Rock Reach House
A collaborative effort between Prefabricated Home developer Blue Sky Homes LLC and Palm Springs based Architect Lance O’Donnell of o2 Architecture. The house sits amidst a jumble of fantastically weathered granite boulders in a national park-like setting in the private community of Rock Reach in the Town of Yucca Valley. Taken together, the house and the setting offer a high desert escape second to none.
All-Steel House Prototype:
In Yucca Valley, Calif., more than 3,000’ above sea level, rests the first allsteel house prototype from Blue Sky Homes, Palm Springs, Calif. This 1,000-sq.ft., light-gauge, galvanized steel home marks the beginning of a new movement not only for pre-fabricated residential homes, but as an answerto the environmental standards of today’s sustainable building movement. The house is based on the Blue Sky Homes Building System™ and showcases the use of metal in prefabricated residential applications, from the steel frame design, to the energy-efficient steel roof manufactured by AEP Span. “The steel utilized in the Blue Sky Homes Building System is manufactured from at least 70% recycled material, and is itself 100% recyclable,” said David McAdam, co-founder of Blue Sky Homes. Since steel withstands the unforgiving climate of the desert betterthan wood, the only wood within the house is the cabinetry and furniture.
The pre-fabricated house is built almost entirely with cold-formed, light-gauge, high-tensile galvanized steel. In addition to being substantially less expensive than structural steel, light-gauge steel can be assembled largely by hand, with no on-site cutting, drilling, or welding. “Most of the elements of the home were pre-fabricated in a factory and then assembled at the jobsite,” said McAdam. This pre-fabrication method reduced the number of trips to the jobsite and cut labor costs, further improving the home’s environmental credentials.
Shipping pre-fabricated elements of the house, as opposed to completed modules that are restricted to the heights and widths of the flatbed truck transporting the house, allows for more design flexibility. Due to the pre-fabricated pieces of the house, and the dependability of steel, McAdam believes the savings in labor will offset the higher cost of steel when compared to wood. The savings in labor are apparent, given that the prototype house was framed in one day, and was completely weather-tight, with the roof, walls, and floors in place at the end of five days. An entire home can be finished in six weeks. “We think the Blue Sky Homes Building System offers significant advantages in terms of cost, speed, and design flexibility,” said McAdam
The prototype boasts a long list of green building and sustainable building attributes. The house “floats” above the rocky desert on six steel columns that rest on small concrete footings, requiring virtually no land grading, ensuring the natural setting of the house is not disturbed. So much, in fact, that a seasonal stream is allowed to run unobstructed underneath the house. Furthermore, Blue Sky Homes employs an efficient steel framing design known as moment-resisting framing as an alternative to the labor-intensive, wasteful lumber framing commonly seen in residential construction.
The house was completed as a partnership between a variety of designers, manufacturers, and installation professionals. The firm, o2 Architecture of Palm Springs, Calif., known for its modernistic work within the residential, commercial, and institutional markets, designed the Yucca Valley prototype house. Solterra Development was the general contractor for the house. The Palm Springs-based company is known for combining classic designs with modern construction materials and sustainable building features.
FCP Inc., a steel design, engineering, and fabrication company based in Wildomar, Calif., developed the structural design, engineered, supplied, and installed the Blue Sky prototype home. FCP Inc. produces coldformed mezzanine structures that have an AISI-tested system for use in seismically active areas. The Blue Sky Homes Building System Yucca Valley house is based upon this rigid frame system. This system, “will allow a lot more use of cold-formed structural sections, and will become a new standard method of construction,” said Barret Hilzer, principal and chief operating officer at FCP Inc.
AEP Span, ASC Building Products, and ASC Steel Deck provided a majority of the light-gauge steel flooring, roofing, and wall material for the house. “FCP ordered many of the structural Cee Sections, wall panels, and roofing profiles from AEP Span, ASC Steel Deck, and ASC Building Products (all Divisions of ASC Profiles),” said Hilzer. Foster Gibble, vice president of AEP Span appreciated the opportunity to help supply FCP Inc. and Blue Sky Homes with some of the materials they needed. “AEP Span, ASC Building Products, and ASC Steel Deck are proud to be apart of the recently completed Blue Sky Prototype,” said Gibble. “This type of construction can open up new directions and new markets for metal applications,” added Gibble.
