Mix'n Match Prefab: A New Approach from Michelle Kaufmann


One of the problems of modern prefab is to find a balance between the efficiency of standard plans and the flexibility of customization. Michelle Kaufmann gives us an exclusive preview of a new concept, where you mix and match different, but standard, boxes.

To use a clothing analogy, most modern prefab designs were never really "off the rack" but were more like "made to measure", where a pattern would be modified and customized for the customer. Some prefabs, like the Acorn from Empyrian, were closer to "bespoke". But the problem with customization is that it takes time to price, adds time to construction, adds uncertainty to the cost and often causes sticker shock.

During her career as a pioneer in the industry, Michelle Kaufmann has tried most of the variations, and now offers a new one with her Contour series. She has developed a series of standard blocks that you can mix and match; the clothing analogy would be to forget the suit and just put this shirt on top of those pants.


click image to enlarge

At this time Michelle is showing four model block types. She says "they can be configured in a variety of ways depending on the site, budget and project needs."

All of the renderings shown at this time are of houses standing on their own in the country, which is a disappointment, but the building blocks are narrow enough that they could be used on urban sites. Michelle tells us that she is developing modules for multi-unit buildings and "We have also designed these with a continuous ridge beam so we can be able to stack them for 2-story versions in the future."


1396 square foot, two bedroom, two module design

"Design big rather than build big".

Michelle writes in her press release:

The contoured sloping roofs create visual movement, and a blending of varying ceiling heights that maximize natural ventilation and light. The staggering of building forms create outdoor rooms, and combined with sliding glass walls (that can be sliding glass doors or accordion glass walls) extend the sense of space, making the house feel much larger than it is. Design big rather than build big.

The roof folds up from the ground and can be metal standing seam to allow photovoltaic solar panels to either clip on (without penetrating the roof) or have PV solar film attached between the seams. Living green roof systems are also available for all or part of the home's roof, reducing storm water runoff, increasing insulation, and can include flowers, succulents or even an edible garden.

Like the homes that Jerry recently wrote about in his post Michelle Kaufmann's New Prefab Series Explores the Power of Zero, these designs are available from Studio 101 Designs, and " utilize our 5 eco principles, green finishes and systems, and efficient modular construction." Costs for modules range from $207 PSF for smaller designs down to 179 for the larger ones.

When I wrote Modern Prefab On The Ropes: Michelle Kaufmann Packs It In last year, Michelle had her own factory and sales operation. Now she is doing what she does best, design, and delegating the sales and production to others. Her new designs are an attempt at further removing uncertainty and risk; perhaps finally we are close to seeing someone get green modern prefab to really work.

More on Michelle Kaufmann's modern prefab housing:
Michelle Kaufmann Imagines a Future of Green Building
Sisters for Sustainability: Michelle Kaufmann's Green Prefab for Nuns in Denver
Nutrition Labels For Houses

Tags: Architects | Housing Industry

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