Michelle Kaufmann Prefab Designs Live Again With Sale to Blu Homes

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Sustainable architect Michelle Kaufmann speaking at a green event.

Chris Eaves / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

When Michelle Kaufmann closed her prefab business in May, I was saddened but not surprised; the housing industry and the lenders that made it possible were in deep freeze or bankruptcy. But if there was one thing you could bank on, it was that Michelle would somehow land on her feet. It appears that she has, and with her usual marketing flair, turned this sows ear into a silk purse.

Others would quietly sell off their assets and slink away; Michelle sends out press releases, announcing the sale of the rights to build her designs to Blu Homes of Boston.

I am pleased to announce that Blu Homes, of Boston, MA, has purchased the rights to build the MKD preconfigured designs....Blu Homes will now be offering versions of these home designs that work with their unique unfolding modular technology....I am consulting with Blu Homes as they forge ahead in the modular home arena, and look forward to working with them as their innovations take shape. Despite the chilled climate in the home construction industry as a whole, I still believe this is a time of great opportunity for thoughtful, sustainable design.

Michelle isn't standing still, either, and wrote to me:

Things on my end are going fairly well, given everything. In addition to doing some consulting with Blu Homes, I have also started my new practice and am working on some net-zero energy homes, working on the community in Denver, and also doing an eco-resort in the Bahamas. It is all pretty fun and keeping me busy.

Traditionally there were two main ways to do prefab homes: modular, where the design is broken into boxes built to the maximum size allowed on the road, and panellized, where walls and floors were prefabricated and assembled on site.

Modular designs were often limited by the maximum widths, and shipping was expensive, often requiring special permits and escorts, while the main thing being shipped was air wrapped in a bit of house; they rarely were sold outside of a 500 mile radius of a factory because of the transport costs. Panellized houses required a lot of on-site finishing, and were never really competitive with conventional framing.

Blu Homes appears to have developed a new solution that reduces the shipping problem; they somehow unfold from 8' to 12' widths to modules up to 22' wide. They will be modifying Michelle's plans to work with their technology, which will enable them to be sold in a much larger geographic area. They also claim to have reduced the amount of work required to "button up" houses on site, suggesting that theirs go together "like an erector set."

I cannot find a lot of information on Blu Homes' site about how this technology works, but will contact them and follow up with a subsequent post.