PHOTOS: Junked Jet Becomes a Malibu Home

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reuse, airplane

Photo: David Hertz, Carson Leh and Laura Doss

Constructing a building out of products destined for the landfill – old shipping containers or discarded plastic bottles – can be both environmentally responsible and architecturally interesting – even beautiful.

Now up in the remote hills of Malibu, Calif., a home has just been built using an even more unconventional waste material – an old Boeing 747 aircraft – and the results are breathtaking.

Aptly named “Wing House,” the home uses both of the plane’s wings for the majority of its roof, while the tail section’s two stabilizers make up the roof for the master bedroom.

Other buildings are planned for the 55-acre property, and architect David Hertz intends to use every part of the 747 in their design. An art studio, guest house and animal barn will be fashioned out of pieces of the plane’s fuselage, and a meditation pavilion will be constructed using the entire front of the airplane, with the cockpit windows forming a skylight.

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But neither Hertz nor the owner of the property started the project with the intention of “recycling” a jet into a home.

The property owner told Hertz and his team at the Studio of Environmental Architecture that she wanted buildings with feminine and curved shapes; Hertz wanted to find a roof structure that would allow for unobstructed views of the spectacular surrounding landscape: a mountain range, valley and the Pacific Ocean.

Envisioning a “floating” curved roof, Hertz realized that an airplane wing was the ideal shape – and with further research, he determined that the wings of a 747, at over 2,500 square feet, fit the bill for the Malibu home, maximizing the views while providing a self-supporting roof that needed minimal additional support.

But how does one go about purchasing a discarded aircraft? And is it legal to use a plane as a building material?

Hertz and his team discovered hundreds of retired airplanes in the California desert that are sold at the price of their principal raw material – aluminum.

Hertz found the jet’s $50,000 price tag to be quite economical for the project, considering the plane’s size and amount of material that could be used for building: The 747 is over 230 feet long, 195 feet wide and 63 feet tall with over 17,000 cubic feet of cargo area.

The architectural team also consulted with the local building department and found no codes or ordinances specifically prohibiting the use of an airplane wing as roof. However, the architects did have to register the site with the Federal Aviation Administration to prevent pilots flying overhead from mistaking the house as a downed aircraft.

“The recycling of the 4.5 million parts of this ‘big aluminum can’ is an extreme example of sustainable reuse and appropriation,” Hertz wrote on his website. “American consumers and industry throw away enough aluminum in a year to rebuild our entire airplane commercial fleet every three months.”

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As if building a home from a junked jet wasn’t eco-friendly enough, the main residence and ancillary buildings will use solar power, radiant heating, natural ventilation and insulating window glass.

Click through the slideshow to see the process of dismantling and the transporting the 747, the construction phase and additional photos of Wing House.


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