“It really started with a delivery system—how can we make the fabrication of architecture more efficient?—and then made something beautiful out of it.” —Dirk Denison

Whale Bay, an inlet off the much larger Bay of Islands in far northern New Zealand, is one of the country’s natural treasures. Surrounded by scrub-covered bluffs, it is prized as much for its stunning views as it is for its unparalleled world-class sport fishing.

It was no easy task, then, for Optima DCHGlobal, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., to design and build a 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home—with an additional 2,100 square feet of decks—that took full advantage of its surroundings while infringing as little as possible on them.

The house sits lightly on the land, with cantilevered floors and roofs, and it is made of recycled Duracorr steel, which stands up well to the region’s occasional cyclones and blends in with its surroundings. The firm, led by architect David Hovey Jr., AIA, centered the design on a proprietary structural system based on a three-dimensional grid, which it prefabricated in Arizona and then shipped to New Zealand in 11 shipping containers—like an Erector Set, according to the designers. The grid features a 7-foot-square horizontal module and a 1-foot-3-inch vertical module, as well as a 21-foot-square structural bay, which includes all the beams, columns, and other elements needed to plug in the modules on-site. The floor and ceiling horizontal modules are constructed from nine press-formed panels, which are bolted together in a three-by-three square. Windows, plumbing, wiring, ductwork, and stairs were all designed to conform to the grid, and to be assembled on-site.

The Whale Bay house is the third house designed by Optima DCHGlobal to feature this structural system, which the firm touts as a prototype for a low-impact, precision system for design and construction. The fact that the components were designed and fabricated almost 7,000 miles away from the site, with zero on-site errors, certainly bodes well for future projects.