Sisters for Sustainability: Michelle Kaufmann's Green Prefab for Nuns in Denver

casa chiara kaufmann modular homes photo

Michelle Kaufmann Studio

Like most architects, Michelle Kaufmann has not been alone in having her ups and downs in the current recession, but there is no up like seeing a satisfying project get completed. One such project is her Casa Chiara, a 16 unit modular complex of six dwelling units and offices for the Sisters of St. Francis in Denver. Michelle says it is the "first multi-family, modular, sustainable project built in the US that I know of." (it's not- Great Oak Co-housing in Ann Arbor, Michigan probably is)

casa chiara kaufmann module house photo

Michelle says that it is all part of their mission.

As a part of their penance, the Sisters of St. Francis live "with gentle courtesy toward all creation". The Franciscan Sisters' have a strong commitment to conserve and sustain resources and therefore built a team to help them with their project that reflected their values.

casa chiara kaufmann module solar panels photo

Green features include:

  • Strategically placed windows and openings to sculpt in natural light and maximize ventilation (reducing energy for artificial lighting and mechanical systems)
  • Modular construction significantly reduces material waste and provides safe and healthy environment for workers
  • All materials were purchased from in-state vendors, supporting the local economy and reducing shipping
  • Materials on the site were recycled including concrete waste that was dumped into a concrete washout container; copper wire, piping and steel beams from the existing building; and recycled concrete was used to backfill the retaining walls
  • Materials from the construction site were resused: bricks from the existing convent were saved and used for landscaping walls; wrought iron railings on the balconies and walkways came from the existing convent building; and Habitat for Humanity and others used salvaged materials from the demolition of the existing convent building
  • Eco-friendly materials with non-toxic and mold-resistant qualities were used as well as an air-filtration system to ensure healthy interior air quality
  • Efficient systems and building envelope to minimize energy usage including high performance insulation; dual pane, low-e glass doors and windows; energy star doors, energy star appliances, and 90%+ efficient furnace; tankless on-demand water heater
  • Xeriscaping landscaping and low-flow plumbing fixtures were used to reduce water consumption
  • Incorporated center garden / water retention to reduce issues with storm water run-off on this sloped site
  • 14kw PV solar system that produces all the electricity for the site and the buildings (and actually produces more than they require, so they sell back to the grid and receive rebates)
casa chiara kaufmann module house building photo

It was built by All American Homes, which is adopting green building technology with a vengeance. More at Michelle Kaufmann Studio

More on Michelle Kaufmann:
Michelle Kaufmann Imagines a Future of Green Building : TreeHugger
Michelle Kaufmann Prefab Designs Live Again With Sale to Blu Homes ...
New York Times on Michelle Kaufmann : "It Isn't Easy Building Green ...
Michelle Kaufmann Designs McMansion Gingerbread

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