Luxury Prefab Off-The-Grid Cabin

The recently unveiled Gapahuk cabin was designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and the leisure home builder Rindalshytter. It can be equipped to operate completely independently of the grid, and comes in a prefabricated package, meaning it can be built virtually anywhere.

The Gapahuk is a single story structure and has 968 sq ft (90 sq m) of interior floorspace. The interior is well-laid out, with most of the space taken up by a large open plan living/dining area and kitchen. The home also features three bedrooms, a spacious bathroom with a shower and toilet, and another separate toilet. The home also features a large covered outdoor deck, and plenty of storage areas, both inside and out.

Judging from the renders, the finished home will feature ample glazing, while most of the interior and exterior surfaces will be clad in wood. While the basic version is intended to be hooked up to the grid, it would also be easy to install the necessary tech to take if off-grid. according to the firm, the cabin’s sloping roof is ideal for installing solar panels, while it also protects from both the sun and from high winds. The home is heated by a wood burning stove, while it would probably be relatively simple to install a composting toilet, and a couple of water tanks and a water filtration system. Since the home was designed in Norway, it is probably safe to assume it offers comfortable living conditions even in the harshest climates.

The Gapahuk is probably the closest thing you can get to a professionally designed, high-end prefab home at the moment, and as such also carries a hefty price tag. It costs roughly $156,600 (1350,000 NOK) which does not include construction, or any of the off-grid features.

Shed Made of Recycled Materials

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The West Wing, as this eco shed is called, was recently completed by UK shed-maker Kevin Herbert. About 90 percent of the materials used to construct it were recycled, and it took him eight years to finish it. While this sounds like a long time, the process was a real labor of love and some things shouldn’t be rushed.

The shed is located at the edge of his garden in Berkshire, England, and it is made up of three main sections. The ground floor is comprised of a lounge, workshop and storage place. There is also a loft, which can be used as a bedroom. The shed also features a secret room, hidden behind a bookcase, which can be used as a children’s playroom or bedroom. There is no kitchen or bathroom, but then again, the main function of the shed is to be a place for working or relaxing and the main house is not far away.

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The structure is made of wood and features a green roof. For drainage Kevin installed 400 used milk cartons, which he first cut and then layered to serve this purpose. It took him over a year to collect all these cartons, but the effort was certainly worth it. This layer of milk cartons was then covered with about two tons of soil and turf to create the green roof and very effectively insulate the home.

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In the UK, where garden sheds are very popular, they also hold an annual Shed of the Year competition. The 2016 award was given to the West Wing, mostly due to its many eco-friendly and sustainable features.

It’s nice to see sustainable builds gaining more and more recognition in architecture competitions, since this will hopefully lead to more mainstream adoption of such building practices.

Imaginative Off-The-Grid Tiny Home

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A large part of the appeal of tiny homes lies in the unique design that these bite-sized dwellings offer. And the so-called Moon Dragon, recently created by the tiny home designer Zyl Vardos of Olympia, Washington is certainly one of the more imaginative and unique small homes we’ve seen in a long time. It looks like something from a fairytale, and can function completely independently of the grid.

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The Moon Dragon is comprised of a 9 x 24 ft (2.7 x 7.31 m) main floor and a 9 x 13 ft (2.7 x 4 m) sleeping loft, and has a total footprint of 13.1 x 9 x 24 ft (4 x 2.7 x 7.3 m). Almost the entire exterior of the home is clad in Onduvilla shingles. The Dutch-style front door was hand built, and opens into a cozy and spacious living area. A wood-burning stove is to be installed here to provide heat for the entire home.

The kitchen features plenty of counter space (made of laminated oak) for such a tiny dwelling. It is also equipped with a five-burner range cooker, an energy-efficient fridge, two ovens, and a pantry. There is also an energy-efficient washing machine installed in this area of the home.

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The bathroom is located at the rear of the home and features a composting toilet, as well as a concrete panel-lined shower and a hand-made sink. The bedroom is located in the loft, which is accessible via a storage stair. The loft is large enough to fit a double bed with room to spare, two closets, and its 5.5 ft (1.67 m) headspace is also quite impressive.

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All the cabinetry and walls of the Moon Dragon were built using mahogany ply, while cedar tongue and groove composite was used to create the arched ceiling. Cork was used for the flooring. The home gets its power from harvesting solar energy, though it can also be hooked up to the grid.

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Given the amount of work and materials that have gone into creating this home, it is quite pricy (as you would expect) and sells for about $96,000.

Gorgeous and Light-Filled Passive House

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Passive homes are often criticized for being more about satisfying rigid and strict guidelines than about being a home to somebody. But thankfully, that is starting to change in recent times, as is clearly demonstrated by the so-called Tigh na Croit house recently built in Scotland. Just looking at the pictures I’d never guess this was a Passive Home, due to its modern design. It’s spacious, full of natural daylight and must be quite comfortable to live in. it also recently won the Passivhaus award, given out by UK’s Passivhaus Trust, in the Rural Category.

The L-shaped, single story house features a large open plan kitchen, living and dining area, as well as three bedrooms, a cinema room, a utility space, and a storage area. The main living areas have a southern orientation, and open onto a small but functional terrace, so the occupants can better enjoy the surrounding countryside. Which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way.

