Small "Hybrid Prefab" Home in the Desert

Small "Hybrid Prefab" Home in the Desert

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By Brendan Newnam
The Blue Sky prototype home tiptoes gracefully across the desert landscape just north of Joshua Tree National Park. Nestled amid piñon and juniper trees and outcroppings of boulders, the house’s six steel columns permit a seasonal stream to run underneath it. The clever steel frame allows the house to float above the wilderness—a concession to the lightness on the land that its owner, architects, and engineers so clearly wanted. Figuring out how to achieve this lightness, however, was anything but clear. When David McAdam, co-owner and chief dreamer of Blue Sky Homes, bought 2.5 acres of cactus-studded land near Palm Springs, California, he didn’t know what kind of getaway he wanted to build, but he did know one thing: no wood. “It’s boring, and I see how it works in the desert. It gets destroyed,” he says, remembering the damage he’d seen other houses suffer in the unrelenting sun. If the material isn’t handled perfectly, arid conditions turn it into a pretzel. So if not wood, then what?

Taken with the architecture of Rick Joy, McAdam thought about concrete, but he quickly learned that it wouldn’t meet his budget. He then considered a rustic steel structure reminiscent of the mining cabins he had explored over the years in the Mojave Desert. But again, cost was an issue. Then he visited a friend who was building equestrian facilities on her property. McAdam marveled at how the modular steel elements came together elegantly and quickly to form the barns, shelters, and other structures. After speaking with Barret Hilzer, one of the heads of FCP, Inc., the company that did the work on his friend’s property, McAdam became convinced he could use a similar steel framing system to build an affordable, sustainable, beautiful, and prefabricated home.

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