have a relationship with a structural engineer. The engineer may "red line" a set of Construction Prints, attach 8.5x11 specs, prepare additional supplementary drawings or modify CAD files from Sun Plans. Typically additional information will be added such as the connectors and reinforcing for the roof, wall and foundation elements and systems. Sometimes Sun Plan's schematic joists and rafter framing sizes and beams need to be modified - either making them larger or smaller. As an additional services, Sun Plans can coordinate with the structural engineer  and assist in the evaluating any proposed changes for the home owner.
For general building codes, the Construction Prints or CAD Files may need minor modifications, usually done by the builder during construction since building codes are continuously changing and may vary even between two nearby cities or between the city, the county and the state or province in Canada.  Having a Review Set of plans checked by the local building inspector, builder and/or engineer for a preliminary check is a good way to get early feedback prior to purchasing Construction Prints or CAD Files.
Architectural design (or house plans) and structural engineering are just some of the professional fees that go into planning a home. Even with the other professional fees such as those by surveyors, soils engineers, landscape architects, interior designers and the home energy rater, Sun Plan's customer are still finding that the total for these fees is still less that those of realtor should they be purchasing a home of the same size even when they are creating a custom Sun Plan.
Can you give me recommendations on things like insulation and overhangs?
Yes! Part of the services that Sun Plans provides with orders for Construction Prints or CAD Files is to review energy elements such as insulation, south glass, overhangs and any other energy-related concerns that the client may have. The recommendations are part of the Custom Energy Specs that are prepared for the location in which the client is building. They vary with each house design.

I want to build with SIPs (structural insulated panels). Can you tell me if you can adapt the  XYZ (insert any name) house plan for this?
The short answer is "Yes!"  However, just because a change can be made, does not mean that it is recommended.  The answer to this question has been widened to include changing the wall and/or roof systems from other types of construction too. For instances, walls types that Sun Plans designs with include SIPs, ICF (insulated concrete block, double 2x4 staggered studs, 12" framed walls, 2x6 with exterior insulation,  and others!  Roofs that Sun Plans designs with include SIPs, rafters (of either 2x or laminated lumber), and trusses.
There is never a one size fits all answer as to whether or not a change is recommended as it depends upon many factors.  The "details" tab of each house plan lists the general construction wall and roof systems of the particular plan.  (The system varies based on the requests of original home owner for whom the plan was created.)
The Custom Energy Specs that come with orders of Construction Prints or CAD Files will list several options that the walls can be changed to along with their recommended R-values for the climate of construction. That allows the builder to price several options for similar energy savings.
Roofs can be difficult to change from truss to rafters or SIPs and vice versa. While it can be easy to change a SIP roof to a rafter roof, the reverse may not be true since it depends upon the design roof loads of the area where the home will be constructed and the span capacities of the particular SIP manufacturer. For the best value in roof insulation (cost per R-value) Sun Plans typically recommends truss framed roofs with blown cellulose insulation over a tightly sealed ceiling since higher r-values can be achieved.Most of the one story Sun Plans have trussed-framed roofs. Some of the two story plans also do, but seldom does a 1.5 story house design have a truss roof system, but if a small second floor is desired, a 1.5 story plan is often still a preferred choice.
Whether or not the change of wall type needs to be made prior to creating Construction Prints varies and should be discussed with both the builder and building inspector.  Sometimes a "field change" may be allowed by the inspector, then the builder agrees to work it out during construction, and the home owner takes the risk that they will like how the builder adapts the plan without prior approval from them on the drawings. 
Other times the implications of the change can be such that it needs to be made in the drawings first.  Any one of the parties (home owner, builder, inspector, structural engineer, energy rater, etc.) may be the one to initiate this request.  This is especially the case when the proposed wall system is of a different thickness than the plans show. Will the house be expanded out or in, for instance if the wall thickness increases? Wrapping insulation on the exterior of structural walls may not increase the structural thickness of the wall  that bears on the foundation, but it will then have other implications such as window installation.
Structural engineers also need to know about the change so that they can adequately adapt their recommendations for the concrete reinforcement, and connections between the the roof, wall and foundation.
Changing from one building system to another is one of the most common reasons that home owners hire Sun Plans to adapt a plan for them.  Rest assured that if during the Adapt-A-SunPlan Consulting and Review, the architect does not recommend the change, she will point this out along with alternatives, or tasks that she recommends the home owner complete prior to making the decision. Often there is additional research required of the particular wall system that is available in the local area such as the r-value, whether or not there is a qualified subcontractor, and how experienced the builder's other subs are with working with a different wall system.
Can I build my house with brick, stone, stucco or some other exterior? What is best type of exterior wall for passive solar?
The exterior wall materials (other than exterior insulation beneath the brick, siding or stucco) have little effect on the energy performance of the home. Because it is the most common type of construction, and therefore the method most familiar to builders, our homes are mostly designed around the stud walls system for cost effectiveness. These can be sealed tight with one of several methods of construction that are addressed in the Custom Energy Specs.
However, increasingly we are designing homes with thicker stud walls, ICF (insulated concrete forms) SIPs (structural insulated panels), or other unusual types of exterior walls systems if the customer has a local subcontractor that is experienced in that method. Exterior wall type can be changed through the Adapt-A-SunPlan process. If Sun Plans is not comfortable working with a system, the an option is to have a local design professional modify the design through the use of CAD Files from Sun Plans. The inherent mass in the walls with concrete increases the interior comfort by reducing temperature swings between day and night year-round and can minimize the need for thermal mass elsewhere in the home. With stud or SIP walls, brick or stone veneer on the inside of the walls is one way to add thermal mass as well.
We would like to have to you convert a plan to insulated concrete form walls and have the plan adjusted for our location. We'd also like to use the master bath from another plan. How involved is this?
Although Sun Plans has experience changing outside walls of existing plans to ICF and making adjustments for location, each plan is different and therefore must be evaluated individually. Those types of changes are about average in complexity. Changing the master bath, however, is usually a simple process. When the initial information is sent in to engage Sun Plans in Adapt-A-SunPlan consulting, sketch out what you want or send us a list of ideas and we'll design the best layout.
Can we make these changes ourselves or do we need for Sun Plans to make them for us?
There are several ways in which changes to a design can be accomplished:

