This Group of Off-Grid Cabins in British Columbia Looks Out on Beautiful Ocean Views
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This Group of Off-Grid Cabins in British Columbia Looks Out on Beautiful Ocean Views

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By Marissa Hermanson
Designed with minimal maintenance in mind, these coastal summer cabins are totally self-sufficient.

In the Gulf Islands, an archipelago southwest of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadian architects Osburn/Clarke were tasked with designing  an extension to a residential compound that already contained a main lodge and boathouse. Their solution: four off-grid cabins that would leave no footprint on the land and seamlessly blend into their verdant natural surrounds consisting of endangered Garry oak trees and wild lilies. 

The four self-sufficient cabins dot the coast of a 100-acre Gulf Island, located off the coast of British Columbia.

With the same footprint, the four 350-square-foot cabins each have different interior layouts. And designed with summer use in mind, they  thoughtfully connect to their unique forested, oceanside landscape.

The cabins are self-sufficient, operating on a battery system that is charged by solar panels. This electricity is mainly used to power low-voltage LED lights. The cabins are heated with a wood stove and cooled with windows.

The sloped metal roofs were designed to capture rain, which is used in the cabins.

Inside, each cabin has bedroom, a sitting room, and a small powder room. "As these cabins are part of a complex, the majority of the cooking and cleaning happens in the lodge. The cabins are intended for sleeping and guest accommodation," explains architect Kevin Dolphin with Osburn/Clarke. "It keeps the mechanical system simple and the electrical system to a minimum."

The timber structures are made from durable Douglas Fir posts and beams.

A sloped roof, supported by large wooden beams, allows water to run off and then be collected for use in the powder room.

"The timber frame structure is the major space-defining element," says Dolphin. "The glazing and walls act as infill between the timber posts and beams. We also elevated the buildings using point footings to minimize the amount of concrete required — this material is expensive, difficult to transport to remote sites, and site mixing is a bit of a drag."

Windows wrap around the sides of the cabins to maximize views.

Inside and out, the structures are clad in clear-grain Douglas Fir with a standing-seam, zinc-finished metal roof. "We liked these durable materials because they can last many seasons in harsh weather conditions," he adds.

Glass sliders lead to a 200-square-foot cedar deck that overlooks the Straight of Georgia.

The sides of the cabins are encased in floor-to-ceiling windows, and sliding glass doors on the front of the cabins open to the great outdoors.

The expansive glass gives guests panoramic views of the Straight of Georgia, whether they are lying in bed or sipping a cup of coffee on the 200-square-foot cedar deck that surrounds each cabin.

During the off-season, the cabins are shut with a wood sliding door shutter system.

To avoid obstructing views, the decks' railing systems were created with steel cables tethered to stanchions.

"Again, minimal maintenance is required, compared to glass in a coastal condition, which has a tendency to get grimy," says Dolphin.

The cabins are furnished with pieces that add to their charming outdoorsy atmosphere, like   camp blankets and chairs.

Large wood doors were installed on a track system, so they could be manually slid shut, closing the cabins for the winter.

"The wood stove is a Little Cod by Navigator," says Dolphin. "A simple solution for small spaces."

"The sliding wood doors are both a product of the buildings' proximity to water and the buildings' frequency of use," said Dolphin of the shutter system. "When off-season storms slam the islands, the windows are protected by the big sliders."

Related Reading: 

An Angled Cabin in British Columbia Makes an Ideal Island Retreat

This Newlywed Couple’s 100-Square-Foot Cabin Is the Island Hideaway of Our Dreams

Project credits:

Architects: Mark Osburn, Wayne Clarke and James Allison with Osburn/Clark/@osburnclarke

Builder/contractor: Heisch Enterprises Ltd.

Structural engineer: Allester Engineering Ltd.

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