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The bedrooms face eastward in order to make the most of the rising sun. The home also features large windows throughout, which offers great views, and connect the occupants with the outdoors. The home also features a number of skylights. They installed an air source heat pump and a wood burning stove to provide heating, while the bathrooms are fitted with electric towel bars, which are powerful enough to heat up the space.

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The design of the home also looks nothing like the Passive homes we are used to seeing, as in it’s not boxy with small windows. Hopefully, this home is one of the heralds of a new era of more occupant-friendly Passive House designs.

Energy Efficient Homes – Saginaw Sunset

Jim Guild and Nunzie Gould don’t just want to build places to live. They want to create homes that live forever.

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© Jim Guild Construction

They approach every project with a commitment not only to their clients, but to community, and the environment.  They think deeply not only about the layout of the house, but how what they are building will live and evolve and fit in Bend, Oregon, where they have been master builders for three decades.

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

The married partners in Jim Guild Construction build high performance homes featuring solar arrays, high efficiency, energy-saving windows, fresh air flow technology and cabinetry and woodwork milled from recycled timbers (they are famous in town for their work with old wood). After decades in town, they know Bend’s climate and understand what materials age well there.

But the materials, their experience and their use of local artisans are only a few of ways they build enduring homes.

Take their latest project, Saginaw Sunset, a 20-lot community on five acres in the heart of rapidly-growing Bend. Saginaw is a property most developers drive right by, urban infill set on a steep, sloping site two blocks from the downtown core. For Nunzie and Jim, it was a challenge they embraced. “We don’t go looking for hard things, but we’re not afraid of them,” Jim says.

At Saginaw, they are creating homes with the aid of local architects and designers that fit into the high desert landscape and offer stunning views of the Cascades, where even in summer residents can see the glacier on the Middle Sister peak.

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

They are pieces that fit into a whole, parts of the fabric of the community.  “When you are committed to community, you build things differently,” Nunzie says. “It’s not just blow and go.”

Their focus on building quality green homes meshes with the growing number of people moving to Bend looking for a smaller, manageable city offering the best of the great outdoors and an active arts and foodie scene. The city is among the 50 finalists for the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), an award that will go to the community with the greatest progress toward energy efficiency in the next two years.

So the work Jim and Nunzie, active members of the town’s Environmental Center (Jim is on the board), fits right into the city’s growing green reputation. Saginaw Sunset is a way to meet some of the demand for growth in the city without adding to sprawl by expanding Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).  Their first home in the development was featured on the Tour of Homes and won the coveted ‘People’s Choice Award’ on the Environmental Center’s Green and Solar Tour.

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

They are homes with a conscience, built to last. “We want to build something functionally and aesthetically attractive that will be enduring,” Jim adds. “Something that is forward thinking.”

That forward thinking extends throughout the process, from designing the roof line for highest solar efficiency to integrating the inside and the outside and using as many existing native trees as possible. Because comfort is just as important as sustainability, fresh air flows through each Saginaw home while high-tech utilities keep interior temperatures optimal.

“We take a lot of time to think about a finished product before we get going,” Nunzie says. “We think about how will it live? Is it practical? A house needs to fit how you live.”

Their homes are built to not only last a lifetime, but adapt to the changes of a lifetime.

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

Often people have wasted space in their homes, rooms they don’t use or a garage that serves as storage, she adds. A home needs to evolve. The living spaces that fit a family’s desire change from when their children are three to when they are 12 to when they are adults returning with a child of their own. Through careful planning, the Saginaw homes change with those families. Every house, for instance, has an elevator so they are accessible throughout a homeowner’s life. Every house is custom, created in deep collaboration with their clients. There are no prefab plans. Each dwelling, each site plan, is unique.

Form follows function, but beauty is not sacrificed. “I need a house that is handsome,” Jim says. “That seems like a strange word, but it sticks.”

Nunzie and Jim know how the inside integrates with the outside. “The relationship between the structure and the land needs to be respectful and symbiotic,” Nunzie says.

The high desert of Bend gets less than five inches of rain a year. So they’re not planting big lawns. They add soil amendments to help the volcanic soil of the city (using woody debris at the site to enrich the soil as well). They favor native plants that won’t send the water meter spinning. They use plants that attract bees and butterflies and other pollinators. “We’re being mindful of the bigger ecosystem,” Nunzie says.

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

© Jim Guild Construction

Their homes cost more, but Jim and Nunzie point to the return on investment whether it’s in the solar array, which will start turning a profit in nine to 14 years, lower energy bills because of the HVAC system, or just the immeasurable value of living within the beauty their artisans create.

What, Nunzie asks, is the value of making an investment today on your return for tomorrow? What is the value of a super-efficient, long-lived home when it comes time to sell? “Part of it is what are we leaving our community?” she says. “Jim and I don’t want to build lesser quality homes, places that will be bulldozed in 50 years.”

“Our houses don’t age,” Jim adds, “and that’s a really, really important feature. It isn’t magic that makes it happen. It’s the dollars and time you’re willing to spend.”