Model house spreads green building message

April 1, 2008
Starting in May, The Museum of Science and Industry will show visitors what green and sustainable housing looks like when it opens the exhibit “Smart Home: Green + Wired, Powered by ComEd and Warmed by Peoples Gas.”

Chicago — The Museum of Science and Industry here is well-known for its ride down into a model coal mine, a tour of the U-505 submarine, the only captured German U-boat in the U.S., plus a great plumbing exhibit sponsored by the Plumbing Council of Chicagoland.

Starting in May, the Museum will show visitors what green and sustainable housing looks like when it opens the exhibit “Smart Home: Green + Wired, Powered by ComEd and Warmed by Peoples Gas.”

The factory built house, designed by architect Michelle Kaufmann, is being assembled on the east lawn of the Museum grounds. The exhibit will run through Jan. 4, 2009.

All American Homes LLC, a Decatur, Ind., manufacturer of systems-built housing, built, delivered and supervised the assembly of the home, along with Kaufmann.

Displaying new directions in sustainable living and environmentally friendly technology, the Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit will offer guests a view into innovations in reusable resources, reduced energy consumption and clean, healthy-living environments in a contemporary setting within the 2,500-sq.ft. home and surrounding gardens and grounds. Michelle Kaufmann Designs conceived the home and worked closely with the engineering and manufacturing team at the All American Homes manufacturing facility to complete the custom home. Kaufmann's design, called the mkSolaire, was built for an urban environment and features “family-friendly” interior architecture. The home will demonstrate the benefits of energy-efficient HVAC systems and earth-friendly building components to create a healthy living environment.

The house incorporates radiant floor heat, with both solar thermal collectors a Crown boiler feeding Ipex' orange PEX-Aluminum-PEX tubing on top of a Warmboard subfloor. Water is heated by a Bosch tankless water heater. Kohler supplied the fixtures, including a Tea for Two whirlpool tub and high efficiency toilets.

The seven modules, five comprising the house and two modules making up the garage, were manufactured in Decatur, Ind. On Feb. 11, the custom house was “test fit” or “soft set” at the factory prior to being transported to the Museum site where it was set on its foundation. After the home was set in place using a crane, a process that typically takes one to two days depending on the weather, the finish interior work, furnishing and landscaping was completed in preparation for the opening of the Smart Home exhibit on May 8.

Michelle Kaufmann Designs is a full service design/build architectural firm that specializes in sustainable, high-quality modular architecture. Michelle Kaufmann focuses on home designs that create a marriage of aesthetics and sustainability using modular construction. Working under the belief that sustainable, well-designed buildings should be accessible to more people, Kaufmann has simplified the process and chosen off-site modular technology as the means to create beautiful, eco-friendly homes and buildings. The goal of her company is to make it easier for people to build green and live a more sustainable lifestyle. The home being built for the Smart Home exhibit is a new MKD design called mkSolaire, a three-story, loft-style home, suitable for an urban environment. The Museum's home is the first mkSolaire to be constructed. Additional information about the firm is available at

“From roofing, to rain shield barriers, to tile flooring materials composed of recycled goods and even uniquely engineered floor joist systems, this project has provided us with a better understanding of what it really means to engineer and build an environmentally friendly home,” said Dwight Martin, quality assurance manager on the project for All American Homes.

“We are in the midst of evolving as a company towards designing and building more environmentally friendly, energy efficient and sustainable products,” said the homebuilder's president, Rick Bedell. “We will continue these efforts throughout our company with the philosophy that being green is good for the environment and good for business.”

The Museum of Science and Industry's mission is to inspire the inventive genius in everyone by presenting captivating and compelling experiences that are real and educational. The Museum first opened its doors on June 19, 1933. In 2008 — more than 175 million guests later — the Museum commemorates its 75th Anniversary with a year-long celebration. The Museum is open every day of the year except Dec. 25. The Museum is supported in part through the generosity of the people of Chicago through the Chicago Park District. Additional information is available at

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