Prefab new build cabin on stilts

The prefabricated IT House build system that sits on four stilts above the ground was like striking gold for Terry Ohm.

By Dominic Bradbury | 16 January 2017

When Terry Ohm came across the It House prefabricated build system, he knew he had struck gold for his new Californian home that hovers on stilts four feet above ground.

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The journey to Terry Ohm’s cabin is something of a pilgrimage. From San Francisco the drive is around three hours and from the highway you move onto a mountain road and finally a dirt track eighteen miles long that winds its way upwards into the Mayacamas Mountains. Terry’s nearest neighbour is two and a half miles away and there is no power or services up here. But the reward is a location of great natural beauty, removed from everything, with the house sitting in splendid isolation.

‘I’m at just under 3,000 feet so not that high, but I’m at the peak of the mountain range so I can see Clear Lake in the distance, which is the second largest lake in California,’ says Terry. ‘And I’m a few miles from the border of the Mendocino National Forest; the land here is maintained by the state as a natural environment, so it’s very much about living in nature.’

Terry, a lighting designer, used to live in San Francisco and spent a couple of years hunting for the right spot to build his own country cabin. The search was daunting, with Terry spending at least a day at a time on each trip northwards, until at last a client recommended a spot in the mountains. But while the site might be sublime, the remote location threw up obvious challenges when it came to building a home here. Not only would the finished house have to be off-grid, but it needed to be relatively easy to assemble, too.

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Terry began researching prefabricated systems and came across Taalman Koch’s It House system, which Linda Taalman and Alan Koch began developing in 2005. They completed their first sequence of houses two years later and have now constructed around a dozen buildings, including their own off-grid property in the Joshua Tree National Park. From the beginning, the It House was designed with sustainability in mind, using modular, factory-made components to help reduce the build time on site and all the transport and energy costs associated with conventional construction.

The It House was designed with a lightweight but durable aluminium frame and window surrounds, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and sliding doors that establish a strong and constant relationship with the landscape beyond. The interior layout and specification can be adapted to suit each client and the site’s location. Having visited Taalman and Koch’s own Joshua Tree It House, Terry was soon convinced that it would be perfect for his own mountain plot.