This modular Californian house beats the heat

As people continue to flock to the desert Southwest, designers have looked everywhere for ways to adapt the archetypal single-family home to the extremes of the arid climate.

Korean firm Violent Volumes found ironic inspiration from the ocean in its recent idea to wrap the home environment in a protective shroud and use passive techniques to maintain a comfortable temperature inside.

Like a giant piece of space sushi, the California Roll house concept from architect Christopher Kim looks as if it were transported from a restaurant in another galaxy. But rather than just a clever piece of sci-fi fantasy, the concept is grounded in the real world, with energy-efficient materials and a modular design for easy construction.

The curlicue house begins and ends with its exterior frame, which begins as a flat courtyard surface, then bends upward and then curves over on itself, forming the walls, roof and second floor in one continuous sheet. The house uses a carbon-fiber truss for support and is clad in uniform fiber-reinforced plastic panels coated with a cool-roof reflective surface to help repel the unrelenting sun.

Each element of the prefab house concept, the designers say, is modular in nature to maximize mobility and to facilitate rapid assembly and disassembly as needed. The open floor plan of the interior spaces can be custom designed to fit the needs of the tenants, with some living areas cordoned off by interior curtains for privacy.

At either end of the house, floor-to-ceiling transparent walls use smart window technology to change their opacity with the touch of a button, depending on the heat load during the course of the day. The outer shell is also pierced in various places with skylights to bring natural daylight to the interior.

Adding to the spaceship aesthetic, the design includes a hydraulic-powered front door that opens vertically from the inward-slanting side wall. One piece of the door slides up the outer wall while the bottom half folds down, acting as a ramp to allow access to the ground floor. We pray the space-age inhabitants come in peace.

Randy Woods, EarthTechling