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There's a New Prefab in Town: Michelle Kaufmann Designs + mkSolaire

Mksolaire If you haven’t noticed, there’s a new prefab in town.  But if you’ve been following the modern prefab movement, you’ll recognize this newest installment comes from an experienced architect:  Michelle Kaufann Designs.  MKD is behind the glidehouse and sunset breezehouse prefabs that have become the talk in modern + sustainable building circles.  But these aren’t just prefab concepts or designs.  Recently, MKD finished building the first U.S. factory dedicated to sustainable, modular custom homes (www.mkConstructs.com).  This Washington (state) factory is wholly-owned by MKD and will serve California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. 

Solaire_interior The mkSolaire is an open, loft-like home designed for healthy, green living in the urban context.  The architecturally designed roof and windows allow a perfect mixture of air and light to enter the home.  Initial design to completion lead time is roughly 8-14 months, which varies depending on a variety of factors specific to your design and location.  Some of the things that will be available include solar panel roofing, geothermal system, wind generator system, hybrid system, icynene insulation, bamboo or reclaimed wood flooring, recycled paper countertops, recycled glass countertops, on-demand water heaters, water-saving dual-flush toilets, non-toxic paints, and formaldehyde-free cabinetry, etc. 

Solaire_roofSolaire_18  Solaire_17

Because the mkSolaire is built from a modular system, there are endless possibilities as far as layouts and floorplans.  The website has 5+ floorplan options, but it looks like those can be further customized.  And if you’re really interested in taking the plunge, MKD has tried to take the sting out of prefab costing by explaining how it all works.  This stuff isn’t cheap:  factory costs ($150-175 square foot), transportation + installation ($3,000 – $8,000 per module), site costs (depends on location), and miscellaneous costs (permit fees, architectural and engineering fees, sales tax for some states, appliance costs, add-on costs, etc.).  That said, homes do come with high-end Kohler  and Hansgrohe fixtures, Anderson windows + doors, and slate-tile flooring.

I could go on and on, so feel free to visit their site and see if this looks like something you’re interested in.  As far as modern + green custom architectural design is concerned, this is about as good an option as they come.  Source via Linton + Yahoo Finance

Skyscraper Sunday: SOM, Green Skycraper Firm of the Year

Jinao_tower_nanjing_1There’s just no stopping Skidmore, Owings + Merrill.  They are the (as nominated by Jetson Green) Green Skyscraper Firm of the Year.  I blogged about them in regards to the zero energy Pearl River Tower, which absolutely blows me away.  Have you seen the thing?  I also blogged about them on 9/11 because they designed the green Freedom Tower, which is going to be an architectural beacon of freedom and innovation for decades in the future.  When it comes to sustainability and architectural excellence in skyscapers, SOM is the number one firm.  That’s hands down. 

SOM has an enormous portfolio of work in China and they are working on over 15 skyscraper projects there right now.  Interestingly, it’s easier to be innovative in China because the climate lends itself to such behavior.  Firms in the US are reluctant to take on commercial/security risk.  They don’t want to tick off neighbors or trade unions either.  China on the other hand wants to push the envelope.  They have cheap materials and a desire to build green structures.  They are a command economy, so there’s not much public outcry, even if the building is outlandish.  Plus, global recognition helps their situation.  I get heaps of search queries on my blog everyday for a post I did on the Pearl River Tower–that’s global recognition.   

Nanjing_jinling_hotel_1 Nanjing_greenland Shenzhen_avic_plaza

I’ve included some pictures of buildings that SOM has designed for construction in China.  There’s too much to say about each, but one thing should be noted, however:  these buildings are all going to be done in 2007-2008.  There’s a quick turnaround time in China–they have the attitude to get things done.  Notice the delay for buildings like this in the United States and query whether that has anything to do with (in comparison) innovation, politics, determination, or drive.

Nanjing Greenland will have irregularly-spaced slots for green space that "march vertically up the facade."  Jinao Tower will be built with less steel than a traditional skyscraper.  It will be built around a diagonal grid bracing system (similar to the one used for Hearst Tower of New York).  Jinao Tower also features a double-skinned surface for solar shading and insulation.  Each SOM buildling is chock full of innovation. 

Extra Links:
SOM Company Site
Not Innovative?  SOM’s Skyscraper Projects in China Tell a Different Story [Architectural Record]

Contemporary Furniture: Going Green with Exceptionally Designed Bicycle Parts

S2_modulus_diningoffice_chair This isn’t just some ordinary, run-of-the-mill furniture, slapped together with no thought for the environment, comfort, or design.  Andy Gregg founded Bike Furniture Design in the 90s with the seminal, original bike chair.  Since then, his collection has grown to include bar stools, high-quality tables, loveseats, and more chairs.  While his furniture is made primarily from recycled steel and aluminum bicycle rims, handlebars, and frames, his collection has grown to include parts from other transportation industries such as trains and planes. 

Again, this stuff isn’t slapped together, it’s pretty darn close to artwork.  Upholstery options include leather, rubber, cork, clear + colored acrylic, and vinyl.  And his business is starting to reach a tipping point.  In 2004, revenue picked up enough to allow Gregg to focus on the business.  Growing demand has pushed him to explore the use of new materials, and he keeps coming up with great pieces.  This can be attributed to his art and mechanics background.  So if you have an idea in mind, I’m sure he’d be able to crank it out (no pun intended). 

