After Michelle Kaufmann shut down her firm, Michelle Kaufmann Designs, in May, we fretted that what remained of the green prefab business might not outlast the housing downturn. But the encouraging reality is that at least a couple companies are still forging ahead with green prefab, suggesting that perseverance – and, very likely, substantial backing by investors – could very well pay off.
Zeta Communities, a San Francisco-based builder that has started building a portfolio of commercial, multifamily, and single-family projects, announced earlier this month that it had opened a 91,000-sq.-ft. factory in McClellan, California.
And on Tuesday, Blu Homes, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, announced that it has acquired the assets of Kaufmann’s mkDesigns, including green modular-home designs for Glidehouse, mkLotus, and Sunset Breezehouse. Founded in 2007, Blu Homes already offers three modular-home designs of its own (a fourth will be added soon). The company says it will “apply its proprietary technology” to the mkDesigns portion of its lineup and plans to make the homes available nationwide.
Given all the attention Kaufmann’s company attracted over the past couple years, it seems Blu Homes could benefit substantially from the marketability of her designs and solid reputation. While Kaufmann will still operate independently through Michelle Kaufmann Studio, which offers sustainable-design services for custom single-family projects, eco-luxury resorts, and multifamily construction, she also will consult for Blu Homes and serve on its advisory board.
And as Michelle Kaufmann Designs did before increasingly restrictive lending conditions and the closing of a key factory partner forced the company to close, Blu Homes focuses on containing construction costs and reducing build time while producing sustainably built, energy efficient homes, which are offered in studio, two-, and three-bedroom configurations.
The product descriptions on the Blu Homes site note, for example, that its homes feature R-40 roofs, R-45 walls, air-source heat pumps, hot-water heat recovery systems, on-demand hot-water heaters, LED lighting, and Energy Star appliances. Blu Homes also allows clients to combine the features of two designs to both add space and create a customized look.
Get building science and energy efficiency advice, plus special offers, in your inbox.