VALLEJO — Blu Homes on Monday demonstrated how it takes three giant rectangular boxes and unfolds them into a house, a process that looks like a crane working with the world’s biggest Transformer toy.
The company on the same day announced that it is moving its corporate headquarters from Massachusetts to Mare Island in Vallejo, joining the Blu Homes factory there. But the installation of the model home made the visual splash and attracted dozens of people to a Mare Island hillside to watch.
Leo Vallely and his wife Ingrid of Berkeley joined the onlookers. The Vallelys are thinking of buying one of the prefabricated houses and received an email from Blu Homes informing them of the event. Monday marked the first time they’d seen one of the Blu Homes houses installed.
“We’ve been to the factory for a factory tour, but it’s a static affair,” Leo Vallely said.
Monday’s event was hardly static. A 100-foot-tall crane placed three modules a short distance apart on a concrete foundation. A small, white drone flew back and forth, photographing the proceedings for Blu Homes.
Using a crane to unfold a house and unite the three modules takes about a day. The modules already contain floors, kitchen, cabinets and other features, all built into the steel-framed structure at the Blu Homes factory a half-mile away.
The factory is housed in a 257,750-square-foot, World War II-era building with a central bay 10-stories tall. Navy workers once built parts for submarines there. Blu Homes offers factory tours, but prospective customers have been unable to see a model home.
“The experience of the house is different when you see one in real life, installed on a site,” said Milli Josifovska of Blu Homes.
Blu Homes on Monday set up one of its Breezehouse floor plans as a model home. It plans to ultimately have four model homes on display on Mare Island, with a Glidehouse, Balance Metro and Element to come.
Vallejo Vice Mayor Bob Sampayan was among the onlookers who braved a cold wind blowing off a fogbound San Pablo Bay to see the Breezehouse unfold. He praised Blu Homes.
“It’s really a feather in Vallejo’s cap to have a stand-up company like this have its home here,” Sampayan said.
Blu Homes brings technology, production and tax dollars to Vallejo, he said. He thinks the model homes will draw more people to Mare Island, where Vallejo is redeveloping the naval shipyard that closed in 1996.
Fifth-grade teacher Julie Nicholson of Mare Island Health and Fitness Academy learned about Blu Homes from Sunset magazine several years ago, before the company opened its Mare Island plant in 2012. She is on the company’s email list, which is how she learned about Monday’s event.
“I just got an email on Saturday and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, we can bring the kids,’ ” Nicholson said.
She and fifth-grade teacher Molly Behrens did just that. They led about 40 children on a walk of little less than a mile from the Mare Island Health and Fitness Academy in a nearby subdivision to watch workers unfold the Breezehouse.
Among other things, Nicholson said she wanted the children to relate what they saw to the math skills they are learning. Some of the children have talked about wanting to be an architect or some type of builder, she said.
Maura McCarthy, a co-founder of Blu Homes, came to watch the Breezehouse unfold. She talked about the recent decision to move the Blu Homes corporate headquarters from Massachusetts to Mare Island.
The Bay Area is a unique place, with such attributes as engineering and design talent from the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford and a wealth of craftspeople in the area, she said.
Blu Homes has more than 260 craftspeople, engineers, architects, project management officials, business officials and other employees on Mare Island, a company press release said. When the Mare Island plant opened in 2012, it had 20 employees.
Bill Haney and McCarthy founded Blu Homes in 2008. Prices range from about $150,000 to more than $650,000, with the customer also providing the foundation and property for the homes. Go to www.bluhomes.com for more information.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.