An Off-Grid Prefab Home Slides Wide Open to the Australian Bush

By Lucy Wang / Published by Dwell
View 17 Photos

The self-sufficient Courtyard House embraces the bush landscape in all directions.

With over 30 years of experience in construction and development, Tony Olding believes he has seen the future of Australia’s building industry—and he’s doubling down on prefab.

To help drive the country toward eco-friendly prefabricated homes, Olding launched FABPREFAB in 2016, and he teamed up with Sydney-based architecture firm CHROFI to create one of his first modular models: the Courtyard House. The home is a modern take on traditional rural homes in Australia, and it’s able to operate entirely off the grid.

The two-bedroom, two-bath Courtyard House is located in a clearing in the New South Wales coastal suburb of Hawks Nest, just a few minutes’ drive from the beach.

Clinton Weaver

Stay up to Date on the Latest in Prefab Homes

From cozy cottages to large family houses, see how prefab continues to redefine the future of construction, building, and design.


"Courtyard House is our first prefabricated housing project, but we’ve always been interested in the idea of efficiency in the use of space and material," says CHROFI partner Tai Ropiha. The firm designed the home as a set of four modules—a living space, veranda, bedroom, and central bridge/hallway—along with a sliding timber screen.

A natural materials palette ties the building into its scenic surrounds. The hardwood facade features spotted gum cladding with a Woca Silver finish.

Clinton Weaver

The modules were built to 90% completion inside a factory—fittings, fixtures, tiles, and more were installed before the units were trucked to the site and placed atop the foundation in five hours.

Clinton Weaver

The brief called for a home with a strong connection to the coastal bush landscape. "Because the building has no sense of a front, back, or side, it engages with the landscape on all sides," explain the architects. "The veranda and enclosed courtyard provide a mediated connection between the interior and the rugged landscape."

The 300-square-foot "reinterpreted" veranda is a sheltered room open to the outdoors.

Clinton Weaver

A full-height, double-glazed window lets ample light into the secondary bedroom.

Clinton Weaver

The southwest-facing courtyard inspired the project’s name, and it creates a layout that disguises the narrow and linear proportions of the offset prefabricated modules. The open-air services core is located in the center of the home, rather at the rear or side, so as to avoid defining the envelope of the home.

The courtyard functions as an outdoor room framed by a pair of timber screens.

Clinton Weaver

A yellow frangipani tree surrounded by KLS sandstone pavers is the focal point of the outdoor courtyard.

Clinton Weaver

"This leaves the house as a resolved three-dimensional object floating in space that can adapt to different site conditions," explain the architects. "The built-in ability to rotate or mirror the plan means that, regardless of a site’s orientation or aspect, the Courtyard House is able to establish a strong connection to its immediate landscape in all directions."

The south-facing timber screen can be pushed to the west to open up the courtyard to the expansive landscape.

Clinton Weaver

A view of the courtyard screened from view.

Clinton Weaver

"I like that the house has a simple, almost abstract reading from the exterior—but the interior reveals an unexpected complexity of space, light, and aspect," notes Ropiha.

Clinton Weaver

At 1,033 square feet in size, the Courtyard House is significantly smaller than the average Australian home. The design team decided to keep the footprint compact in order to minimize site impact and material use. In addition to these environmental considerations, the prefab home features passive systems for natural cooling, and it operates entirely off the grid by generating its own solar polar and harvesting rainwater. The home also has an on-site sewage treatment system.

Sliding glass doors blur the lines between indoors and out.

Clinton Weaver

Big River engineered blackbutt flooring lines the interiors. The living room is styled with a Felix Block 3-seater sofa, Sketch Native round coffee table, and Aura Boucle rug.

Clinton Weaver

The construction of the Courtyard House took approximately a year, including site and factory work. However, FABPREFAB construction manager Ed Callanan notes that future projects will have a reduced and streamlined timeline, given that this project was their first prototype.

Shop the Look

Medley Blumen Sofa

The Blumen Sofa is a comfortable way to lounge in a deep sofa. The larger size and deeper seats make this modern sofa a relaxing place to spend some time with family and friends while entertaining or just watching television. With wide arms, it acts like built in end tables and provides some nice functionality. The pinched seams complement the tailored fabric, and you can choose the customized fabric and color that fits your living area. Medley offers personalization so you can choose exactly what you need for your living area and to make sure it's a perfect fit for your needs. Photo Courtesy of Medley


Gabriel Tan Port Coffee Table

While serving in the Singaporean Navy, Gabriel Tan became aware that such a thing as industrial design existed, and a floodgate opened. He soon earned a design degree from the National University of Singapore and went on to open his own studio with an international reach. But Tan never forgot his days aboard ship, and when it came time to design the Port Table (2017), he drew inspiration from a common feature of ships: the porthole, with its stout frame surrounding a pane of circular glass. The design was an attempt to rethink marble and glass coffee tables with vulnerable exposed edges. “In the same way a porthole frame protects,” Tan explains, “the round wooden frame of the Port Table protects the edges of the stone or glass from chipping and protects people from sharp edges.” Likewise, he says, “The three fin-like legs have soft edges, too, which are easy on legs and also beautifully sculptural.” Made in Malaysia. Photo Courtesy of Design Within Reach


Parachute Braided Wool Rug

This super plush rug is like a sweater for your floor – wonderfully soft, cozy and timeless. Hand-braided by Indian craftspeople from thick wool and cotton, it features a uniquely warm and cushiony feel. Photo Courtesy of Parachute


The home is elevated on pier foundations for reduced site impact.

Clinton Weaver

Concrete off-form steps by FABPREFAB step down into the courtyard.

Clinton Weaver

The Courtyard House was constructed with a minimal steel frame with LVL floor joists.

Clinton Weaver

The Courtyard House has since been sold to a related entity of FABPREFAB, and it will be listed on AirBnB in the near future. "This allows potential buyers to experience life inside the design prior to purchasing the model," explains Olding.

Courtyard House floor plan

Courtyard House elevations

Related Reading:

An Off-the-Grid Prefab in Australia Uses Salvaged Iron as Camo

An Australian Architect Builds a Rammed Earth-and-Steel Family Home

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: CHROFI / @chrofi_architects

Builder/General Contractor: FABPREFAB

Structural Engineer: SDA Structures

Civil Engineer: Building Services Engineers

Landscape Design Company: Somewhere Landscape Architects

Lighting Design: Euroluce

Interior Design: CHROFI

Perfectly balanced materials and an elongated skylight elevate a rear addition in East London’s Lower Clapton.

Boxabl’s flat-pack Casita ADUs are designed to combine for (virtually) infinite square footage.

The Rapid Shelter Innovation Showcase crowdsources rapidly deployable shelters to curb growing homelessness amid the…

Hungarian design studio Hello Wood unveils Kabinka, an affordable, compact cabin that can fit a kitchenette, bed, desk,…

An Oakland startup combines prefab design and 3D printing to create cost-saving backyard homes.

L.A.-based prefab company Cover rises above steep terrain to deliver a custom office/guesthouse without breaking the…