Designing sustainable spaces that take into consideration climate, sun movement, and construction materials doesn’t require expensive software. The HEED (Home Energy Efficient Design) website developed by a UCLA research team headed by Murray Milne, a research professor in the school’s department of architecture and urban design, is a free resource that allows anyone to design a sustainable home and find out how much money and energy they will save with each design change.

At the site are: links to a HEED download page, EnergyPlus weather data from the Department of Energy, frequently asked questions, design suggestions, and a tutorial.

Enter a home’s square footage, number of stories, type (apartment, rowhouse, etc.), and location, and HEED automatically creates two homes so you have one with which to compare changes. The base house meets California’s energy code, which is as stringent or tougher than any code in the U.S. You can, however, change it to your own state code, and you can create up to nine design schemes. “The idea,” Milne says, “is to keep trying things to make the house better.”

In the floor planner, you can rotate the home and explore door, window, roofing, ventilation, insulation, heating, cooling, appliance, and operable shading options. There’s also a payback analysis tool that calculates annual energy costs against construction costs.

HEED is easy to install on a PC or a Mac. Setup takes a little time, but the site is easy to use. Although there’s no help desk, if you send the HEED team an e-mail, you’ll get a prompt response. To see all of UCLA’s energy design tools, go to

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.