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Planning on building this spring? A few trends to look at

Trends come and go, but the green movement may be around for a while -- and architects are seeing more interest in energy efficiency and "healthier" building materials than ever before.

Richard Larsen, a Detroit Lakes architect who has worked on homes and summer cabins in the area for more than 30 years, and Darryl Booker, a professor at the North Dakota State University School of Architecture, broke down the preference shift in for new construction and remodels.

Booker said it's not just energy efficiency, either - it's a "larger umbrella of green or sustainable design, which includes everything from size to efficiency of mechanical systems."

New government tax credits on things like solar panels and geothermal heating are making the energy investments more affordable, and therefore more popular.

Overall, Larsen said, people may be downsizing their homes, choosing a more space-efficient home, with rooms that serve more than one purpose, rather than sprawling 4,000 square-foot properties. Even paying attention to how a house's footprint sits on the lot can affect its energy efficiency, he said.

Because indoor space might be smaller, more people are choosing more functional outdoor spaces, like two or three season porches. Booker said it's not necessarily a new idea, but in challenging northern climates, the concept of more sustainable landscaping and outdoor spaces is coming back.

In this economy, Larsen said more people are looking to remodel or add on to homes, looking to increase their property value, rather than starting from scratch. "In a tight economy, everyone wants to remodel, especially in this area if you have a lake cabin and you like the location," he said.

Because homes are being closed up more tightly to be more energy efficient, more people are finding it important to purchase carcinogen-free carpets, and other chemical-free products. Booker said they're "using materials that are less processed, less assoc. with toxins. So, moving away from materials and designs that basically ignore the industrial processes, which haven't been very kind to human habitation."