Prefab architect, green guru Michelle Kaufmann addresses looming water crisis in white paper

In ‘Turning the Tides of Crisis: Prioritizing Water Conservation Before it's Too Late,’ Kaufmann outlines blueprint to avoiding ‘water bankruptcy’

OAKLAND, CALIF. — Michelle Kaufmann, award-winning green architect and sustainable living expert, announced the release of the white paper, “Turning the Tides of Crisis: Prioritizing Water Conservation Before it's Too Late.” In the white paper, the fourth in a series addressing a variety of environmental and green building topics, Kaufmann examines the looming water crisis. The full white paper can be downloaded at http://blog.michellekaufmann.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/water_crisis.pdf.

Rather than ignore this growing threat, we can and must address it proactively, taking steps now to guard against a devastating water crisis as we ought to have done against the financial crisis. Today, water prices in the U.S. belie the true cost of providing and continuing to provide freshwater to Americans amidst rising demand and diminishing supply. Full cost pricing of water would remedy that discrepancy. When asked to pay an appropriately high price for it, consumers will be less likely to waste water and further jeopardize our supply.

Many of the water saving solutions outlined in the white paper are standard in the homes designed and built at Michelle Kaufmann Designs. A 2008 comparison between a Kaufmann Glidehouse home built in Northern California and the average household revealed a significant contrast in water usage.

Kaufmann asserts that in order to avoid total “water bankruptcy” the U.S. must make extreme shifts in its philosophical, economic and behavioral approaches to water.

“Rather than ignore this growing threat, we can and must address it proactively, taking steps now to guard against a devastating water crisis as we ought to have done against the financial crisis,” asserted Michelle Kaufmann, founder and chairperson of Michelle Kaufmann Designs and all-around “green guru.”

In addition to realizing its intrinsic value — to life, economies, and ecologies — Kaufmann posits that it is time for the U.S. to implement “full cost pricing” of water. Full cost pricing is a phrase used by economists to describe a price level that takes into account all the societal costs — environmental, social, and actual — associated with a particular good or service.

“Today, water prices in the U.S. belie the true cost of providing and continuing to provide freshwater to Americans amidst rising demand and diminishing supply," explained Kaufmann. "Full cost pricing of water would remedy that discrepancy. When asked to pay an appropriately high price for it, consumers will be less likely to waste water and further jeopardize our supply."

Given full cost pricing of water as an incentive to use it less wastefully, U.S. households might eventually save hundreds of gallons of water everyday. Consumers will be further motivated to implement water-saving solutions — from installing dual-flush toilets, which can reduce water usage up to 67%, to retrofitting with plumbing fixtures designed to save water, which can save more than 11,000-gal. of water annually, to rethinking the way they irrigate lawns and gardens.

“Many of the water saving solutions outlined in the white paper are standard in the homes we design and build at Michelle Kaufmann Designs,” continued Kaufmann. “In fact, a 2008 comparison between one of our Glidehouse® homes built in Northern California and the average household revealed a stark contrast between water usage.”

The Glidehouse, with its on-demand water heater, dual-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and xeriscaping, had an average annual usage rate of 86 gallons of water a day, whereas the typical household consumed 355 gallons per day. Based on the average residential rate for water in California ($36.39 per unit of 1,500-cu.ft.) that difference translates into a savings of about $314.16 a year. Any U.S. household that takes advantage of water conservation tools and strategies, such as the one described above can enjoy a savings on their utility bills. Given the implementation of full cost pricing, the savings would be even greater when compared to homes without water saving features.

The mission of Kaufmann's firm, which has built more homes for clients than any other in the modern modular architecture world, is to make beautiful, thoughtful design accessible to more people by employing prefabricated modular building practices and prepackaging green solutions. To date, homes built by Michelle Kaufmann Designs are saving energy, water and carbon emissions through the use of sustainable design, materials, and methods that approximate:

  • Energy savings: 2,109,818 kBtus per year
  • Water savings: 3,547,549 gal. per year
  • Carbon emissions savings: 648,000 lbs. per year

By reducing resource consumption, waste, costs, and building time by up to 50%-75% over conventional building methods, Kaufmann's prefabricated, modular building techniques deliver benefits to individual homebuyers as well as builders/developers, who are interested in building green multi-family and community developments.

Kaufmann offers seven modular configurations — Glidehouse, Sunset Breezehouse, Sidebreeze, mkLotus, mkLoft, mkSolaire, and mkHearth — as well as custom homes and larger multi-family and community developments.

Kaufmann AIA, LEED AP, is an advocate and knowledgeable source for eco-conscious living. Michelle Kaufmann Designs, her full-service design/build firm, which was recently honored with Residential Architect's 2008 Top Firm award, uses off-site modular technology and prepackaged green solutions as the means to create beautiful, eco-friendly homes and multi-family developments. Kaufmann, who is committed to making thoughtful, sustainable design accessible to all, has built more homes for clients than any other firm in the modern modular architecture world. Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Oakland, Calif., the company expanded to run its own factory delivering homes for clients on the West Coast. Michelle Kaufmann Cos. also works with key factory partners to handle increasing volume and expanded territories.