DWELL ON DESIGN: Sustainability

[To make things a little more manageable, I decided to break up the Dwell Day2 post.]

The 2nd day of the Dwell conference focused on Sustainability. Although Bill Browning, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Green Deveopment Services, spoke first, it was Michelle Kaufmann who bridged the discussions between prefab and sustainability.

Her firm, Michelle Kaufmann Designs (MKD) designs only modular, sustainable, modern structures. If for some reason, a client requests a house with only 2 of those qualities, Kaufmann will reject the commission. Her passionate belief in these principles was conveyed though her speech, and at times she almost reminded me of a born-again Christian. I suppose the analogy is appropriate, because Kaufmann is herself a convert – a convert to sustainability. Her research and experience while building her own house convinced her that sustainable, modular design is the only real option we have.

Kaufmann is best known for her Glidehouse and Sunset Breezehouse (pictured), but MKD will soon be introducing a new “product” designed more urban contexts. It’s not on their website yet, but I believe Michelle referred to it as the “MK Solare.” The Solare not only responds to conditions where light and ventilation are only accessible in the front and back of a buildings lot, but it’s also developer friendly, with an organizational strategy that encourages duplex-like building arrangements. Oh yeah, and it looks good. really good.

Michelle believes that green architecture is successful when the people who occupy it don’t have to change their lives. Although she challenges herself to consider the human scale and to build only what she believes to be necessary, the products of MKD don’t impose upon their owner a strict new lifestyle or dispensable extravagance. By building smaller and smarter, we use less material, fewer resources, and create less waste. Not “bigger is better,” but “better is better.”

  • [MKD]