Blue Sky Building Systems:
The Southern California desert has been the setting over many years for great innovation and experimentation in the design of homes. Rock Reach House, by Blue Sky Building Systems, is the first home built using the revolutionary Blue Sky Frame™. This system allows homes to be site-built very rapidly. This home, featured in the April 2010 Dwell magazine, and honored as an 2011 AIAIC Merit Award Winner, is sure to become an iconic architectural treasure representing the first of an entirely new genre of design and fabrication heralding far more sustainable and efficient home building.
The house features numerous green elements, including: Internally it features the following green elements.
- Solar photovoltaic panels send excess electricity back into grid.
- Solar thermal panels heat glycol which is used to create hot water and for space heating.
- Ceiling fans in bedrooms reduce need for air conditioning.
- Gray water system disposes of wastewater from shower, bathroom sink and washing machine.
- On-site water well and holding tanks. House is not dependent upon municipal water agency.
- Micro FAST four-chamber septic system (including evaporative mound) for black water.
- High-performance “E²”double-pane windows and doors.
- Cabinets made with bamboo (Plyboo) fronts and FSC certified boxes.
- Only wood in house found in interior doors and frames.
- No use of propane or natural gas in house.
- A seasonal stream flows uninterrupted under house.
Due to the use of the revolutionary Blue Sky Frame, the following green construction practices were able to be used.
- Minimal damage to land, home sits on six small footings.
- All steel used manufactured with up to 70 percent recycled steel.
- Factory fabrication of most elements meant dramatically less waste created.
- Waste created in factory immediately recycled.
- Prefabrication of elements meant far less site waste needing to be taken to landfill.
- Waste created during construction sorted and recycled.
- Rapid construction meant far fewer pickup truck trips to and from job site by workers.
- All materials in the home can be recycled.
This prefabricated home is located in the arid desert region surrounding Yucca Valley, California. The program called for an adaptable, sustainable, modestly scaled, durable and economical residence to serve as a prototype for a future line of “flat-packed” homes. Emphasis was given to site placement: ensuring minimal site disruption while maximizing views and retaining privacy.
The 1,000 SF house with 340 SF of outdoor deck is positioned above the site surface on moment-resisting columns and beams of cold-formed, light gauge steel. The building envelope is composed by a grid of pre-manufactured Steel Thermal Efficient Panels, “STEP’s,” and standardized building components. The bathroom module, containing all home mechanical, plumbing, and electrical services, is built off-site and delivered finished with the flat packed kit-of parts. Interiors are defined by the placement of storage cabinetry, eliminating interior framed walls. Solar technologies provide electricity, hot water and space heating.
The flat packed building components minimize transportation volume and promote sustainability through material and structural efficiency. The inherent nature of prefabricated design ensures low embodied energy and minimizes site waste. Low-& Non-V.O.C. products were used in all cabinetry and paint applications.
Project name: Blue Sky Home
Location: Yucca Valley, California, United States
Coordinates: 34.148326, -116.446421
- Type By Characteristic: Green & Sustainable House, Prefab House, Low Cost House
- Type By Site: Desert House
- Type By Size: Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Steel House
Project Area: 90 sqm/1,000-sq.ft
Project Year: 2009
Construction Year: The prototype was completed in May 2009, with an 8 week construction schedule.
Completion Year: 2009
Client / Owner / Developer: Privat
Architects: o2 Architecture – 1089 N Palm Canyon Dr Ste B , Palm Springs, California, United States
Project Architect: Lance O’Donnell
Builder: Blue Sky Homes
General Contractor: Solterra Development
Interior Design: Christopher Kennedy
Text Description: © Courtesy of o2 Architecture, Architectural west
Images: © o2 Architecture, NuVue Interactive