In the summer of 2008, Kaplan Thompson Architects, based in Portland, Maine, unveiled a 640 sq. ft. detached studio called BrightBuilt Barn. The building’s principal components were prefabricated and designed to be relatively easy to replicate and adapt to other larger configurations.
One of the highlights of BrightBuilt Barn was its energy efficient performance. Its walls, floor, and roof were insulated to R-40. The structure was assembled to a high degree of airtightness and equipped with solar power and solar hot water. Kaplan Thompson had worked with Bensonwood Homes, a fabricator and installer in New Hampshire, and several green-construction specialists to build the studio as a prototype for a line of modular homes that would, with a little help from renewable-energy sources, operate at net zero energy.
Another home designed by Kaplan Thompson – a 1,680-sq.-ft. site-built house with three bedrooms and two and a half baths – incorporated the same level of energy efficient construction and helped put Keiser Homes, a modular specialist based in Oxford, Maine, on the path to a partnership with the architecture firm.
The evolution of a modular line
That alliance has led to what Kaplan Thompson now calls the Modular Zero Collection, which, once it is in full production, will incorporate many of the features of BrightBuilt Barn but with a size range that begins 940 sq. ft., roof assemblies that are insulated to R-60 rather than R-40, and a cost structure intended to make the buildings affordable. The alliance seemed like a good fit for Keiser in part because the company had been building some of its homes to Energy Star standards but also was looking to develop a product line even more firmly rooted in green construction.
“We think this is the direction of the future,” Josh Saunders, Keiser’s sales manager, said in a story published this week by Ecohome magazine. “Even more than sustainable, energy efficient is what people are going to gravitate to. That’s where the payback is.”
The Modular Zero Collection will feature three models: Chebeague (940 sq. ft., two bedrooms, two baths, with prices starting at $205,000); Peak (1,200 sq. ft., two bedrooms, two baths, with prices starting at $205,000); and Great Diamond (1,680 to 2,200 sq. ft., three bedrooms, two and a half baths, starting at $235,000). Prices exclude land, renewable-energy systems, and utility installation. All of the models feature standing-seam metal roofs, 50-year siding, low-flow water fixtures, and FSC-certified wood products.
Kaplan Thompson principal Phil Kaplan told Ecohome he expects the attraction for buyers will be a bit less about price, though, and more about wanting a home that is durable, comfortable to live in, and inexpensive to operate.