A composite system of wood and steel, this house's structural frame is an eye-opener, in more ways than one. “All of our houses are in that never-been-done-before category,” says architect Nils Finne, “but the framing [on this one] made everyone kind of break out into a cold sweat.” The steel fabricator's powerful computer imaging program allowed the architects to view the proposed frame in three dimensions and rotated to any angle, which speeded the design. But when the steel members arrived, builder Mark Schilperoort looked at the compound miters of their precut ends and thought, “If this goes together it will be a miracle.”

The steel crew assembled the puzzle without a hitch, though, and Schilperoort's carpenters went to work on the wood framing. Because every structural member is exposed, he says, “You almost have to frame the house the way you'd build a cabinet. You're setting 400-pound pieces of wood that don't get covered.” Builder, architect, and owner spent a long evening under the open frame, setting the precise location of every ceiling light fixture. “There was a lot of pre-planning before we could cover that roof,” Schilperoort says, “because all of the electrical is buried up there. You'd have to pull the whole roof off to monkey with that.” Schilperoort showed equal foresight in hiding the supply lines for the sprinkler heads, in places using the box-section steel frame as a plumbing chase.