Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: Zero-Energy MkLotus debuts!


No more renderings necessary, Michelle Kaufmann’s gorgeous new eco-prefab home has just debuted and been installed on the grass in front of San Francisco City Hall. The lovely zero-energy prefab is open to the public as part of the West Coast Green show at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza. We were lucky enough to get a sneak peak of the house as it was getting set up in the past few days, and we can tell you firsthand that the renderings don’t do it justice. The home is compact and stunning, with gorgeous xeriscape landscaping, and the most high-tech green materials and sustainable systems available,including a greywater recycling system, green roof, solar panels, and even a spot to plug in your electric vehicle for charging!

We spoke to Michelle on Tuesday, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for an interview with her about the design. And make sure to come by West Coast Green today and tomorrow to see the mkLOTUS for yourself!

For those of you who aren’t in the area and can’t check out the house in person, read on for our in-depth report. We got a ton of fabulous photos of all the green details, both inside and out – and can tell you that this is one truly stunning, beautifully designed, prefab powerhouse.

Michelle Kauffman is known for her modern, sustainable prefab designs, and the mkLotus goes above and beyond all previous MK designs. The modular construction allows for customization and flexibility, while sliding doors allow residents to open up their house to the elements.

From sustainable materials like flyash concrete, FSC-certified wood, no-VOC paint and EcoResin to the green roof, LED lighting system, EnergyStar appliances, photovoltaic energy system, and rainwater/greywater catchment, the house is as green as it gets. The ‘zero-energy’ house actually produces so much energy from the solar panels on the roof that you can charge your electric vehicle with a plug in the side of the house.

Above and beyond all the green, however, the house is just a testament to thoughtful, smart design. Every material, system and design choice in the house seems to be thought out, and have purpose. The high ceilings, skylights, gently angled walls, floor to ceiling glass and copious daylight all work to make the 700 sf house feel a lot bigger and more spacious than it actually is.

One realy cool thing about the house is that has a fully digital control center, which allows the occupant to control light and heat, as well as monitering energy use, water use and programming the TV.

For more photos of this house, check out our Flickr Feed >

+ Michelle Kauffman
+ West Coast Green


or your inhabitat account below


  1. greenhouse April 6, 2008 at 6:43 am

    so is there are quite a lot of discarded urban trees up your way?! hey mike lee if you interested in having something like this or better built in nz dont blow it with air miles.. please contact me and i would be happy to quote on this plan or whatever you want. cheers

  2. Inhabitat: Pictures Fro... March 17, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    […] Green conference in San Francisco, we were lucky enough to not only get a sneak peek of the new Michelle Kaufmann mkLotus prefab house, but also to speak with the designer herself to get the low-down on the sleekly-designed zero […]

  3. Inhabitat » TOP 1... March 16, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    […] 2. GREEN PREFAB CONQUER THE WORLD After the success last year of Steve Glen’s and Ray Kappe’s Living Home eco prefab, we were not surprised to see the worlds of green building and prefab construction coming together in 2007. This year, prefab designer extraordinaire Michelle Kaufman took green prefab to new heights by debuting her zero energy mkLotus design at West Coast Green in September. The compact home doesn’t compromise style or energy efficiency, using solar panels, recycled materials, LED lights, a green roof, water recycling system, green landscaping and even a plug for your electric vehicle! […]

  4. mike lee February 2, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    can the mkLotus be exported(flat pack) to new zealand ?

  5. Inhabitat » PREFA... November 9, 2007 at 4:43 am

    […] is a big fan of Michelle Kaufmann (MKD)’s eco-pre-fab designs. We previously featured her mkLotus design during its debut at West Coast Green in San Francisco this past September, and we are now pleased […]

  6. Scott Martin November 6, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    How would these systems work in a climate like Northern Michigan? I am partners in an Energy Efficient Panelized Building Company called Insulex Panel Systems, Inc. and I am always looking to learn more. We have been designing and erecting energy effecient buildings since 1982.

    Please Advise,

    Scott Martin
    Insulex Panel Systems, Inc.

  7. Bernie Lenhoff October 17, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Hi madtrait,

    Regarding the water reuse, there are two components here: the interior recycling system, and the exterior rainwater catchment system, which they’ve labeled as “gray water” in the photos above. I suggest you contact Nick Thayer of Late Afternoon Garden Designs who designed the mkLotus landscaping for info on the entire exterior system.

