14 Totally Off-the-Grid Cabins

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By Byron Loker
Operating entirely off the grid, these homes match renewable energy sources with modern design.
Helsinki architect Ville Hara and designer Linda Bergroth collaborated on a prefab shed-meets-sleeping-cabin, which can be assembled with little else than a screwdriver. Bergroth, inspired by nomadic yurt-dwellers, wanted an indoor/outdoor experience for her property in Finland.

Helsinki architect Ville Hara and designer Linda Bergroth collaborated on a prefab shed-meets-sleeping-cabin, which can be assembled with little else than a screwdriver. Bergroth, inspired by nomadic yurt-dwellers, wanted an indoor/outdoor experience for her property in Finland.

A tradition of weekend hiking trips served as the premise for Jeff and Millie Baird’s off-the-grid retreat in California’s Sonoma County. Affectionately named Camp Baird, the home is located on a 165-acre parcel near a campsite the couple and their two young daughters had visited for years. Architect Malcolm Davis worked with contractors Fairweather & Associates on the new build; landscape architect Cary Bush of Merge Studio incorporated drought-resistant nativeplantings into the property

A tradition of weekend hiking trips served as the premise for Jeff and Millie Baird’s off-the-grid retreat in California’s Sonoma County. Affectionately named Camp Baird, the home is located on a 165-acre parcel near a campsite the couple and their two young daughters had visited for years. Architect Malcolm Davis worked with contractors Fairweather & Associates on the new build; landscape architect Cary Bush of Merge Studio incorporated drought-resistant nativeplantings into the property

Erin Moore of FLOAT Architectural Research and Design, based in Tucson, Arizona, designed a 70-square-foot writer’s retreat in Wren, Oregon, for her mother, Kathleen Dean Moore, a nature writer and professor of philosophy at nearby Oregon State University. The elder Moore wanted a small studio in which to work and observe the delicate wetland ecosystem on the banks of the Marys River. Enlisting her daughter’s design expertise, her professor husband’s carpentry savoir faire, the aid of friends, and a front loader, Kathleen and her crew erected the structure in September 2007. Photo by Gary Tarleton. Totally off the grid—Kathleen forgoes the computer and writes by hand when she's there—the Watershed was designed to tread as lightly on the fragile ecosystem as the wild turkeys and Western pond turtles that live nearby. 

Erin Moore of FLOAT Architectural Research and Design, based in Tucson, Arizona, designed a 70-square-foot writer’s retreat in Wren, Oregon, for her mother, Kathleen Dean Moore, a nature writer and professor of philosophy at nearby Oregon State University. The elder Moore wanted a small studio in which to work and observe the delicate wetland ecosystem on the banks of the Marys River. Enlisting her daughter’s design expertise, her professor husband’s carpentry savoir faire, the aid of friends, and a front loader, Kathleen and her crew erected the structure in September 2007. Photo by Gary Tarleton. Totally off the grid—Kathleen forgoes the computer and writes by hand when she's there—the Watershed was designed to tread as lightly on the fragile ecosystem as the wild turkeys and Western pond turtles that live nearby. 

Entirely off the grid, the house is powered by four photovoltaic panels that supply electricity to lights, small appliances, and water pumps.

Entirely off the grid, the house is powered by four photovoltaic panels that supply electricity to lights, small appliances, and water pumps.

A rugged exterior of spotted gum cladding and corrugated Spandek material shelter the prefabricated, off-the-grid getaway.

A rugged exterior of spotted gum cladding and corrugated Spandek material shelter the prefabricated, off-the-grid getaway.

Each prefabricated unit is covered in aluminum but built from SIPS: Structurally Insulated Panels that consist of thick insulation sandwiched between plywood panels. These high-performance panels keep the interior protected from the desert's ambient heat.

Each prefabricated unit is covered in aluminum but built from SIPS: Structurally Insulated Panels that consist of thick insulation sandwiched between plywood panels. These high-performance panels keep the interior protected from the desert's ambient heat.

Cement panels painted a plum hue clad Jason Gordon’s 1,157-square-foot cabin in the Ozark Mountains. Architect German Brun and partner Lizmarie Esparza originally specified wood, but opted for the much less expensive material from James Hardie after contractor Damian Fitzpatrick recommended it. "It was an exercise in cost engineering," Brun says.

Cement panels painted a plum hue clad Jason Gordon’s 1,157-square-foot cabin in the Ozark Mountains. Architect German Brun and partner Lizmarie Esparza originally specified wood, but opted for the much less expensive material from James Hardie after contractor Damian Fitzpatrick recommended it. "It was an exercise in cost engineering," Brun says.

Perched above a lake on Australia’s verdant Mornington Peninsula, James and Imogen Tutton’s teak-clad house was designed by Karen Alcock of Melbourne-based MA Architects.

Perched above a lake on Australia’s verdant Mornington Peninsula, James and Imogen Tutton’s teak-clad house was designed by Karen Alcock of Melbourne-based MA Architects.

&nbsp;<br>The Off-grid itHouse is an architecturally significant house, powered by solar panels for energy and hot water, and located in a pristine remote valley in the beautiful California high desert. The house observes key green principals of smaller footprint, minimal disturbance to the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, use of renewable resources, and living simply and minimally.

 
The Off-grid itHouse is an architecturally significant house, powered by solar panels for energy and hot water, and located in a pristine remote valley in the beautiful California high desert. The house observes key green principals of smaller footprint, minimal disturbance to the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, use of renewable resources, and living simply and minimally.

The roughly 160-square-foot modules, dubbed Mini House 2.0, were built in collaboration with Swedish manufacturer Sommarnöjen, and are delivered flat-packed.

The roughly 160-square-foot modules, dubbed Mini House 2.0, were built in collaboration with Swedish manufacturer Sommarnöjen, and are delivered flat-packed.

It took 11 years of traversing through three different countries for Eric Bigot to develop his Zenkaya prefab housing concept. Designed to bring peace of mind to impoverished South Africans, the ready-made structures aim to provide affordable housing and stimulate the economy by creating construction jobs, something the French-born architect has ample experience doing.

It took 11 years of traversing through three different countries for Eric Bigot to develop his Zenkaya prefab housing concept. Designed to bring peace of mind to impoverished South Africans, the ready-made structures aim to provide affordable housing and stimulate the economy by creating construction jobs, something the French-born architect has ample experience doing.

The Porter cottage makes the most of its unwieldy site. The cottage was sited as close to the water as legally allowed to take advantage of the views and far enough away from the graywater leach field where the soil is deep enough to allow for proper run off. The screen porch was angled to capture direct southern exposure for the solar panels.

The Porter cottage makes the most of its unwieldy site. The cottage was sited as close to the water as legally allowed to take advantage of the views and far enough away from the graywater leach field where the soil is deep enough to allow for proper run off. The screen porch was angled to capture direct southern exposure for the solar panels.

Upon his first visit to Tasmania, an island south of the Australian mainland, resident David Burns was immediately smitten with its varied, pristine landscape. Working with architecture firm Misho+Associates, he built a self-sustaining, 818-square-foot retreat that would allow him to completely unplug from urban life.

Upon his first visit to Tasmania, an island south of the Australian mainland, resident David Burns was immediately smitten with its varied, pristine landscape. Working with architecture firm Misho+Associates, he built a self-sustaining, 818-square-foot retreat that would allow him to completely unplug from urban life.

A narrow building next to the main structure houses storage and an outdoor kitchen.

A narrow building next to the main structure houses storage and an outdoor kitchen.