1) Sun Plans can make them through our Adapt-A-SunPlan services and then make other changes that since most everyone likes to customize the home. 

2) With the CAD Files from Sun Plan, have a local design professional make the changes.
3) Ask the builder to make the change as a "field change" which means that you trust them to make the change without first seeing it on the drawings.  Make sure this is ok with the building inspector as some will not allow field changes and require that changes (especially ones that are structural or change the shape of the home) be made on the drawings first.
Can I get a discount on the Create-A-SunPlan design fees if I bring in my own hand-drawn or computer-generated drawings?
While Sun Plans will gladly accommodate a client's desires for a house, we find it is usually quicker, and therefore less expensive, for the client to provide input and allow us to create the drawings. We are more than happy to review your self-created drawings as a way to communicate your ideas in addition to a written description. Written descriptions of what you would like, such as filling out the answers to the Custom Design/Create-A-SunPlan questionnaire, allows for the greatest flexibility. Architects are trained in creating floor plans and exterior design. We do not copy floor plans created by other design professionals since that is illegal. 
I'm in a big hurry. Can you help me?
It depends. Sun Plans is a small, service-oriented architectural firm that specializes in high-performance, passive solar home design. Attention to this extra detail takes time, so the sooner a client contacts us, the better. For Adapt-A-SunPlan, you may be quicker served by a local design professional that may have a shorter backlog of work. Our Custom Specs can still help them with energy issues, and our CAD Files come with some limited consulting regarding the energy implications of the proposed changes.
My favorite plan is no longer listed. Can I still purchase it?
In order to cut down on complexity and sell the most efficient homes, Sun Plans periodically phases out plans. However, interested customers can contact us with the name of the house plan and request a price, but additional fees may apply to upgrade it to current standards.