Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: BrightBuilt Barn


The BrightBuilt Barn, located in Rockwood, Maine, is one of the super energy-efficient prefab designs of the year. A highly covetable structure, this barn/studio is not only a net-zero house — meaning it strives to leave no carbon footprint — it is also seeking LEED Platinum certification. While the current prototype was designed as a studio/workspace, the barn is constructed on 4-foot modules so additional modules can be added as specified. But we think one of the most interesting features of the prefab is the LED light skirt that lets you know if the building is generating more or less energy than it is using.

The light skirt offers a way to measure energy use, if the skirt glows green, the house is generating more energy than it is using. When it is yellow, it is about equal, and when it is red, the house is using more energy than it is generating.  Which makes us wonder, is this the new version of a glass house — where all the neighbors will know exactly how energy efficient their neighbors are? Hopefully they also have an interior monitor that gives them the same information, otherwise they’ll be walking outside all the time to check to see if they’re glowing green or red.

Another very eco-friendly feature of the home is its super insulation. The triple glazed super insulating windows and the R-40 walls, floors and ceilings provide such an excellent thermal envelope that the home doesn’t need a furnace, even in Maine. On days when the home does need a little more warmth, an evacuated tube solar water heating system steps in to keep the space cozy and snug. And the system is designed to save an estimated 137 gallons of domestic hot water annually.

The 700-square foot barn was designed by Kaplan Thompson, and built by Bensonwood Homes. 90% of the building was prefabricated off-site by Bensonwood Woodworking — a construction process that increased material efficiency by allowing for precise computer-assisted fabrication.

We love the barn design, the lovely and bright interior, and the solar generating capabilities. And now that the architects and builders have their prototype design up, they are gearing up to offer the home for a base price of $200,000.  Needless to say, we expect a very bright future for this prefab design.

+ BrightBuilt Barn

+ Kaplan Thompson

+ Bensonwood Homes

Via Jetson Green and treehugger

Photography by Naomi C. O. Beal


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  1. Budi Waluyo February 9, 2009 at 1:34 am

    What a wonderful idea. Eco-friendly and energy saving. Two valuable concept that is difficult to apply in any side of the world. And the price is still reasonable.

  2. February 4, 2009 at 10:25 am

    $200,000! You must mean the land, geothermal heat exchangers, and European kitchen are included.

  3. Helman700 January 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I wonder how efficient it would be if it didn’t have pointless accent lighting around the base.

  4. TJ January 20, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I think the price per sq. ft. is more what we should be concerned with when quibbling over price. This project, assuming the 200 K does not include the cost of the land, would cost roughly 285 per sq. ft. That cost is on the low side of average for a custom home in California. And while it is true that “True Green’ architecture should consider affordability and accessibility as green factors, I think this project is a step in the right and responsible direction. Hopefully, green architecture will soon be the more cost effective option, but until then lets all show a little appreciation for the pioneers who are trying their best. Thank you Kaplan Thompson Architects for all of your hard work. And thank you to all the others who helped make this project a reality.

  5. pkaplan January 20, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Regarding cost, you need to figure this a bit differently, perhaps relative to lifecycle, and include time as a factor.

    The intent of Net-zero is that there are no energy costs. Plus, BrightBuilt is disentangled to the point where many interior modifications could be handled at a much smaller cost at any given point. There are simply no wires fixed within the walls. And it can be assembled fully finished within a week.

    That being said, we do not see this project as an end, but rather a beginning. We invite any and all comments and hope to create a coalition of individuals interested in improving this type of project together. We are working quickly to set up an effective forum to have such conversations.

    True to open source collaboration, plans and wall section are posted on our website, with more drawings available shortly.

    And yes, it is in ROCKPORT, Maine.

  6. atomatic January 19, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Yep $200,000 for this is quite reasonable, considering that is the last bill you’ll ever pay. Not too mention that right now My mom lives in just under 600sf and has a lot less storage space then a barn style roof. I don’t have 200k or even close but I don’t think its unreasonable.

  7. LeeStringer January 18, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    $200,000 for 700 sqft! are you SERIOUS! I don’t care how green it is, that’s just insane and will never catch on. You have to appeal to average Joe in order to have any chance of making this work. Plus those BLING BLING lights are just about the dumbest idea since wheel spinners! Apart from that the concept and execution is solid.

  8. nixy January 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I love this concept. However, for $200,000 I am sure it will never be in my price range. What I would like to see are architects/builders come up with ideas that are economically feasible for all people. That is when the real green revolution will occur. Unfortunately, I cannot even afford to buy 100% organic because the prices are too high, which is why I grow my own food. Hopefully, the future will see the regular people taken toin account when these type of projects are approached as I would love to have one! My salary of $30,000/ year would not this realistic though……

  9. pkaplan January 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Yes Bridgette, there is an interior LED that glows in concert with the light skirt. Good question!
    And thanks for the kind words!

    Phil Kaplan
    Kaplan Thompson Architects

  10. zemadeiran January 17, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    200,000 for a shed???

  11. davidwayneosedach January 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Incredible! It looks like it just landed from outer space.

  12. becky January 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Hi! I was just in awe over this yesterday. A small quibble: I believe it’s in RockPORT Maine, not Rockwood. Rockport is the gorgeous town featured in “Man Without a Face,” and was home of Andre the Seal.


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