Desert House

The Desert House is both a home design project and a custom software application that together address a common dilemma for architects and homeowners alike: affordability vs flexibility. While there is a strong demand for affordable new homes in America, the architect is often left out of the process because they are perceived as expensive and unnecessary. While they might not want to, homeowners often forego the process of designing a custom-built home with an architect for cheaper developer or builder-built models. The result of this is a tremendous loss of opportunity for the profession: currently architect-designed homes account for only 2% of the current home market while 98% of homes come from developer models, prefabricated home products, or local builders. We believe there is an unmet need for an inexpensive home that does not sacrifice design customization. The Desert House is both an affordable house and a flexible housing system; competing dollar for dollar with competitive models while offering an online interface that lets homeowners control the design.

The Desert House is a parametric system geared towards affordability. The layout of the house can be adjusted to meet the needs of the owner by controlling view orientations, rooms and amenities, and having visibility to an overall budget. By controlling these parameters, the homeowner is made to feel like they are designing the house. The system is designed with several geometric rules that allow the form of the house to adapt to user-inputs and site conditions. The formal diagram of the Desert House is simple: two private bedroom volumes separated by a transparent living/dining space, all of which are surrounded by an open deck. The system allows the user to control this basic diagram, adjusting the relative size of volumes as well as their orientation toward views.

Here we are featuring a variation of the system for a current client located in Prescott, Arizona. The site’s most powerful feature is the rugged terrain and views of the mountains. The home is situated to minimize earthwork and orient the living areas toward the views. A main feature of the house is the deep cantilevered deck that becomes a bridge between the two private volumes. The large roof overhangs allows the deck to be used year round and creates a large indoor/outdoor living space. The materiality of the house is simple, the envelope is made of a colored insulated CMU along with glass sliders, the structure is accomplished with CLT members, and the outdoor deck is wood planks.The house can currently be delivered for approximately $200/SF.

Unfortunately, while there is a demand for new homes in America the idea of home ownership is increasingly out of reach. This Desert House project marks a turning point for our practice by addressing this problem and uses our experience in architecture and technology to enable obtainability and affordability in home design.