S2_swivel_barstool_1Milano_lounge_chair_1S2_bar_table

Extra Links:
Fortune Small Business Article
Silicon Valley’s The Wave Magazine Article
HGTV "I Want That!" Episode #313

ScrapHouse Illustrates Re-use, Recycle, Repurpose Principles (aka Innovation)

Scraphouse The ScrapHouse is a "temporary demonstration home, blitz-built using scrap and salvaged material."  I looks really cool…so cool, you’d probably bid for it on ebay if you saw it.  What?  It’s not on ebay; it doesn’t exist anymore.  But it was built so cheap, you’d think it could be listed.  Buy it Now Price: under $2,000.  When you think about a 1,000 square foot house, you don’t think about building one for $2,000.  That’s exactly what a "rockstar team of local artists, engineers, architects, city officials, and builders" did in association with Public Architecture and ScrapHouse in SFC. 

Reuse is the operative word with this architectural feat.  It was built with materials collected from salvage yards, dumps, and waste piles at active construction sites.  Now, materials DO tend to walk away at construction sites, but from what I understand, there was no five-finger discounting involved with this process.  In all honesty, new building construction (non-LEED structures) generate tons of waste and scrap, and a lot of it can be used for a different project or purpose, depending on the necessity.  Again, another ebay concept applies:  "one person’s junk is another person’s treasure." 

Scraphouse_rending Of course, they used Energy Star appliances inside and low- to no-VOC/formaldehyde free materials in the furniture and paint, etc.  The key take away point is that we need to think outside the box and get creative about using already existing materials (junk that’s in abundance) in nascent, healthy ways.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you live swap-meet-style (not that that’s a bad thing), but it does mean that re-purposed, recycled stuff can be modern and swank.  We just need to get creative about finding that stuff.

Extra Links:
ScrapHouse Official Press Release 5/31/2006
Inhabitat Blog Post About Documentary Premiere

1920s San Antonio Industrial Compound Converted into Eco + Modern Residence

Lakeflato_architects_home Every project is different and depending on the circumstances, one will have a bevy of options to choose from to move forward with a green plan.  Some projects need to be torn down.  Some projects can be renovated and greened.  It depends on the economics, politics, and persuasions of all parties involved.  In this case, San Antonio architects, Lake/Flato, decided to reuse this industrial compound’s existing footprint to renovate the place into a green + modern residence, otherwise known as the Dog Team Too Loft + Studio. 

The house is well-positioned to receive natural light, so the energy requirements for lighting are minimal.  The architects used fritted panes for windows, which is glass covered with tons of tiny ceramic dots that let in light and maintain a semblance of privacy.  The glass is similar to using something like light-transmitting blinds because it allows lower-intensity light into the interior, but it also reduces the heat gain, which translates into savings for not having to use the A/C as much. 

Lakeflato_stairs Lakeflato_living_room_2 Lakeflato_saw_tooth_2

The original roof was lost due to a fire, so the saw-tooth roof visible in the above picture covers the entire residence.  Some of the interior walls are plaster, and their high sand content keeps the indoor air cool.  The architects also used various cheap, but creative, items to finish out the interior.  They used galvanized stair treads ($3 each) and treated the floor with crankcase oil from a nearby lube shop.  The interior dining room window was scrap from another project that the firm was doing, so it was put to perfect re-use.  The Lake/Flato architects definitely prove that re-use can be the perfect option when deciding what to do with that run down place.  Source via Metropolitan Home

[September] Architectural Record House of the Month: Newport Beach – Heinfeld Residence

House_front_1 Architectural Record always seems to find some of the best modern + green residences in the country:  this month’s spotlight is on Dan + Katherine Heinfeld’s home designed by architectural firm LPA, Inc., in Newport Beach, California.  LPA has a strong commitment to incorporating green concepts in their designs; they’re one of the earliest firms to get involved with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program.  Mr. Heinfeld is the president of LPA, so designing his own home included the added tension of getting it right, to prove to clients that green design can be modern + luxurious. 

Green Features:
House_print The house really does include a slew of sustainable features…it’s built with a Glu-lam and composite beam structure that comprises two stories, four bedrooms, and four bathrooms.  Three sides of the house wrap around a courtyard/pool-area.  The pocket glass and screen doors open up to the solar-heated pool area (Suntrek).  The entire house was designed for efficient natural lighting, including a mostly windowless eastern orientation, an extended roof overhang on the southwestern side, an insulated, translucent skylight in the main room (Kalwall Skylight), and mechanical sunshades in every room (Lutron). 

Pool_house Kitchen Living_room

The house is powered almost completely by the 5.3 KW building integrated photovoltaics (Solar Integrated Technologies).  Also, the carpet tiles (Interface FLOR) and floor (Terrazzo) are both made with recycled content.  Of course, the paint is non-VOC, Eco-shield paint (Dunn Edwards).  LPA even provided the Xeriscaped landscaping.  Really, the Heinfelds didn’t hold anything back when putting this green + modern masterpiece together. 

Extra Links:
House of the Month Article and Project Specs [Architectural Record]
LPA, Inc. Website
Cristian Costea Photos

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