Green steel house joins ranks of modern architecture icons (photos)

Green steel house joins ranks of modern architecture icons (photos)

A sleek and shimmering all-white steel house designed by noted modernist architect Jim Jennings showcases innovations in residential design and construction.

The Desert Two home by Blue Sky Building Systems was named because it is Jennings’ second desert custom home project.

The structural frame of the home is made up entirely of 42 light-gauge steel wall and roof panels that were fabricated off site and then set in place in just three days. Rough framing with wood for custom homes typically requires about three weeks.

In all there are 26 wall panels in the house, with the longest one measuring 34 feet. There are 16 roof panels, with the longest measuring 28 feet. The wall panels were all hand set by the crew while the roof panels were set with the help of a small construction forklift.

Blue Sky steel home

Another significant innovation is in the layout of the house itself. The majority of the complex systems – mechanical, electrical and plumbing – are ganged in a rectangular core at the center of the house. In this way savings were achieved in construction and will extend to the lifetime operation of the house. For example hot water will have short distances to travel, thus saving on piping and installation labor – as well as energy.

See more photos of Desert 2 here.

Construction of the house began in early December and was completed at the end of April. Those five months compare to the 12-14 months – or longer – that are not uncommon for a similar-sized custom home that is framed on site with wood.

“Panelized wall and roof systems as well as central cores are not new concepts,” said David McAdam, co-founder of Blue Sky Building Systems. “Indeed right here in Palm Springs we have one of the best examples of this innovative legacy in the steel houses that were designed in the early 1960s by revered architect Don Wexler and his colleague Rick Harrison. It is our hope that by bringing new materials and new thinking to these concepts we can prompt architects and builders to take a fresh look at them.”

Desert Two, located at 1525 Avenida Olancha, was built on the last vacant lot in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood of Palm Springs. It features three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large open kitchen, dining room and living room. Counting an attached two-car garage, the house comprises 2,800 square feet.

The ceiling in the main living area represents one of Desert Two’s design innovations. It is made up of corrugated, perforated steel panels. Behind those panels is a black cloth scrim and then standard insulation material. Taken together these elements create significant sound deadening qualities – an important consideration in an area dominated by hard surfaces such as a 62-foot-long wall of glass and all-concrete floors.

The design of Desert Two harkens to one of the most loved elements of mid-century modern architecture – the blurring of the line between indoor and outdoor living. The continuous wall of glass that opens to the north is accompanied by a steel shade structure protecting from summer sun.

Beyond the shade structure a pool and spa lie within a private walled courtyard that includes a natural gas fire pit.

Furthering the indoor/outdoor design is a generous outdoor kitchen and adjacent dining area. Each bedroom has its own patio accessed through sliding glass doors. A private outdoor shower and bathtub sit atop a wood deck off the master bathroom, creating the vibe of a luxurious spa.

A number of green features are included in Desert Two. The house has been designed to accept a solar photovoltaic system large enough to make the house a net-zero energy home for a full-time resident. Other than cabinetry and interior doors there is almost no wood in the house.

Floors are polished concrete throughout. A tankless, on-demand gas water heater and a high efficiency dual-zone heating and air conditioning system contributes to low energy requirements. The shower enclosures consist of large sheets of tempered glass rather than the more traditional tile – offering both a clean design and a low-maintenance solution.

In fact, the entire house was designed to be very low maintenance over its lifetime. The home is clad with commercial metal siding attached with hidden fasteners that comes from the factory with permanently bonded paint.

Desert Two was built as a spec project and is currently listed for sale

Read more about Great Green Homes.

Photos courtesy of Nuvue Interactive.


Topics: GREAT GREEN HOMES, Interior Design, Living Room, Modular / Prefab


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