Trent Bell Photography

Portland, Maine–based Kaplan Thompson Architects made a splash in 2008 with a prefabricated, net-zero-energy dwelling called BrightBuilt Barn. Now Kaplan and Jesse Thompson, AIA, LEED AP, have gone a step further and launched BrightBuilt Home, a partnership with Oxford, Maine–based modular builder Keiser Homes that promises net-zero-capable houses at significantly lower prices than their site-built equivalents.

The nine BrightBuilt Home designs, which range from 720 to 2,800 square feet, combine Kaplan Thompson’s building performance expertise with its keen eye for 19th century New England vernacular styles. Lessons learned from the firm’s production-savvy partner result in construction times of four to six months and square-foot costs of $140 to $170.

Anticipating clients’ yen for customization, BrightBuilt includes a number of redesign iterations in each house’s base price. “If they’re okay with the shape of the shell, then we’ll move walls and windows around for them,” Kaplan says. After fabrication, modules are assembled on site by a member of the company’s preferred-builder network, which covers much of New England.

BrightBuilt has completed nine houses, with eight more under construction. Consumer interest has been so strong that the architects are exploring relationships with modular builders outside the Northeast. Kaplan says he has no plans to quit his day job, “but we hope to make BrightBuilt its own entity. We’re playing it by ear, but based on the response so far, we’re going to continue to grow with this.”