4,000 feet above sea level, in the Southern California desert town of Yucca Valley rests the first all-steel house prototype from Blue Sky Homes. This 1,000 square foot, light-gauge, galvanized steel home marks the beginning of a new movement not only for pre-fabricated residential homes, but as an answer to 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 percent recycled material, and is itself 100 percent recyclable,” said David McAdam, Co-Founder of Blue Sky Homes. Since steel withstands the unforgiving climate of the desert better than 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. 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 job site,” said McAdam. This pre-fabrication method reduced the number of trips to the job site and cut un-needed labor costs and 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 is apparent given the prototype house was framed in one day, and was completely weathertight, with the roof, walls, and floors in place at the end of 5 days. An entire home can be finished in 6 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 laundry 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, a seasonal stream is allowed to run un-obstructed 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, lumber framing commonly seen in residential construction.
The house was completed as a partnership between a variety of designers, manufacturers and installation professionals. o2 Architecture of Palm Springs, Ca, known for their modernist 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 with sustainable building features.
FCP Inc., a steel design, engineering and fabrication company based in Wildomar, California, developed the structural design, engineered, supplied and installed the Blue Sky prototype home. FCP Inc. is said to be the only producer of cold-formed mezzanine structures that has 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. The Blue Sky Homes Building 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 material for the house, including the roofing, and cold-formed structural cee sections.
“FCP ordered the entire structure from one source (AEP Span, ASC Steel Deck and ASC Building Products, all Divisions of ASC Profiles),” said Hilzer. “ASC presented a one-stop shop of components we (FCP) needed for the structure, and are the only manufacturer that can produce the high-quality gauge beam needed for our framing system.”
“AEP Span, ASC Building Products, and ASC Steel Deck are proud to be a part of the recently completed Blue Sky Protoype, and to be a part of the Blue Sky Homes Building System and design,” said Foster Gibble, AEP Span Vice President. “This type of construction can open up new directions and new markets for metal applications,” added Gibble.
McAdam agrees with Gibble, and believes steel is going to be the dominant building material of choice due to current economic conditions and green building practices. “Steel’s time has finally come for home-building. A perfect storm of economic conditions, environmental necessity and perfection of material (steel) is creating homes with greater life-spans,” said McAdam.
AEP Span, a Division of ASC Profiles, A BlueScope Steel Company, provides architecturally engineered steel roofing products through a variety of innovative profiles while offering engineering services, installation drawings, product details, and design assistance for a variety of construction projects. Ongoing testing and evaluations of new and existing products insures only the highest product performance from all of our products.
The Yucca Valley Protoype home used the following AEP Span, ASC Building Products and ASC Steel Deck profiles:
• Over 1,200 feet of AEP Span cold-formed structural cee sections.
• 1,388 square feet of AEP Span Design Span hp roofing. This Cool Zinc Gray, 24 gauge, 17” wide standing seam panel was the clear choice for mounting solar panels.
• 1, 141 square feet of ASC Building Products 22 gauge Iron Ox flat sheet used for the exterior walls.
• 374 lineal feet of 22 gauge and 18 gauge B-36 composite floor deck from ASC Steel Deck was used.
Blue Sky Homes currently partners with FCP Inc. to offer a catalog of 3 different homes, all based on the prototype model. These models include a 500 square foot Casita style home, and houses of 1,000 square feet and 1,500 square feet. Blue Sky Homes plans on offering 2,000 and 2,500 square foot homes in the near future. Additional pictures of the BlueSky prototype house, as well as a timeline featuring real-time screenshots of the prototype being erected is available online for viewing at the Blue Sky Homes website. A list of other team members, including interior designers, lighting design, theater installation, and others can also be found on that website.
For more information on AEP Span’s products and green building efforts, go to www.aepspan.com.
Project photo by Blue Sky Homes.