“It’s essentially a kit of parts. Not unlike IKEA furniture.” That’s how David McAdam describes a lightweight framing system his company, Encino, Calif.–based Blue Sky Building Systems, has been marketing for two years.
The system—which modifies what the manufacturer FCP Structures uses to add mezzanines to factories—employs galvanized steel for a point-loaded, bidirectional, moment-resisting frame.
The Blue Sky Frame, as it’s called, is made from 70 percent recycled material. A steel fabricator in Fontana, Calif., AEP Span, shapes and cuts the framing to order and ships it flat to the jobsite. The system is then bolted to peripheral steel columns that raise the house off the ground, minimizing site excavation and environmental disruption.
Because the system doesn’t require load-bearing walls, the house span can be “limitless,” says McAdam. One of Blue Sky’s completed projects is a 5,000-square-foot New England–style farm house with a double-pitched roof. And because there’s no shear wall, “you can incorporate glass into the design to open the space to natural light,” adds Jim Jennings, whose San Francisco–based architectural firm is working on four projects with Blue Sky’s framing. The firm o2 Architecture designed the house, in Yucca, Calif.
As of early August, Blue Sky was working with 23 architects. It had completed six projects, one was under construction, two were in plan check, seven in active design mode, and 16 in pre-design. While most projects are in California, Blue Sky also supplied framing for a house in Hawaii that McAdam says should demonstrate to skeptics how its framing solves different topographical and infestation challenges.
Jennings notes that because this system only encompasses a house’s framing, the final price tag depends on the design complexity. McAdam says the framing alone costs between $15 and $33 per square foot. But, he adds, “material cost does not illuminate the dramatic labor and cost-of-money savings that come with the reduced time-to-construct aspect that our frame brings to the building equation.”