    If you are referring to the catchment pool in the photos above, I agree it looks great. I believe it is intended to get its water from roof runoff. My company (Green Waste Recycle Yard) provided the wood timbers, which were milled from local discarded urban trees (Monterey Pines in this case). Nick devised a way to use a pond liner with the timbers to create the pool. These timbers are untreated, so I don’t know how long they would hold up in a real world application.

    The objects in the center of the pool are the recycled bottoms of Gray Goose vodka bottles, I believe from Red Shovel Glass Company.

    Here are two lists of all contributors to the showhouse:,20633,1665943,00.html

  8. donell montgomery October 3, 2007 at 11:13 am

    could we have the spec’s on the house so everyone can learn from this..Gray water systems, walls and such..this way everyone can evaluate the best use for their intended market and environment.

  9. Griff Bowie October 1, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Are there any designs which are affordable? Or are these just for those who have the means?

  10. claire September 27, 2007 at 10:52 am

    The “shell” costs $125 for 700 square feet. $225K for the upgraded package. Double that for the 2 br version. I sure hope it comes with closets. :-) A great design!

  11. madtrait September 26, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Does anyone have more information on the gray water filtration system they used here. It looks great and I would like to try to put something like this in my home.

  12. Dave De Puy September 26, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    To the comment from genkiRobo about who needs monitoring of consumption in a 700 sq foot home, I would postulate that we all should monitor and control our consumption in any size space.

    In this case, size is not the issue.

  13. West Coast Green «... September 25, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    […] I was, unfortunately, unable to attend the West Coast Green Conference in San Fransisco this last weekend. Some bloggers who attended have however written their thoughts on some of the ideas presented. Including the zero-energy prefab installed in front of City Hall(pictured). […]

  14. Fab PreFab « The ... September 25, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    […] Fab PreFab PREFAB FRIDAY: Zero-Energy MkLotus debuts! […]

  15. james blishen September 25, 2007 at 4:03 am

    Was that a tumble dryer in the kitchen??!

  16. genkiRobo September 24, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    One pressing thought I always have on these pre-fab’s: cost. It seems for the same size house you could easily build a more efficient, more green, more sustainable strawbale home, cut back on the exorbitant unnecessary accessories (digital monitoring the house- who needs that in 700sft space?!), and actually have an affordable home, about a third of the cost of this “modern trailer”. And besides the admittedly beautiful aesthetic look, why do all these “efficient” designs have floor to ceiling windows – the most inefficient thing I could think of on a house (sure you can pay four times the price of a regular window for efficient ones, but its something that wasn’t even necessary if the design was more about efficiency, less about voyeurism).

    I know most of us don’t think on low budgets when having a home built – but if I had to decide between a 700sft strawbale home, or this modern single-wide, there’s little decision to make in my mind…

  17. dianejwright September 23, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    If Marshall, Michelle, or even “West Coast Green” is reading this, please provide a way to find out about interior furnishings, fixtures, and finishes please. For instance, what materials are being used in the bathroom? Looks to be recycled glass tiles and maybe Vetrazzo counters, but it’s hard to tell. Excellent use of the ecoresin sliding panels and hardware. It’s something I’m hoping to do quite soon but have concerns about the lack of substantial weight to the products. Anyone here have thoughts on that?

    I’d like a page on the MKD site that shows (specifically) the options available for customization (tho’, from experience, I won’t hold my breath).

  18. art davis September 23, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    this looks a lot better than the renderings. it is a great summary of current products available. and it brings good light to the fact that once a home is getting most of its energy from solar then the car should be electric and charged from solar as well.
    ceiling height is very important. we’ve known for ages about the positive psychological and functional effects.
    but…what happens on the urban scale? humans can enjoy small square footage if there is a pleasant view and if you dont have to look right at another one of these 10 ft away or at a wall. this times 1 million in close proxemity in a city = ….well, do i have to recall the problems that have led to the worst of our problems, that of urban sprawl? or try 1 billion or 6 billion?
    so, ultimately this is definitily not a green solution for the masses, nor do we want to have this in a remote wilderness or vacation location as opposed to a site specific, more creative design.
    the goal of pre-fab or factory built is the profitability of mass production. that is not a good directive for finding great habitation design. nor does transporting habitat modules over long distances using the already congested highway system a good idea.
    i thought everyone is supposed to be thinking global! even if we just think national, the US is sprawling at a terrible rate! the new urbanism movement woke some people up. oregon and portland…others. look at the new urbanism website now. its even more drastic! and there is good reason! single family homes and even worse, prefab single family homes set urban design back (well it was never really part of any intelligent urban design!) 50 years!
    even if this appears to be a nice product; good design on a fractional scale, nice integration of everything at the latest green products convention…we cannot consider this to be a viable solution for habitat.
    think 3-D urban structure and no cars within city.


