Made from the parts of a decommissioned Boeing 747 airplane, the “747 Wing House” is a 55-acre property designed and built by architect David Randall Hertz and his firm, the Studio of Environmental Architecture. Completed in 2011, the structure is located in Ventura Country in the Santa Monica mountains, giving the home a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and the Pacific Ocean. The house is held in high regard for its unique design, use of sustainable and recycled materials, as well as its location. Read on to see the time and effort that went into building this special home and view the final product.
Finding An Ideal Location
Before building her dream house, former Mercedes Benz dealer Francie Rehwald spent 15 years looking for the perfect location. In her search, she spent over $26,000 chartering private jets to survey the area until she found a piece of land that she thought was best.
The location was a property off of Corinthian Road in the Malibu Mountains, on the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains. The property was once owned by set designer Tony Duquette, although his home had been burnt down in the Green Meadow fire of 1993.
Discovering The Perfect Design
After hiring renowned architect David Randall Hertz to build her home, Hertz himself surveyed the land in a plane, thinking of a design that would maximize her location. He came up with the idea for a floating roof so as not to obstruct her view of the surrounding area.
Rehwald had also mentioned that she wanted feminine shapes for the building. Hertz’s original designs had a curved roof that reminded him of an airplane wing. He realized that the outstretched arm of an airplane wouldn’t require very much vertical support and would only need a few walls to properly hold it up.
Realizing He Needed To Use The Real Thing
However, he quickly understood that building a wing-shaped roof would be difficult to do, so he decided that their best option was to use the real thing. After studying the wing dimensions of various airplanes, Hertz came to the conclusion that wings from a 747 airplane would be perfect.
They would fit nicely on the existing structure pads that had already been designed to provide panoramic views of the location. The idea seemed almost too good to be believed for Hertz.
Registering The House
After Hertz visited the planes that he would harvest the wings from and talking to the building department, he learned that there is no regulation in place that prohibits people from using airplane wings as the roof of the house.
They also looked to see if other parts of the wings could be re-appropriated into something else on the property. Then, they learned that they had to register the house with the FAA so overhead pilots wouldn’t think that it’s a downed aircraft.
The plane that was discovered for the job was a Boeing 747-100 that was once used as a Trans World Airlines aircraft. It was the 28th 747 ever built, with the construction number 19672.
Boeing had delivered the Boeing to Trans World Airlines on April 3, 1970, for the cost of around $25 million. The airplane was in use with Trans World Airlines until 1992 when it was retired at the El Mirage Air Force Base. It was then purchased by Tower Air for its scrap value of $30,000.
Using All Parts Of The Plane
Hertz managed to convince Rehwald to buy the entire decommissioned Boeing 747 airplane for under $50,000. The airplane was 250 long, 195 feet wide, and 63 feet tall with over 17,000 cubic feet of cargo space. With all of this material, they found it silly to only use the wings and decided to use as many parts of the plane as possible.
The team likened this approach to “Native Americans using every part of the buffalo.” Wince they did it this way, the property now consists of several structures and other components made up from parts of the entire aircraft.
Taking The Plane Apart
After purchasing the plane, Thompson Aviation helped with detoxifying, cutting apart, and then transporting the aircraft in preparation for airlift. Once at the Victorville Airport, a location known widely as an airplane graveyard, the plane was cut apart using laser and cut-off saws.
The cockpit and tail were first cut off, followed by the fuselage which was horizontal. They then cut the fuselage as well as the wings into smaller pieces to make them more manageable during transport.
Going Into The Mountains
After most of the plane had been disassembled, pieces were taken by trucks with some parts measuring 47 by 125 feet. Amazingly, all of the pieces made it to the location successfully and without damage.
In order to accommodate the trucks, multiple lanes of three major freeways were closed down include State Routes 2, 15, and US Route 101. The trucks were also escorted by seven California Highway Patrol vehicles to make sure that everything went smoothly.
The Wings Were A Different Story
The wings, on the other hand, were transported from the Southern California Logistics aircraft boneyard to the Camarillo Airport in Oxnard, California, only 10 minutes away from the location of the soon-to-be house 747 Wing House.
During this time, the wings weighed around 20,000 pounds. At that point, it was clear that taking the wings into the mountains by using trucks wasn’t really an option. Engineers also didn’t want to risk having to cut the wings into really small parts, they wanted to move them in larger pieces.
A Different Method Of Transportation
With the use of trucks being out of the question, designers decided that their best bet was to move the wings by helicopter. The job was successful with the use of a Columbia Model 234 helicopter which was operated by Columbia Helicopter Inc. based in Portland, Oregon.
