Cutting the cord: Gizmag's Top 10 off-grid homes
December 19, 2013
We're big fans of off-grid homes here at Gizmag – and for good reason: an off-grid home frees the owner from the vagaries of unscrupulous energy giants, can potentially help reduce impact on the environment, and offers a greater self-sufficiency. Join us as we shine a light on 10 of our favorites.
Big, small, expensive, and affordable; the only common trait that the following homes share is their ability to operate without grid-based electricity, water, and gas. So whether you're looking to cut your carbon footprint, or the thought of living more independently appeals, you should hopefully find something to like below.
Soleta zeroEnergy homes
The Soleta zeroEnergy home range, by Romanian non-profit green-tech firm Justin Capra Foundation, comprises a very flexible and affordable series of off-grid homes which offer plenty in the way of sustainable tech – not to mention some home comforts too.
The range starts at a small unit measuring 48 sq m (516 sq ft), and moves all the way up to a family-friendly model of 100 sq m (1070 sq ft), with the cost of each reflecting its size and features. Each of the houses can be customized to suit need and budget, and options include a geothermal water heating system, wind power, solar power, and water collection.
Admittedly, not everyone would wish to live in an egg-shaped floating home, but don't write off the Exbury Egg just yet. It was created by artist Stephen Turner with the help of Perring Architecture and Design, along with SPUD design studio, to support the artist as he carries out observations on the environment in England, and produces his art.
The buoyant waterproof structure sports a desk, hammock and kitchen, plus paraffin stove and sink. Though there's no running water, Turner makes use of a nearby hosepipe back on land, plus solar power for all electricity needs. Needless to say, we think the idea is egg-cellent (sorry).
The Minim House by Foundry Architects and Brian Levy is a particularly nice example of the burgeoning tiny house movement, and is able to operate off-grid or fully plugged-in, depending on your preference.
The snug 19.5 sq m (210 sq ft) space sports an open-plan interior with multi-use surfaces, refrigerator, and ample storage space. Off-grid technology such as an optional composting toilet and 960 W roof solar array with integrated battery storage system feature in the home. To further cut the need for grid-based services, LED lighting, rainwater collection and filtration are also optional additions.
Oh, did we mention it also has an integrated LED projector cinema screen?
The House Arc, by Bellomo Architects, was created with ease of construction firmly in mind, and the designers harnessed IKEA as a source of inspiration in aiming to make affordable, easily-assembled housing that's attractive too.
Don't expect to be able to swing a cat, as the diminutive dwelling measures just 14 sq m (150 sq ft), and is perhaps therefore better suited as a shelter, backyard retreat or office. Raised slightly on "feet," the House Arc facilitates air flow underneath to aid cooling, or for those in colder climes, additional insulation can be added. Optional extras for the House Arc include photovoltaic panels.
Easily the least practical of our pick of 10 off-grid homes, the JF-Kit House, by Spanish-based Elii Architecture, nonetheless demands our attention. Beneath the amusing premise of a Jane Fonda-inspired home, it offers much food for thought concerning a future without fossil fuel resources.
The JF-Kit House is a modular “parasitic” structure that's affixed onto existing walls and rooftops, leeching any available heat off the host structure. Additionally, the house boasts “domestic fitness furniture,” including a hand-crank operated kitchen, an email station and a dance floor which produces energy when danced upon.
Sounds crazy? Perhaps, but its ideas aren't too far off the mark ...
Who says off-grid living can't be stylish? Well, probably very few people. But if someone does spout such nonsense in your presence, be sure to point them in the direction of the prefabricated Freedomky House.
The work of Czech architect Marek Štěpán and his studio Atelier Štěpán, Freedomky House comes in two different versions, measuring 23 sq m (248 sq ft) and 38 sq m (409 sq ft), respectively. According to the designers, both homes can be installed in four hours, and can also be outfitted with a photovoltaics system and back-up diesel generator for electricity, plus a solar thermal system for hot water and a waste-treatment unit.
The Ekinoid project
Another off-grid home which breaks the mold, the Ekinoid project envisions homing Earth's rapidly growing population amid pop-up off-grid towns in some of the planet's least hospitable (and under-populated) regions, such as the Australian outback and Siberia.
Though still in development, the spherical Ekinoids are likely to be made from steel or glued laminated timber, and will contain wind and solar power for energy needs, rainwater harvesting and gray water treatment, plus sewage treatment and composting.
The Pump House, by Australian firm Branch Studio Architects (BSA), is a rustic weekend retreat built from inexpensive non-prefabricated parts like plywood, corrugated sheeting, and rough-sawn timber to help maintain a modest budget.
Operating completely off-grid, the second home is well-stocked for a weekend away and contains bed, dining table and chairs, plus ample storage space. Solar power, rainwater tanks, and a wood-burning stove serve the occupant's energy and fuel needs, and a large horizontal window runs along the western facade.
Off-grid homes can offer a lifeline to those living in areas where grid-based amenities are either nonexistent or simply too expensive for vast numbers of the poorer population. With this in mind, Johannesburg design studio Architecture For A Change has completed its off-grid prefab Mamelodi Pod prototype.
The small unit basically consists of a simple space with two bunk beds (sleeping four), and a window. It also has a simple exterior toilet and a solar cooker outside, while a roof-based solar panel powers the interior lighting, two external LED strip lights, and a 12-volt charger.
The Stamp House
For those who prefer their off-grid homes to be apocalypse-proof, The Stamp House by Charles Wright Architects should fit the bill. Located in Far North Queensland, Australia, the building is rated as a cyclone shelter and can withstand a Category 5 cyclone.
All the indestructibility in the world is somewhat wasted if you've got no power or water, so the Stamp House was also imparted with a bevvy of sustainable technology to keep its occupants going should the worst happen. Power is provided by a large roof-bound solar array and backed up by a solar-powered generator, while an impressive water harvesting system can harvest up to 250,000 liters (66,043 US gal) of water for home use and irrigation.
What do you think?
That rounds out our Top 10 pick of off-grid homes. We'd love to hear your own favorite lesser-known off-grid homes or – better yet – any off-grid homes of your own.