The Role Of Masonry In The F-5 Residence


Words: Masonry Magazine Photos: Michal Utterback and Symeon Finch

Located in Indian Wells, California, the F-5 Residence has quickly risen to prominence as one of the most effective works of modern masonry and architecture. The building has been heavily celebrated in the masonry community, having won awards from a number of prominent industry and interest organizations. These include the National Concrete Masonry Association, the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, and the Concrete Masonry Association of California and Nevada. All see the F-5 as an example of innovative, creative masonry techniques, producing a sturdy, comfortable building perfectly suited to its environment. By understanding the roots of the building's success, and in particular its deft use of concrete, masons can offer these award-winning qualities on a wide range of new buildings.

Concrete Construction

The F-5 Residence relies heavily on concrete. 30% of its house walls, and 70% of the garden walls and other walls on site, are made of this material. Much of this is cast-in-place concrete, which is installed by laying down a form, aligning steel reinforcement bars, and then pouring in the concrete to set on site. Installing cast-in-place concrete is a laborious and thus expensive process, which is why many projects opt for pre-cast concrete instead. The F-5 Residence, however, demonstrates that in the right setting, cast-in-place concrete is well worth the cost:

Desert Durability

Indian Wells is part of the Coachella Valley, a desert valley between the mountains and the Salton Sea in Southern California. The F-5 Residence was thus designed to counter the many challenges and risks of building and maintaining a house in the desert. This explains why so much of the building was made of cast-in-place concrete, a material that provides:

  • Wind Resistance- The Coachella Valley is one of the windiest places in the Untied States. Cast-in-place concrete minimizes the risk from high winds, distributing the wind load into the foundation of the house. This protects the house from wind damage without requiring the use of shear walls.
  • Full Insulation- Being located in the desert, the F-5 Residence has to contend with extreme heat during the day as well as fairly low temperatures at night. Cast-in-place concrete helps to keep these changes in temperature out of the home. This protects the building, lowers energy costs, and makes residents more comfortable.
  • Persistent Protection- Cast-in-place concrete is an effective barrier against moisture, insects, mildew, mold, and a wide range of other threats to the house's structural integrity and the residents' peace of mind.
  • Minimal Maintenance- As one of the strongest, most durable materials on the market, cast-in-place concrete is highly resistant to both aesthetic and structural damage. The house thus requires minimal maintenance, a rare feat in an environment where homeowners usually have to devote endless time and money to keeping their houses in good condition.
[caption id="attachment_16460" align="alignnone" width="300"] by Symeon Finch[/caption]

Thanks to this high degree of durability, the owners of the F-5 Residence will save considerably on long-term expenses, more than making up for the high construction cost. The building thus demonstrates how high-quality masonry, if suited to the local environment, can save homeowners money while improving their quality of life.

Functional Features

[caption id="attachment_16462" align="alignnone" width="300"] by Symeon Finch[/caption]

In addition to its durability, concrete is also a highly versatile material. The F-5 Residence thus contains a range of customized concrete features, namely:

  • AC Ducts- Portions of the wall contain air conditioning recesses, allowing for more efficient circulation of air through the house-- no small matter when trying to keep a desert home cool.
  • Window Shade Pockets- These give the owner more latitude for hanging shades, a crucial feature for keeping out the midday desert sun.
  • Other Features- The house contains customized customized electric sockets, recessed light fixtures, aesthetic boulders, and a wide range of other elements built into the concrete.

The versatile nature of cast-in-place concrete allowed the builders to seamlessly incorporate all these features into the wall, providing for full functionality without disrupting the building's sleek interior. This compliments the F-5s Residence's many other:

Aesthetic Aspects

[caption id="attachment_16461" align="alignnone" width="300"] by Symeon Finch[/caption]

In addition to taking advantage of concrete's durability and flexibility, the F-5 Residence also uses it to achieve a certain aesthetic. Rather than standing out from the surrounding desert, the building is designed to look like a natural part of the landscape, and concrete plays a crucial role in this effect. The front and street façade is made of concrete masonry units that closely match the desert's color and texture. Combined with well-placed external foliage, this makes the building extend naturally from the surrounding terrain.

The interior of the F-5 Residence also takes advantage of its masonry materials. Cast-in-place concrete is often cited as making building interiors look larger and ceilings higher; F-5's designers took full advantage of this in their effort to "open up" the interior. Combined with careful use of space and operable glass, this makes the building seem much roomier inside. The concrete's original appearance was left unaltered, giving the interior a natural, raw look. Thanks to skilled use of masonry, residents live not only in comfort and safety, but also in style.


The world of masonry is always in flux, as new techniques and technologies open up unforeseen possibilities for masons and their customers. Masonry Magazine offers in-depth updates on all these changes, ensuring that you'll never miss a new development. For more information on award-winning designs, construction tips, and other masonry topics, subscribe to Masonry Magazine today!


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