In 2002, Kaufmann founded Michelle Kaufmann Designs, a full service architecture firm specializing in sustainable design. The firm designed and built single-family and multi-family green homes using prefabricated modular technology. The firm was closed in May 2009 and Kaufmann started a new design firm, Michelle Kaufmann Studio. Her firm offers customers a variety of prefabricated homes, as well as options for completely custom built homes as well.
Kaufmann grew up in Iowa where she developed an understanding of the relationship between humankind and the environment. Kaufmann received her undergraduate degree from Iowa State University and her Masters from Princeton University. Prior to founding Michelle Kaufmann Designs, Kaufmann was an Associate with Frank O. Gehry and had worked with him in Santa Monica. She also worked with Michael Graves.
Kaufmann relocated to Northern California, where she founded Michelle Kaufmann Designs. She has been a lecturer and keynote speaker for numerous events, and has taught at Iowa State University and Woodbury University.
Kaufmann currently lives with her husband and their two dogs in their Glidehouse in Marin County, California.
The first project, titled Glidehouse, was designed by Kaufmann and her husband Kevin Cullen in 2004. A full-size replica of this home was built for the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. from May 2006 through June 2007 as a part of the exhibit The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design. The style is influenced by "Japanese homes, along with Eichler and Eames, as well as the rural farm buildings from my childhood in Iowa".
The first MKLotus was designed by Michelle Kaufmann and was built in front of San Francisco's city hall in 2007 as a part of West Coast Green conference on sustainable building. This design is among the smallest of the open-space homes offered by MK designs. It includes a "front wrap-around deck and enclosed meditation garden" and is "Intended as a vacation or small stand-alone home". It uses the same sleek, geometric shapes as her other designs.
The MKSolaire was exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) within a show titled "The Smart Home: Green and Wired", which was open from May 2008 to January 2009. The Solaire has been "redesigned to reflect the lifestyle of a couple looking to minimize home maintenance, maximize efficiency and settle in to a space that not only is beautiful, but functional".
Awards and honors
In 2007 Kaufmann was named the "Henry Ford of green homes" by Sierra magazine, published by the Sierra Club. Kaufmann’s work is widely published and her homes have been showcased in a number of museums, including the National Building Museum, the Vancouver Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and most recently, in the "Smart Home: Green and Wired" exhibit at Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago).
Other awards include:
- Top Firm Award 2008 from Residential Architect magazine.
- Innovations Award 2008 from Social Venture Network.
- Best Architecture Website from WebAwards 2008.
- Kaufmann was named "Advocate of the Year 2009" by the National Association of Home Builders.
- Prefab Green (published by Gibbs Smith, ISBN 978-1423604976)
- Stephanie Kinnear (May 1, 2008). "Green Tour: Michelle Kaufmann's Very Own Glidehouse". Re-Nest. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
- "Tour of the Glidehouse". National Building Museum. October 5, 2006. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
- "mkLotus". Prefabs.com. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- "Museum of Science and Industry | Smart Home: Green + Wired". Msichicago.org. 2012-04-19. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- "Innovators: The Henry Ford of Green Homes – July/August 2007 – Sierra Magazine". Sierra Club. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- "Museum of Science and Industry | What's Here | Exhibits | Smart Home: Green + Wired". Msichicago.org. April 19, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2012.