After nearly 10 months of re-engineering and design finessing, Michelle Kaufmann's Glidehouse is getting a second chance at life, courtesy of green prefab home manufacturer Blu Homes, which acquired the architect's high-end residential designs after she shuttered her firm in early 2009. The Glidehouse is now officially rolling out for nationwide production and delivery.

While Kaufmann's sleek aesthetic has been retained, along with most of the original luxurious and eco-friendly finish and fixture options, the Glidehouse has undergone several key alterations to fit Blu's proprietary steel-and-wood-framed modular system and to overcome some of the geographic limitations imposed by the design.

Because the company's innovative prefab system allows it to build modular houses in its factory and collapse (or fold) portions for shipping, thereby circumventing many restrictions on the size of modules, Blu was able to extend the Glidehouse's width by about 3 feet and increase ceiling heights, expand the house's geographic applications, and reduce shipping costs.

Blu's structural changes to the Glidehouse make it viable for geographic or climate zones in which it previously would have been problematic, including high rain and snow load areas and seismic and hurricane zones, according to Maura McCarthy, Blu's co-founder and vice president of business development.

Three floor plan variations also have been added to the Glidehouse's core, providing different home office and master dressing room options, as well as a staircase variation that allows for the house's installation atop a basement foundation—a feature not previously available with Kaufmann's California-centric design. Any of five new optional pods can be added to the Glidehouse, further extending its floor plan with a variety of rooms. Blu also offers ADA-compliant features.

The company's pricing structure, made possible by its proprietary folding system and reduced shipping costs, may prove to be a major selling point. A base price of $360,000 includes the Glidehouse, standard materials and finishes, delivery and installation, and finishing by Blu's own crew. Optional pods are priced at $75,000. Common architectural services are included in the base price, McCarthy notes. Blu's business model also eliminates much of the general contractor work usually required by other prefab home builders. Blu handles all aspects of delivery, setting, and finishing the house, and general contractors are hired only to prepare the home site and foundations and make electrical connections.

"We want to make the Glidehouse attainable for a larger group of people and still offer the kind of custom home beauty and features of the original design," McCarthy says. "Even though the base price isn't that much less expensive than the typical base price of the original Michelle Kaufmann Designs Glidehouse, we've eliminated a huge chunk of the extra architectural costs that had been necessary. Many of the Glidehouses Michelle Kaufmann Designs sold ended up costing between $700,000 and $1 million with all the extra architectural services, customizations, delivery fees, and general contractor costs." 

Depending on where in the country a new Glidehouse may be installed, McCarthy estimates it will cost up to 75 percent less to ship the house than it originally cost.

Blu's enhanced version of the Glidehouse is just one part of its mkDesigns line, which includes the Breezehouse and the Solaire. The company currently is working on re-engineering the Breezehouse for national rollout in January 2011, and the Solaire's rollout will follow in May 2012.

Read more about Blu Homes' acquisition of Michelle Kaufmann Designs' prefab designs.