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Michelle Kaufmann Designs

Link to Michelle Kaufmann Designs
John Swain Photography

info_smallMichelle Kaufmann Designs has been one of the stars of the prefab movement since designing the info_smallGlidehouse for Sunset Magazine in 2004. The company emphasizes the greenness of its homes and has even built a green factory, mkConstructs, to produce prefab homes. I got some details from Rebecca Woelke, Director of Media Relations:

Do you have many built homes or homes under construction?

We have 15 completed homes, with 2 scheduled for completion by the end of June, and a multi-unit development (San Leandro) is expected to be completed this fall. We are working on 75+ projects, which include single-family residences and MK Communities.

What is mkConstructs?

mkConstructs is...key to our "prenewable" mission: a modern blending of prefabricated systems and renewable resources. mkConstructs is 100% committed to building thoughtful, sustainable designs.

Why did you open your own factory?

The addition of mkConstructs benefits our clients by further streamlining the construction process while providing more predictability of costs and timeframes for home construction. mkConstructs is located in the state of Washington, offering efficiencies with close proximity to many of our material sources and distribution centers. This factory will build homes for California, Washington, Oregon.

What do your homes cost? What does the price include?

In most areas, construction costs are between $200/sf and $275/sf for MKD pre-designed homes, and $275/sf - $400/sf for Custom Projects (all known costs included after permits are let). This does not include the cost of land. For more complex sites and for sites in high-cost areas such as the greater San Francisco area and Los Angeles, the total construction costs will most likely be higher. The actual project cost will depend on many factors unique to our clients MKD Home and building site.

There are both standard models and the custom option on your website. What have customers been most interested in? Do you have any numbers to show how many customers went custom vs. standard?

Of our current projects, 20% of them are custom. The balance of our current projects are pre-designed MKD Homes, which are to be built in various locations in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

What are some of the advantages of your prefab system?

  1. MKD builds high-performance homes.
  2. Our homes are stronger than site-built homes.
  3. We build healthy homes.
  4. We use eco-friendly finishes and materials, renewable/recyclable materials.
  5. We offer a predictable timeframe.
  6. Shorter construction timeframe.
  7. Minimal site work needed by the site contractor/less impact on the site.

Are there any common misconceptions about prefab that you'd like to comment on?

One common misconception I have noticed is how people define "prefab." Among the many classifications of prefabricated homes are modular homes, manufactured homes, and mobile homes. Each of these home types is very different. Although they are all built in a factory, they are built to different building codes, with modular construction at the highest construction/quality level. Many city and county zoning ordinances restrict the locating of manufactured/mobile homes to limited areas, whereas modular homes are more widely accepted. Michelle Kaufmann Designed homes are high-quality, high-performance homes that are built in a factory - not to be confused with "manufactured" or "mobile" homes!

(This interview has been edited for space; it's not an exact transcript.)

Related Posts:
   1. AriaDenver pictures from Michelle Kaufmann: modules en route (Jul 31, 2009)
   2. Michelle Kaufmann Designs closing (May 27, 2009)
   3. The mkHearth (Oct 27, 2008)
   4. The mkLoft from Michelle Kaufmann Designs (Nov 13, 2007)
   5. This week: Micro Compact village, WIRED, iT House, and mkLotus (Jul 28, 2007)
   6. The mkLotus show house (Jul 19, 2007)
   7. West Coast Green Conference (Jul 18, 2007)
   8. Michelle Kaufmann in Sierra Magazine (Jul 16, 2007)
   9. MKD Google mash-up (Jun 04, 2007)
   10. This week: LOT-EK returns, a prefab for Second Lifers, and more (May 05, 2007)
   11. Some Assembly Required at LAMOCA (May 03, 2007)
   12. Big Ideas on the Sundance Channel (May 01, 2007)
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