Steel Prefab Home in California - Blue Sky Prototype by o2 Architecture

To the north of Joshua Tree National Park the Blue Sky prefab prototype home is situated in the wilderness scenery. The home found its place among pine trees, juniper trees and picturesque surrounding. The house is constructed above six steel columns, for the times when a seasonal stream can run.

The owner, the architects and the engineers hit the mark, when they used a special steel frame. This clever idea help this amazing home to soar, like an eagle, above the desert landscape. Thus, they add to the weighty metal construction the lightness of the cloud. One of the owners and the main visionaries, David McAdam, did not know what kind of house design he wanted to build at 2.5 acres area not far away from Palm Springs in California, but he definitely knew about the material of the dwelling, it should not be wood. He already saw how other houses have been damaged in harsh weather conditions in desert. So, David knew a wood building is a frail structure for severely hot climate; it can be spoiled and destroyed. And what material did he decide to choose?

At first, Mc Adam thought about concrete construction, but he immediately realized the idea was not brilliant. Then, he remembered about steel mining cabins, which he observed some time ago in the Mojave Desert. But the price of such project was not acceptable. Later David invited his friend, who had equestrian facilities. And McAdam was surprised about how smart and really quickly the steel parts can be combined to form different structures, as barns or shelters. David spoke to Barret Hilzer, one of the heads of FCP, the organization that build for his friend, and McAdam decided to use the same framing system for building his own house, which will satisfy his wish to create a delightful home.

As for the technical characteristics of the steel framing system that fascinated David, it consists of the point-loaded, moment-resisting, bidirectional frame. And the steel is produced by California’s ASC Profiles in Sacramento. The creators protected their work from all weather and seismic changes, so there is won’t be any unexpected rust and deformation of the framing system. Also there are no huge outlines using the structural steel system, than using the residential construction. Such steel system is convenient and it is not required a lot of money and time for transportation. Steel constructions are made by manufacturer and delivered to the destination.

David McAdam was bewitched by the potential of framing system, especially after building his superb house at 1,000 square feet. The company 02 Architecture and residential builder Solterra Development made impossible with the help of Helzer’s system. One of the old and good colleagues of Adam, Robert Brada, was also contracted. Later, David became a founder of Blue Sky Homes, the company that makes dreams true. McAdam continues his successful work and builds new masterpieces, using incredible framing systems.

The kitchen, the dining room and a living area are the one large room, which occupies half of the house. Moreover, the living area is enlarges by the sliding glass doors, which opens 340-square-foot cantilevered deck. McAdam wonders about how eyes are fastened unwittingly on the majestic rocky surroundings, when he sits in the main area.

The thermal properties of the steel were for the creators of the Blue Sky house a real huge problem, as the desert has insufferable hot climate and sometimes even it can grow cold in the night. To solve the problem of conductive properties of steel is not easy task. But after many exhausting investigations they coped with task and found the reasonable solution, steel studs insulated with expanded polystyrene foam. Accelerated Building Technologies is a company from Pennsylvania, created a special channel system through the insulation that forces cold and hot temperatures to follow a micro-zigzag path along steel pieces embedded in the insulation. And that effect on the temperatures in the house.

After everything was solved, to build the Blue Sky home was a real pleasure, because every part of it matches each other and work is going on without any problems and undue hurry. The house has mold resistance and fireproofing. Amazing house is completely pollution-free, as used materials can be recycled and 70 percent of it is already reused materials.

As a matter of fact, the most details of Blue Sky home construction can be put in the recycling bin. Many parts of the house are made from recycled materials, such as steel frame, the kitchen’s and bathroom’s Vetrazzo countertops. A graywaters go to the yard with desert plants. There is also the solar powered hydronic heating system, which provides hot water and heating. All of these make this off-the-grid home so cozy, that the idea to leave this marvelous house won’t come for a long time.

But the main advantage nevertheless is that the building system of such prefabricated construction is totally ecologically friendly. Though other houses, like stick-build, produce a lot of construction waste, the Blue Sky homes, as all traditional prefabs, can be called the friendliest to environment. Every part of houses’ construction manufactured at a factory and delivered to the place of the building, so everything is used, nothing is left after this technology. Specialty of this prefab building is that long and heavy preparations are not necessary. And it does not effect on the environment, without any harm to the land, it adjusts to the local topography. The most disruptive in the building of the houses is the scrapping a housing pad, but the Blue Sky home is situated in the desert, so the influence of this harming factor is limited. If you use the Blue Sky building system you do not have to worry about the impact on the nature, especially in regions with fragile ecosystems.

The owner and creator of the Blue Sky Homes, David McAdam, called his firm’s building system “hybrid prefabs”. These prefabs produced in a factory, but assembled at the site. The first Blue Sky home was built in eight weeks and they spent $325 per square foot. But in the future the team is planning to reduce building time to only six weeks and cost to $265 per square foot. Blue Sky prefabs belong to the middle price dwellings. Also McAdam named his masterpiece “the Prius of prefabs” and told about that people are apt to spend a little more money for the better engineered and more eco-friendly houses.

To live in that desert environment is exciting and McAdam and his partner, Scott Smith, agreed with this. It is difficult to oppose the temptation to go on hikes and enjoy the silence of the majestic surroundings. And if you tired there is always a possibility to relax in the cowboy hot tube, which is made from steel and filled with water warmed by the sun. When the day is over the spirit of the Mojave Desert fills the Blue Sky home and the owners see beautiful dreams.

Design: o2 Architecture
Area: 1,000 square feet (93 square meters)
Year: 2010
Location: California
Photos: Misha Gravenor

Addresses and phones

Address 1089 N Palm Canyon Dr, Suite B, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Phone 760-778-8165