An Energy-Efficient Hybrid Prefab Keeps Cool in the Palm Springs Desert

Drawing from the laws of nature, an architect devises a way to beat the heat in the California desert.
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With temperatures that climb to 110 degrees in summer, the California desert town of Palm Springs offers challenges for year-round residents trying to keep cool. One local couple, both of whom are in the health-care industry, lived under the blazing sun for years in an inefficient Spanish-style house, enduring electric bills that reached into the thousands per month. Fed up, they contacted Los Angeles–based architect Whitney Sander, who drove out immediately with his wife, Catherine Holliss—with whom he runs his firm, Sander Architects—to meet with them. "I said, ‘I want a house, and I don’t want anything in it but concrete, steel, and glass,’" the wife recalls, "and Whitney said, ‘Oh yeah, I want to work with you.’"

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Erika Heet
Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report.


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