6 Off-Grid Prefab Homes For Self-Sufficient Living

6 Off-Grid Prefab Homes For Self-Sufficient Living

By Lucy Wang
Whether you’re looking to lower your carbon footprint, retreat into nature, or simply reduce your utility bills, get inspiration for your off-the-grid dreams with these modern prefabs.

Living off the grid doesn’t have to mean sacrificing modern comforts. In recent years, prefab construction has given homeowners greater freedom to pursue self-sufficient lifestyles around the world, even in remote and hard-to-build areas. From a stunning retreat in the wilds of Uruguay to a funky guesthouse in New Mexico, we’ve rounded up six prefabricated buildings that go off the grid in style.

Retreat in Finca Aguy by MAPA Architects

Set amidst the eastern mountains of Pueblo Eden, Uruguay, this contemporary home was constructed in four months with a prefab steel-frame system clad in low-maintenance sheet metal.  

Perched on two locally crafted stone walls, this prefab retreat in the remote mountains of Uruguay serves up urban comforts with spectacular views of unspoiled nature. Designed by MAPA Architects, the rugged home was constructed in a Montevideo factory, transported to the site in two parts, and strategically placed on site for optimal views and solar orientation. Given its faraway location, going off-grid was a must—the architects equipped the home with solar panels and an on-site waste treatment system.

Franklinford by Modscape

The home’s airtight envelope was achieved with structural insulated panels. Radially sawn timber and COLORBOND steel with Vitrabond accents clad the exterior, evoking the local rural vernacular.  

In rural Australia, the prefab specialists at Modscape crafted Franklinford, a self-sufficient abode where two families live side by side in contemporary comfort. The 2,370-square-foot residence was constructed in 12 weeks at Modscape’s factory and then installed with a crane in just one day. Solar panels provide all the energy needed to power the off-grid house, while the massive full-height windows that wrap the home consist of double-pane glass and are shielded by the sun by extended eaves.

Tintaldra Cabin by Modscape

Entirely prefabricated at Modscape’s factory in Brooklyn, the self-sufficient Tintaldra Cabin features six-panel construction with heavy insulation, as well as low-E and double-glazed windows.  

Also by Modscape is this off-grid farm shed-inspired cabin that was installed in rural Australia in just one day. Built for a client who wanted a rugged retreat that could withstand long periods of vacancy, the low-maintenance 700-square-foot cabin camouflages into the landscape with a facade of corrugated iron reclaimed from salvage yards. The home is powered with a 5kW rooftop solar array and equipped with a rainwater tank and septic tank.

Cabin on the Border by SO?

A self-sufficient cabin is this weekend retreat for a family on the border between Turkey and Greece. Designed by Istanbul architecture studio SO?, the 194-square-foot shelter was fabricated at a factory approximately 186 miles away and then trucked onto site as a single unit. The simple construction comprises a laminated timber frame, stone-wool insulation, and weatherproof birch plywood that lines the interior.

Element House by MOS Architects

The guesthouse also doubles as a visitor's center for the Charles Ross sculpture project Star Axis, which opens to the public in 2022. 

For a modern off-grid prefab with a funkier twist, feast your eyes on this modular guesthouse at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in a New Mexican desert. Designed by MOS Architects, the Element House comprises a series of aluminum-covered prefab units linked together to create a three-bedroom residence. To meet Passive House standards, the off-grid residence is built with structurally insulated panels, nine thermal chimneys, and follows passive solar principles to minimize temperature fluctuations. 

Ecological Living Module by Gray Organschi Architecture

The Ecological Living Module (ELM) was installed at the UN Headquarters in New York City for two months.

Completed in just eight weeks, the 230-square-foot Ecological Living Module is a tiny experimental home that not only operates off the grid, but also grows food along its west facade. The self-sufficient abode is the work of Gray Organschi Architecture and the Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, who prefabricated the micro-home out of renewable materials. Created as a prototype for low-carbon residential development, the home features a solar system, rainwater harvesting system, a dehumidifier for recapturing water from the air, and a gray water system for irrigating the edible garden. 

Related Reading: This Solar-Powered Prefab in Portland Was Set Up in Four Hours


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