The prefab, 700 square foot BrightBuilt Barn is a remarkable feat of sustainable building, a real envelope-pusher, even before the phrase "LED mood ring" enters the equation. The extremely airtight structure — it's not quite a passive house but pretty darn close — features super insulation that doesn't require a furnace; it boasts solar paneling capable of producing 20 KWh a day; it's prefabricated offsite at an efficient New Hampshire workshop; it's on track to receive LEED Platinum certification; and perhaps most impressively, it has bragging rights to "Net-zero plus" status, meaning that the home actually produces more energy than it consumes and then sends out excess energy back out into the nation grid. Inhabitants are able to track energy consumption and production levels via intricate meters on the side of the home. Phew. And did I mention the home "wears" a LED mood ring?

The prototype BrightBuilt Barn in Rockport, Maine, has already been erected for a private client; additional models are due to be completed later this year at a price of around $200,000. The prototype is configured as a working studio and office but can be reconfigured as an one or two bedroom home, with the only "fixed" room being the bathroom. Says Phil Kaplan of Kaplan Thompson Architects: “We think of BrightBuilt Barn as an organic, living system, which sustains itself and us by continuously adapting to our ever-changing needs. It is designed to keep on adapting for generations to come.” Okay, okay, I'll get to the mood ring...just saving the best for last. 

Around the exterior perimeter of the structure are LED "mood" lights — green, yellow, or red — that reflect the energy consumption (or non-consumption) of the inhabitants inside. If the building is producing more energy than it's consuming, than the "ring" glows green; if the ring is yellow than perhaps a few lights need to be turned off; and when the ring glows red it's time to power off the appliances and light some votives since consumption is higher than a production.

Envelope-pushing and unique indeed, but I do worry what would happen if BrightBuilt Barns were placed near major intersections. And kudos to the designers of the BrightBuilt. They've elevated us to a whole new level of keeping up with Joneses. Can you imagine the gossip produced by a whole neighborhood of BrightBuilt-esque homes adorning LED mood rings?  "Looks like Bob and Shirley left the TV on while taking extra long showers this morning. Their house is damned near yellow." 

Via [The NY Times]

Photo: Naomi C.O. Beal

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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