Living off the grid is something a lot of people enjoy. The peaceful and quiet ambiance, the fresh surroundings and the freedom are liberating and rewarding in a unique way. Some enjoy them so much they choose to have their permanent residences built as far away from cities as they can while others prefer to be connected to the urban jungle and to only occasionally leave it to spend some time away from everything and everyone. These are some of the off-grid homes and retreats that make such escapades and lifestyles possible.
This is a writing studio that FLOAT Architectural Research and Design built for one of their clients in 2008. Located in Oregon, US, the studio is placed in the middle of nature, in a wetland, being surrounded by vegetation on all sides. It belongs to a philosophy professor who wanted to be able to come here and write and to listen to the sound of rain falling on the roof.
Few houses are as remote and isolated as this one. This is something that Kolman Boye Architects built for their clients who wanted a cozy family home with great views and no neighbors. The house is located close to the polar circle, on the island of Vega in an area that has views of the nearby mountains and the Norwegian Sea. It’s organized on two levels. The upper level houses the bedrooms and the lower one the family spaces. The architects made sure to include a gallery space from where the inhabitants can admire the surroundings and the changing lights over the sea.
Somewhere in the Madrean Archipelago which covers an area between the Sonoran desert, Southern Arizona, Southern New Mexico and Far West Texas, there’s a quaint little space with a house sitting between the trees and boulders. It’s called Casa Caldera and it’s a small retreat that manages to capture views of the mountains while staying hidden from hunters and other potential discoverers that might travel in the region. The house was designed by DUST in 2015.
The Sugar Gum House is another charming off-grid home with lots of character and an interesting story. It was a project by Rob Kennon Architects and it’s located in Lorne, Australia, on the edge of the Bass Straight coastline, at the base of the hills that connect the area to the beach. The house serves as a sheep and cattle farm and replaces a 34-year old shack that used to occupy the lot.
When the surrounding landscape is so beautiful you want to make the most of it. That usually means full-height windows and sliding glass doors. The Kekkilä Green Shed however took a somewhat different approach. This is an atypical structure, being a hybrid between a traditional garden shed and a green house. It was designed by architect Linda Bergroth and it’s located in Finland, occupy only 4 square meters of space.
In a valley west of Healdsburg, in the US, you can find a wonderful off the grid home that was designed and built here by Malcolm Davis Architecture. The goal was to bring the indoor and outdoor environments together and to create a house that allows its occupants to feel connected to their surroundings and to nature in general while also enjoying all the comfort of a regular home. This is the owners’ second house, the first one being designed by the same team.
A common challenge when building off grid homes is a logistic one. Transporting all the materials to the site is no easy task plus there’s also the waste-management system that needs to be put in place in order to minimize the impact of the project on the land and the surroundings. When Taalman Koch designed the itHouse in 2007, the strategy was to use a series of prefabricated components and to minimize the waste and labor while maximizing the connection between the house with its occupants and the surrounding landscape. The house is located in Pioneertown, US.
Building a house in a remote area is always a challenge and one way to make it easier is to use prefabricated components. Studio H:T took this concept to a new level by building a house out of shipping containers. They used two containers to create an off-grid home and they had to be efficient when organizing the spaces. The social areas were placed at the top of the structure so they can capture views of the surroundings while the lower level spaces remain private but still connected to their surroundings.
Some take the concept of an off-the-grid home a bit more literally and distance themselves from any distractions such as telephones and internet choosing instead to focus on the immediate surroundings, on nature in general and the picturesque views. This is a house designed in 2009 by Resolution: 4 Architecture for a retired couple in Vermont, US. It’s a prefab house that sits on top of a miniature mountain on a 200 acre property that the client likes to search for mushrooms. There’s no electricity or phone service here so this is truly an off-the-grid home.
Sometimes special care needs to be given to the location when building a house, especially in a remote area. A great case is this house situated in Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest of Australia. It was designed and built by M3 architecture and the team was forced by the sensitive nature of the ecosystem to adapt a sustainable strategy. No trees were removed and the exterior of the house was camouflaged using mirrored glass and black plaster cladding.
The metropolitan area in Kansas City is not very inspiring when it comes to eco-friendly and modern designs but things started to change thanks to projects like the one developed by Studio 804, a non-profit organization created for the graduate students at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning. This is one of the houses they designed. It’s the first LEED Platinum home in the area and it’s completely off the grid.
The Blue Sky Homes is a company specialized in green building and the minds behind it formed the Taalman-Koch studio which uses the signature frame of the blue sky home and applies it to unique projects such as the Clearlake itHouse and it Cabin in California. They’re prefab homes constructed out of steel elements made of up to 70% recycled material. What makes the process special is that the elements are shipped flat to the construction site where they’re bolted together with little waste and it’s all done within a day. The entire project takes between 6 to 8 weeks and the house is able to adapt to steep and rugged terrain which makes it a perfect off grid home for anyone who loves nature and adventure.
If you’re ever in Norway feeling adventurous, remember that the Stavanger Tourism Association or STF offers 35 self-catering mountain lodges which can be rented to its members. They use a system based on trust. That means each person that uses a lodge leaves money for rent in a box inside the house or fills an invoice form, cleans the place, buys food and brings firewood for those that will be staying there after them. It’s a really cool system and the great thing is that the lodges are usually situated in remote areas with beautiful views and tranquil surroundings. The lodges were built by Koko Architects.
The transformation of an abandoned stable into a modern family home went great for Ábaton Arquitectura. They completed the project in 2010. The house is located in Guijo de Santa Bárbara, in Spain. The renovation focused on updating the entire structure, changing the functions of its spaces and reorganizing the interior all while being respectful to the environment. The new design is a sustainable one which uses solar panels with storage batteries for the summer months and turbines for the winter. It was a choice based on the challenging nature of the site and its remoteness.
Somewhere in Kaiwaka, New Zealand there’s a pair of small houses that have no doors. You’d have to climb in through a window to enter and that’s intentional. They’re both small and made of wood. They’re meant to be autonomous, off-grid retreats that allow one to escape the city and to get away from all the hustle for a while just to relax and to enjoy the solitude of the land. These unusual holiday homes were designed and built by Cheshire Architects in 2012.
In 2009 Sanders Pace Architecture was commissioned to design a 16 square meter lakeside pavilion meant to serve as a week-end retreat. The remote location of the pavilion required a sustainable design that uses photovoltaic panels and a built-in water recycling system. The cabin features a lightweight steel structure and it positioned to face the water. Full-height windows ensure unobstructed views and sliding doors provide easy access to the water.
Off the grid and sustainable and two characteristics that go hand in hand. They define most houses and retreats that are situated in remote areas. One of them was designed by Studio Moffitt and can be found in Huron County, Canada. It has passive heating and cooling and a large deck facing south. The windows are large and evenly distributed throughout the house to ensure cross-ventilation during the summer.
Sitting on an island away from the Australian mainland, this quaint and minimalist house gets to capture wonderful views while maintaining its privacy and feeling cozy. The design was dictated by the location. Lai Cheong Brown was the architect in charge and designed the house with a square courtyard at the center which provides an outdoor space sheltered from the winds which lets sunlight and air enter the core of the house. This interesting design choice allowed the exterior facades to be closed off, with no windows.
Thanks to projects such as the Ecocapsule by Nice Architects anyone can live off the grid. They designed a portable and self-sufficient pod that’s actually a micro home. It uses wind and solar energy and it collects rainwater. The pod is shaped like an egg and it has a 9,744 watt battery charged by a wind turbine which in combination with the solar panels can allow someone to live in the middle of nowhere for about a year.