Shown above is an exterior view of the Glidehouse as displayed at the Green House exhibit. (Photo by Gretchen Franti/Hoachlander Davis Photography, courtesy of National Building Museum.)

A green home may be coming to your area - in a local museum to show its features and benefits and/or in a local neighborhood to demonstrate its growing acceptance.

The Green House exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., has now completed its run as one of the most popular exhibitions in museum history. It attracted more than 115,000 visitors from May 20, 2006 through June 24, 2007. The Green House exhibit will next travel to major museums across the United States for two years.

In addition to featuring models of 20 residences from the United States and around the world that apply green principles, the exhibition at the National Building Museum included a full-size, furnished replica of architect Michelle Kaufmann’s Glidehouse™, allowing visitors to walk through and experience a green home.

The bathroom in the Glidehouse exhibit has a window that provides a view into the mechanical room containing the mini-duct HVAC system. (Photo by Gretchen Franti/Hoachlander Davis Photography, courtesy of National Building Museum.)

As to whether green home building is a long-term trend, or a current fad, Kaufmann, the design principal for Michelle Kaufmann Designs (MKD), a San Francisco Bay-area firm that she founded in 2003, declared, “It is clear that we have reached a tipping point of people’s understanding of the issues at hand. Yes, green is a trendy topic. However, it is critical that we use this awareness to rethink how and what we build.

“We have to change how we build. We cannot continue to build so inefficiently and create unhealthy environments. We hear so much about the impact of automobiles on the environment, but buildings actually create more greenhouse gas emissions than automobiles. Green building is a necessary method of building in the building community that has been on the rise and is ever present in the building industry,” she said.

“We believe green building will continue to grow in popularity with home builders and home buyers alike. Many of our clients come to MKD because we design-build green homes first, and the secondary reason is our method of building - off-site construction - which results in 50 percent to 70 percent less waste than site-built construction as well as more efficiencies with time and budget.

“Our belief (and hope) is that in five years, we won’t be using the word green anymore - or talking about it - because it will just be the way that we build.”


The NEWStoured the Green House exhibit at the museum before its close and also interviewed Kaufmann about the Glidehouse and green home building. The Green House exhibit was divided into five sections:

1.Visitors first walked through a reconstructed portion of the Glidehouse, including the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and deck.

2.Displays educated visitors on the Five Green Principles, which are: wisely using the land, working with the sun, creating high-performance and energy-efficient houses, improving IAQ, and wisely using the earth’s material resources.

3.Contemporary green houses provided models, photographs, and drawings of 20 homes to show how architects and builders are applying green design and construction.

4.A Materials Resource Room presented examples of various green materials including carpets, tiles, and countertops.

5.A Summations Gallery provided three video monitors, one featuring Kaufmann, that highlighted what the visitor had just seen regarding green and sustainable building.

To maximize efficiency and comfort, the Glidehouse (shown above and below) includes a high-velocity mini-duct HVAC system, multistage air purification system, tankless water heater, spray-in foam insulation for the walls and roof, and a fiber optic lighting system. (Photos by JMC Photography, courtesy of Michelle Kaufmann Designs.)


The introduction to the Glidehouse at the National Building Museum noted that it’s a highly efficient modular home designed to provide the cost savings of factory-built homes with the benefits of custom design.

The Glidehouse incorporates a number of mechanical elements that maximize the energy efficiency of the home. The high-velocity mini-duct HVAC system is said to be 30 percent more efficient than conventional forced-air systems.

For improved comfort, the high-pressure air distribution provides gentle mixing of air to help eliminate hot and cold spots. The multistage air purification system optimizes IAQ. In addition, the house is designed to enhance natural ventilation to minimize the need for air conditioning.

A tankless water heater provides on-demand hot water, eliminating the continuous heating of water stored in a tank.

The walls and roof are insulated with a spray-in foam called Icynene which expands to fill any gaps. It is said to provide a substantially more effective barrier than fiberglass. The foam insulation is designed to keep the house cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and moisture resistant year-round.

A unique feature of the Glidehouse is a fiber optic lighting system that does not generate heat. It consumes as little as 25 percent of the energy of traditional lighting and also helps reduce the energy used by the HVAC system.

The house is solar ready, designed to accept solar panels on the roof. An HVAC system option is a geothermal heat pump.


After being unable to find a home of her own that was affordable as well as offering green alternatives, Kaufmann started her architectural design firm to develop cost-effective, well-designed, green homes.

To make its homes more affordable, MKD employs off-site modular home building technology, which the company says benefits clients by streamlining the construction process and reducing waste while providing more predictability of costs and time frame.

In addition to the Glidehouse, MKD’s designs include several other green homes in sizes from a one-bedroom cottage to a multistory house. “We have provided a range of floor plans for the Glidehouse design as well as three others, the Sunset Breezehouse™, Sidebreeze, and mkSolaire™,” said Kaufmann.

“Of these floor plans, the Sidebreeze design (two-story) is the largest home MKD currently offers as part of our predesigned homes, measuring 2,380 square feet. Any of these designs can be modified to be larger (two-story, three-story, even four-story), depending on the site, the program, and the client’s budget.

“We are also working with clients to create custom homes unique to our clients’ lifestyle and site. Our custom homes are designed using the same basic, sustainable design principles as our predesigned homes while taking advantage of the efficiencies of off-site construction.”

A total of 18 MKD homes have been built to date, including the Glidehouse, Sunset Breezehouse, and custom home designs. “We are also working on four development projects in Colorado, Nevada, and Northern California,” stated Kaufmann. “We expect to complete 50 homes by the end of this year.”

Asked about the cost of one of her green homes, she said that the cost per square foot for Glide-house projects ranges between $200 to $275. (All costs included after permits are let; this does not include the cost for land.) For additional cost information, visit

Because of all their sustainable and high-efficiency features, the Glidehouse and other MKD homes can be certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) residential program. “We have designed our homes to be LEED ready in the event that our clients choose to pursue LEED certification,” said Kaufmann. “We are currently working on a few homes that will soon be Energy Star rated, GreenPoint rated, and LEED accredited. We expect to have all of our home designs Energy Star certified by the end of this year.”

Visit for more information on the Glidehouse and Michelle Kaufmann Designs.

Publication date:07/09/2007