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One-of-a-Kind Observatory with Steel Roof in California

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At first glance, Bryan C.’s roll-off roof observatory looks like your average building.

“A lot of times when someone thinks of an observatory they’re thinking about a dome that you see on a mountain top. A dome will usually have a single telescope and it has many advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “If you put a very conspicuous dome out here it’s obvious, but when [this observatory is] closed it looks like a nice shed.”

All it takes is the click of a button for the SteelMaster roof to move and expose the telescopes inside the building to the sky.

“The roll-off allows you to just open it up and you’ve got the sky. There are no complexities.” 

It’s a shared observatory, meaning there are multiple telescopes inside. Bryan’s business, Skies Away, installs telescopes for clients across the country to give them remote access to the observatory. 

“The sky itself is a commodity–it’s a valuable asset because you could be in Chicago or wherever and still want to take photos and get images. You can do that remotely, so that’s what this setup can do.”

Bryan said he was inspired by Deep Sky West, an astronomical imaging observatory in New Mexico. This building, a 25’ x 34’ corrugated SteelMaster A-model, was built on a railing system and is controlled by an electric motor designed to move the entire building.

“I spoke to the owner [of Deep Sky West] a couple of years ago. He was saying how at first they didn’t reinforce the roof. The roof held its own. The concept stuck with me,” Bryan said.

SteelMaster’s Commercial Senior Project Manager, Greg Broderick, worked with Bryan to help design the observatory.

“Greg was super patient through the whole thing. I started the process of inquiring long before actually pulling the trigger.” Bryan said. “There was a little customizing on the connector plate. They opted to make the bottom of the connector plate thicker because of the nature of [the roof] rolling and moving.”

Bryan says he previously had an observatory with a standard a-frame building, but it doesn’t compare to his new observatory’s steel roof.  

“You want things to stay parallel and that just doesn’t happen with wood, it’s a lot harder to deal with. It’s way heavier and it warps. Whereas with a steel roof and a steel track, things stay parallel and the roof is way lighter.” 

The roof’s durability and disaster resistance came in handy when a storm hit Bryan’s area. 

“At first, I was kind of concerned that it wasn’t rainproof,” he said. “We encountered a very heavy storm last January with 12″ of rain and heavy wind, and the roof kept everything perfectly dry inside. It ended up doing just what it was supposed to do.” 

Bryan says in addition to the steel roof’s strength and practicality, he and others are impressed by the look of the steel roof. 

“It’s one of a kind. I designed it and it looks cool,” he said. “My wife says it reminds her of a battleship because of the way it looks. It looks architectural, someone said it reminds them of the Sydney Opera House.” 

Despite not having any previous construction experience, Bryan said the roof was easier to put together than he thought. 

“I had so little experience in construction, so I went online and saw some of the people who documented it well from start to finish. Everyone said it was kind of easy but it looked more complicated to me,” he explained. “But when we got it, it seemed to go pretty quick and easy.” 

Overall, Bryan says he loves his SteelMaster roof.

“The roof is really awesome. It’s one of a kind, it’s pretty cool and unusual,” he said. “I’m enjoying it, we’re quite happy with it.”