It was a treat to see Michelle Kaufmann’s new green prefabricated cottage, the mkLotus, at West Coast Green last week. Kauffman, a Bay Area architect, is a leader in designing beautiful, functional, healthy homes that can be built in a factory and brought to your site on a flat-bed truck or two.
Set up and landscaped in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, the 700-square-foot house was a vision of style and sustainability. But the whole time I’m touring, I’m also thinking: How much does this thing cost? The answer wasn’t apparent. No giant price tag could be found.
But after sleuthing through her website, I finally got my answer. The standard mkLotus house is $175,000, plus an additional $25,000 for the cool NanaWall folding doors and $24,000 for the solar power system. So it looks like the house I toured would cost about $225,000, not including the land, the foundation, shipping or "setting" the house in place.
So, uh, that’s a lot of money for a bitty little house. As commenter Sheila pointed out recently, houses made in factories should theoretically cost less, but they usually cost more.
My hope: With economies of scale, when hundreds of thousands of these things are pumped out every year, the cost will go way down. Look what happened with compact fluorescent bulbs. Just a year or so ago I paid more than $10 for each one and now they’re what, four for a dollar?
I want to install a freestanding office on my property and so was interested in this option. However, until the wealthy "early adopters" start buying these green prefabs and bringing the price down I will, regretfully, have to pass on the opportunity for now.