Choosing the right style as a prototype is the key to building a handsome and affordable home that has a small "environmental footprint."

Here in my adopted city of Norwalk, Conn., there are hundreds of little Cape Cods built in the mid-20th century — one-story houses with a steeply pitched roof springing from the top of the front and rear walls, and a door centered in the front wall. If you add a story and reduce the roof pitch, you get a colonial. If you leave off the room to...

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