LocationHawaii County, United States
From the architect. Located on thirty acres of remote pasture, Lavaflow 5 frames the sea and sky with structure and line. The slender steel frame supports walls of varying opacity; from nothing, to glass, to screen, to solid - creating a laminate of materials tempering the expansive view overlooking the Hamakua coastline on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island.
The remoteness of the site, our desire for large open expanses, and a commitment to build sustainability led us to investigate prefabrication in steel as a method of construction. We began by researching standard prefabrication systems but all that were available seemed clumsy and lacking the refinement we desired. So working closely with our structural engineer, we designed and developed a bolt together structural system based on 8”x8” wide flange beams that allowed for long spans of steel while keeping the elegance of scale we had envisioned.
The frame was fabricated in San Francisco by a shop that usually focuses on small-scale architectural steel work. They built this frame to the tolerances they usually apply to their staircases. An off-the-shelf corrugated self supporting roof system was integrated into the structural engineering and delivered to the site along with the steel frame. It took five days to erect the steel frame and roof.
Lavaflow 5 sits at the top of the property protected from the strong winds that are a constant on this side of the island. The house is long and thin with all rooms looking north towards the ocean. Circulation is on the south side and sun is mitigated along this extended hall with an epoxy resin screen - a product usually used for industrial decking. The house is elevated above the site and entered across a 50’x 50’ reflecting pond.
The narrow plan of the house provides passive cooling through cross ventilation allowing for the elimination of mechanical air conditioning. The industrial screen filters the sunlight creating a consistent and diffused interior light quality throughout the day. Another sustainable feature includes a solar heating system for all domestic hot water. This decidedly simple building of steel, concrete, and glass provides the essential requirements for living while focusing attention on living experientially in Hawaii’s dynamic environment.