Although the wings needed to be cut in two, the whole process only took two hours to complete. The wings were laid on a pile of tires on the property where they were connected back together and attached with steel brackets.
Using Recycled Materials On A Recycled Property
The low profile of the wing was fixed into the ridge top back the property. This allowed for the wing to look as though it was cascading from the surrounding hills and floating above the ground.
The wings he used were 100 percent recycled components of a decommissioned 747 aircraft. This allowed them to use the wings in incredibly creative ways while still following the basic property layout that had been made by the previous owner, Duquette. Not only were they using recycled material, but also a recycled property.
The Basic Design
The main house is made up of two separate buildings that are connected on not one, but three different levels. The two wings from the Boeing 747 and the tail stabilizers act as the roof on both of the buildings.
The lower house is partially open-air with an 18-foot-tall ceiling which is topped with the left wing of the aircraft. The house above it is considered the main house and uses the right wing of the plane. It also houses the master bedroom.
Other Buildings Were Made From The Salvage Material
Aside from the main roofs being made of the wings from the aircraft, Hertz designed several other small structures on the property that were made up of other parts of the plane. There is an art studio that uses part of the upper fuselage as a roof, with the upper first-class cabin deck being used and the roof for a large guest house.
The lower fuselage was then utilized as the roof of a barn with a meditation pavilion made from the entire front of the plane. They even installed cockpit windows as a skylight. Other aspects of the house, such as the firepit and fountains, were also made from salvaged material.
A New Way Of Looking At Architecture
Over the years, countless airplanes have been retired in the deserts of California. From there, they are sold for their value in aluminum.
To Hertz, it only made sense to use the materials from one of these airplanes to build a home, while also eliminating one more plane rotting in the desert. The 747 Wing House is proof that recycled material can be of equal quality, if not better, than raw materials, which society is so set on using.
The Recycled Material Helps Save Energy
The home itself is actually extremely lightweight and didn’t require very many raw materials. The use of the wings as the majority part of the roof makes the structure more effective in achieving higher strength with less overall weight.
The roof structure has allowed the owner, Rehwald, to save on energy, carbon dioxide output, and construction weight, as opposed to buildings of the same size that have been made from conventional materials. Although using a helicopter and massive trucks seem like a huge ordeal, it was much easier than if she had built a typical home.
It Also Helped To Reduce The Cost
Although there’s no denying that the 747 Wing House is an extremely expensive property, believe it or not, using the wings also helped a substantial amount with cost reduction.
Even though the helicopter cost $8,000 per hour and the airplane itself cost $30,000, it was still only a small fraction of the amount of money that it would have cost to build a similar property using raw materials. Sometimes thinking out of the box and using unconventional materials can pay off in the long run.
Even The Previous Owner’s Materials Were Used
Even though the previous owner of the property had his house lost in a fire, that doesn’t mean that all of his hard work had been discarded. The 747 Wing House was built on top of where the old house was located, with some of the materials from the previous structures even being reused as walkways.
The foundation for the new house used many of the still standing concrete walls, although they had to be rebuilt and reinforced to meet the new code regulations. In addition, by using the existing concrete pads, this helped to reduce site grading significantly.
Less Is More
Since the wings are only secure to the ground at four places, even less of a foundation was required, reducing the amount of concrete needed. Both wings are held up entirely by the four large mounts that the engines had originally hung from.
Because of the weight distribution of these mounts, it makes the roof lighter and therefore doesn’t put as much pressure on the foundations or the walls. This allows for the walls to be made out of self-supporting glass rather than traditional heavy wooden walls.
The Glass Walls Have Countless Benefits
Not only do these glass walls give the house an ultimate modern design, but they help to conserve large amounts of energy. They allow for maximum solar gain for heating, while also giving those inside a different view to the outside no matter where they are in the house.
They also help to keep the home cool during the summer and decreases electricity usage because of the amount of natural light. Other aspects of the house that help save energy include an eight-kilowatt solar array, thermally heated water, and high-performance glass and cellulose insulation in the wings.
Thinking Smarter, Not Harder
Thanks to Hertz’s ingenious design and resourceful attitude, he and his team were able to turn Francie Rehwald’s dream house into a reality. Not only is it one of the most renowned houses in the architectural community, but it was also built at the fraction of the cost of a normal house of the same design.
By utilizing almost a full Boeing 747 aircraft, Hertz proved that conventional materials and methods aren’t always necessary in order to create a structure that is environmentally friendly, sustainable, and all-around gorgeous. He was able to do all of this all while simultaneously getting rid of some of the world’s trash.