  19. September 22, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    […] read more | digg story […]

  20. Tom September 22, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Instead of stucco you should consider Urbanslabs GREEN exterior wall clad panels. Their product is 60% GREEN and uses recycled glass containers as a direct replacement for silica sand. The panels are .75″ thick (1cm) and come in a standard 8′ X 3′ size. They can be cut to size using a normal natural stone saw. They offer twelve colors.

    This product uses very little Portland cement and no flyash. Natural minerals make up the matrix.

  21. jean harrington September 22, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Adam, I been to sf in the summer and in winter.
    Heat is nice-to-have, but not a necessity.
    Many of old houses do not have heat,
    right in the neighborhood of city hall.

    I am taking about houses where the temperature falls below 10 degrees.

  22. Adam September 22, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Jean, have you ever been to San Francisco? This isn’t Southern California, gets quite cold here. FYI

  23. Richie September 22, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Hey Gary, If you click on ‘Michelle Kaufman’ in the articles text above… you’ll route oa a page which has a video link on the right. In that video it becomes very clear that SIP’s are used for the walls and the roof… which is as it should be.

    I’m curious about the flexibility of the design… as regards a building block, or modular, fashion. What is possible I wonder ? And can plans be purchased instead of just ordering the whole prefab ? Buying plans would be a nice option.

    Because it uses SIPS, and it looks like they’re the 8″ thick (6″ foamcore) kind, I suspect that the insulation is good.

    What concerns me, however, is security. Those open link ‘city gates’ security gates would seem to be indicated…. possibly blended with other measures ???

    All in all, I think the house is a little small. One more room, a study / second bedroom… located within a half second floor would make this house a ‘home’ in my opinion.

    Very good progress here though. Very little to complain about. Congrats !

  24. jean harrington September 22, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Funny you are having the show in sf, a city where heating the house is not really necessary.
    I would like to hear more about geothermal energy, one of the ways to heat in very cold climates that most of us have.

  25. Gary September 22, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Why don’t any of these designs use SIPs – probably the most efficient type of buliding system on the planet! It makes no sense to worry about ‘light bulbs’ and ‘fly ash’ in the concrete when 70% of the bulding envelope can reduce the energy costs by 50-60% by just building the walls, floors and roof with SIPs…

  26. East Cost Green Wannabee September 22, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I think I just found my dream house. Anyone know what it will cost to build one of these things, or if there is a _slightly_ larger version for a family with kids?

  27. ArquiBio - Arquitectura... September 22, 2007 at 4:11 am

    […] ver más fotos de este original proyecto aquío visitar el análisis que hacen en Inhabitat    Leer más    Publica un […]

  28. West Coast Green September 21, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Jill and Emily, thank you for that awesome and thorough writeup of the showhouse!

    Anyone interested in finding more on M.K. can go to From there, you can learn more about the house and connect with her other designs.

    Thanks again to everyone at!

    -West Coast Green

  29. Blue Sky Mining »... September 21, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    […] else can ogle the MKLotus, the prefab of the moment is the Plywood Chateau by artist James Westwater. “”James […]

  30. Hmmmmm September 21, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    A green roof reduces reflective enrgy that adds to global warming. It is not designed to creat thermal mass for household energy reduction.

  31. Sandra Seyler September 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    How can I find out more about Ms. Kaufmann’s designs, cost per square footage, and when the next show displaying houses will be?

  32. Noaidi September 21, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Joe: Yes, there is additional insulation. Green roof improves insulation because it reduces extremal temperatures on the roof during the year. In the summer plants evaporate moisture when it’s hot not gather sun energy in their mases like the other materials does.

  33. Joe September 21, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Why is the living area on the north side? Wouldn’t it be better to flip the floor plan having the bedroom on the north side and living on south. This would make the building more energy efficient right, using the sun to help heat the building in the winter.
    Also I’m not too familiar with green roofs but isn’t earth a thermal mass not an insulator. Is there additional insulation below the green roof? How does a green roof insulate?

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home