A prefab retreat in the Nevada desert | nottoscale

This prefab retreat in the Nevada desert has no air conditioning, using only passive strategies to keep cool. It has 3 bedrooms in 1,200 sq ft. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss

The high desert of Nevada, just east of Death Valley, is a pretty barren and inhospitable place. But for the owners of this small vacation house, there is beauty in the parched landscape and peaceful solitude in the isolation. They specifically requested a retreat that would connect them to the desert no matter where in the house they were. The architects, San Francisco studio nottoscale, came up with a floor plan that offers views of the surrounding desert and mountain vistas while also taking into consideration the angle of the blazing sun and the direction of cooling winds.

This prefab retreat in the Nevada desert has no air conditioning, using only passive strategies to keep cool. It has 3 bedrooms in 1,200 sq ft. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss

Because of the physical and logistical difficulties of building in such a remote and hot location, a prefab approach was chosen. The architects designed the house as the first example of the Modulome modular system that they developed. The house was panelized using structural insulated panels with a high level of insulation.

This prefab retreat in the Nevada desert has no air conditioning, using only passive strategies to keep cool. It has 3 bedrooms in 1,200 sq ft. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss

The small house has a T-shaped floor plan with 1,200 ft2 (111.5 m2) of inside living space. There are three bedrooms in the vertical bar of the T and an open living/dining/kitchen plus a small study in the crossbar. Nine foot high ceilings and large windows make even the smaller bedrooms and study feel open and spacious. Most of the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows positioned to capture specific views of the landscape. A long, narrow window in the living area perfectly frames a distant mountain range for diners seated at the table. Sliding glass doors open to the large deck that joins the two wings and extends the living area into the desert. To protect the small house from flash floods, it was raised a couple of feet on a concrete plinth. The slight elevation combined with the windows starting from floor level gives occupants the sense that the house is floating over the desert.

This prefab retreat in the Nevada desert has no air conditioning, using only passive strategies to keep cool. It has 3 bedrooms in 1,200 sq ft. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss

Despite the extreme desert climate, there is no air conditioning; the home is kept within a comfortable temperature range by using only passive cooling strategies. The house and windows were positioned to catch the prevailing winds and facilitate effective cross-ventilation. To minimize heat gain in the first place, the bedroom windows face to the north while the south facing windows are shaded by the large trellis over the deck. All the windows have low-e coatings. The indoor temperatures are moderated by the gravel-filled concrete base that was designed to serve as a heat sink, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it throughout the cool desert night.

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Photographs by Joe Fletcher Photography, courtesy of nottoscale.

Text copyright 2013 SmallHouseBliss. All Rights Reserved.

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