Pump House proves the simplest ideas are often the best


September 3, 2013

Pump House, by Branch Studio Architects, was completed this May (Photo: Branch Studio Architects)

Pump House, by Branch Studio Architects, was completed this May (Photo: Branch Studio Architects)

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It's an obvious point, but it's easy to forget that the most appealing homes don't have to be the most expensive or imposing. We're reminded of this yet again by Pump House – a basic but idyllic weekend retreat designed by Australian firm Branch Studio Architects (BSA). It was built with a modest budget, and boasts the advantage of operating off-the-grid.

The original brief for Pump House called for a shed-like structure which could house a water pump, some farm equipment, and offer shelter when the clients were visiting their horse George for the weekend. The project grew from there, and involved the client and BSA designer Nicholas Russo collaborating on how best to bring about an affordable, easily-built structure that didn't rely on off-the-shelf prefabricated parts.

Pump House was actually built by one of the clients, who is a carpenter by trade, using affordable materials such as plywood, corrugated sheeting, and rough-sawn timber to help keep the construction budget low. Running costs should be relatively minor too, as the property relies solely on off-grid options like solar power, rainwater tanks, and a wood-burning stove for all its energy and fuel needs.

The house contains a bed, dining table and chairs, and plenty of storage space. A large horizontal window runs along the western facade, granting views of the surrounding expansive fields.

There's definitely something attractive about the uncomplicated rural lifestyle that Pump House aims to promote, and we're inclined to echo BSA's own assessment of the weekend retreat as "a celebration of the ordinary, that's uncompromising in its simplicity."

Pump House was completed in May of this year.

Source: Branch Studio Architects

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Here's a thought - For off-grid power, how about using the already made laptop-charging power system supplied in those camp cookstoves, and running a series of them all the way up the flue? It would make a completion of any solar power cells system for 24-hour power.

The Skud

I really like it, the form is simple and pleasing and would look good in many rural locations, whether they be farm land, in a forest or overlooking a beach or lake. The flow-thru effect with the big windows gives a nice feeling of space, it would be good to get hold of the overall dimensions but there seems plenty of room in this comfortable building. Actually you don't really need lots of rooms and as it is said, "less is more", but I think that a good bathroom is a must, especially if you plan to spend more than just weekends in the dwelling. Off-grid is always good and I guess if they ran short on water, the water in the dam could be filtered easily enough to provide a plentiful supply. Is that a gas stove in the kitchen? a wood fired cooker would provide even more self-sufficiency. Dan

Facebook User

I think it is elegant in that it is simple yet stylish. I think it looks nice. I agree with the other post, it could be used in a variety of settings.


Seeing the plywood on the ceiling reminds me of when I lived in the Goetsch-Winkler house.

Frank cut the 4 x 8 sheets in half and scored the red stained concrete floor with a grid, the same.

If I remember correctly the long dimensions in the LR were 40 x 28... rather spacious plus the skylight kept it from being dead.

Coal tar pitch roof, of course.

When the roof sagged, as wood always does, the steel was introduced later.


Island Architect

Sorry and surprised to see an air polluting woodstove being used for heat. Solar panels could power heaters in the floor; less glass for better insulation.

Art Toegemann

Solar panels are underused. Looks like more could be installed on the walls. House's position to astronomy is not clear. There is one all glass wall. The other three(?) seem almost solid.

Art Toegemann

The plywood sheeting on the walls and ceilings needs much more interesting tiling patterns to avoid looking simply cheap.


@ Facebook User A wood-burning cook-stove through off an unbelievable amount of heat. It is great in the winter but makes the house uninhabitable in the summer.


large glass to the west? In Australia they would fry in summer. Glass needs to be facing the equator ( ie, north in the southern hemisphere, and south in the northern). The benefits of passive solar are too good to waste.


I guess an "affordable" "modest-budget" project is relative. A 12-14ft floor-to-ceiling window wall that opens typically costs $10-$15k USD each - and this project boasts two of them. Together they probably cost more than the rest of the house combined.


Solar panels for heat won't work in stormy weather. Batteries to store the energy are heavy, bulky and require constant upkeep. Solar needs many square feet to be at all effective. The wood stove is necessary. Many of us grew up with wood burning cook stoves. Adaption was not a problem. They were used to heat the water too. Hence bathing is limited. Living away from the electric grid and o/o reach of propane delivery requires a change in life style. Try it b/4 you buy it.

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