Launch Slideshow

Nothin' but Net

Renderings and images of Michelle Kaufmann's Zero Series and Kaplan Thompson's Modular Zero Collection.

Nothin' but Net

Renderings and images of Michelle Kaufmann's Zero Series and Kaplan Thompson's Modular Zero Collection.

  • Among the green features of Kaplan Thompsons Modular Zero Collection designs are metal roofing, solar hot water, and photovoltaics. Detailed overhangs provide shade while adding a custom feel to the homes. Ample built-ins continue the custom touches on the interior. Triple-glazed windows are placed to maximize solar gain and ventilation.

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    Among the green features of Kaplan Thompsons Modular Zero Collection designs are metal roofing, solar hot water, and photovoltaics. Detailed overhangs provide shade while adding a custom feel to the homes. Ample built-ins continue the custom touches on the interior. Triple-glazed windows are placed to maximize solar gain and ventilation.

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    Among the green features of Kaplan Thompsons Modular Zero Collection designs are metal roofing, solar hot water, and photovoltaics. Detailed overhangs provide shade while adding a custom feel to the homes. Ample built-ins continue the custom touches on the interior. Triple-glazed windows are placed to maximize solar gain and ventilation.

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    Jamie Broadbent

    Homes in Kaplan Thompson's Modular Zero Collection also include low-VOC paint, formaldehyde-free insulation, and locally manufactured materials. The Peaks is shown here.

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    Trent Bell

    Kaplan Thompson's Great Diamond model comes in a 1,680- or 2,200-square-foot option.

  • While many of Kaufmanns previous styles were tuned to mild, West Coast climates, Ridge0 meets the demands of colder, Midwestern locales. The design features less glass, yet still incorporates front and rear window-wall connections to the outdoors.

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    While many of Kaufmanns previous styles were tuned to mild, West Coast climates, Ridge0 meets the demands of colder, Midwestern locales. The design features less glass, yet still incorporates front and rear window-wall connections to the outdoors.

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    While many of Kaufmanns previous styles were tuned to mild, West Coast climates, Ridge0 meets the demands of colder, Midwestern locales. The design features less glass, yet still incorporates front and rear window-wall connections to the outdoors.

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    Vista is characterized by clean lines and simple forms, but offers immense flexibility for configuration of modules. A sloped roof option is available; PV panels can be positioned on the roof and trellises.

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    The Ridge model’s double-height space features an open floor plan with a loft above.

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    Sliding or telescoping glass walls on opposite sides of the Vista's great room naturally extend the living space to the outdoors while promoting cross ventilation.

The factory-built efficiencies and controlled-environment quality provided by modular homes have been attracting growing attention from green building professionals for a few years. Now two leading architects specializing in green pre-fab—Michelle Kaufmann Studio in San Francisco and Kaplan Thompson Architects in Maine—are furthering the cause even more by announcing new net-zero modular designs, each with features and products intended to promote efficiency, performance, and longevity while producing as much energy as they use.

Kaufmann’s Zero Series homes range in size from 422 square feet to 2,643 square feet and start at $66,500, which the architect says targets the need for more affordable options for architect-designed green homes. The houses, available through Studio 101 Designs and factory partner Blazer Industries, offer flexibility in module configuration, size, and product selections: The modern Vista0 design, for example, allows for easy expansion through the addition of attached or detached modules. Some core structures and systems, such as HVAC and soy-based spray-foam insulation, come pre-specified, but customers can then select from a wide range of product options, each pre-vetted “for the optimal balance of beauty, longevity, sustainability, and cost,” says Kaufmann, AIA.

The three designs in Kaplan Thompson’s Modular Zero Collection, which will be built by Keiser Industries, range in size from 960 square feet to 2,200 square feet and start at about $140 per square foot. Features include cellulose-insulated R-40 double-stud walls and R-60 roofs, FSC-certified lumber, CFL lighting, and low-flow fixtures. Careful attention was paid to window placement to ensure cross ventilation and passive solar gain while increasing visual size and maximizing views. Blower-door tests will be performed while the modules are being built at the factory as well as after assembly on site.

And, perhaps the most important detail of all: “It doesn’t feel like a modular house,” says principal Phil Kaplan, AIA. “It just feels like a house.” —Katy Tomasulo