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Step inside the latest in sustainable home design

Architect Michelle Kaufmann, whose brilliant work I’ve lauded before, recently updated “Smart Home: Green + Wired,” her exhibition at the Museum of Science of Industry in Chicago (MSI). The exhibit features mkSolaire, a three-story loft-style house suitable for urban environments. It meets Kaufmann’s criteria for modular housing, an idea she developed when she and her husband were searching for their own green home. Using off-site, modular technology, Kaufmann is able to simplify the construction process and make sustainable, affordable and well-designed houses accessible to more people.

The finished product is amazing on its own, but the building process is pretty remarkable. (You can watch a ninety second time-lapse video.) The MSI Smart Home was created at a modular construction facility in Decatur, IN, where it was completed in a mere eight weeks, about 60% faster than typical home construction. And with serious advancements in waste reduction, like pre-cut lumber (meaning no excess, on-site disposal) and recycling drywall scrap (it’s trucked to local farmers to use in the soil for planting, keeping it out of landfills) it’s safer for the environment, too. The finished modules were then transported to MSI where they were set into the foundation.

That was all back in 2008. Now Kaufmann has teamed up with Scout, an interior furnishing store as well as the tech-forward folks at Gizmodo to revamp the Smart Home, providing museum-goers with the most up-to-date resources in sustainable living. Among the many changes they made are are the Knoll chairs in the living room, which have been reupholstered with fabric made from car tires. The dining table is made from recycled planks and the lighting fixture above it makes innovative use of old fluorescent tubes. One of my favorite elements are the kitchen cabinets, which are reclaimed and refurbished laboratory cabinets from the University of Chicago. Gizmodo installed two Cybertecture Mirrors in the master bathroom, which display the news and traffic, monitor your weight and connect to Twitter and Facebook. There’s also an energy dashboard that reports how much power is being generated from the solar film and 45-foot wind turbine on the rooftop.

Of course, what’s incredible about Kaufmann’s project is that it gives those who are unfamiliar with the many recent advancements in sustainable design and technology a chance to not just read about it but experience it first hand. And for those who are already well-versed in green technology it’s pure fun.