The world's most beautiful zero-impact houses with off-grid systems
From Texas to Spain, from California to Italy, here are some of the best examples of homes that are completely disconnected from the electricity and water networks
Published on 27 January 2020
Living in a house that's entirely self-sufficient is a dream that can come true. An off-grid home, i.e. one that is completely disconnected from the network, that's capable of generating the electrical and thermal energy it needs, where the water is supplied by a well or the rain and the waste water is treated naturally. Building this type of house requires the implementation of radical solutions, but which often offer significant aesthetic benefits. On the other hand, there are also “passive houses”: these are buildings that have been built to certain criteria that limit energy consumption as much as possible: many are equipped with solar panels and are built using wood, a material that offers excellent insulation and breathability. It’s a concept that derives from green building, an approach that has its roots in Germany in the 1970s and whose founders included the architect Karl Ernst Lotz, a pioneer of sustainable architecture.
Here is a selection of the world's most notable off-grid architecture projects.
Hill Country House: a country house in Texas designed by the Mirò Rivera Architects studio in accordance with the requirements of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system. An 8 kWp photovoltaic system covers the electricity requirements, while the temperature, particularly in winter and summer, can be regulated by a mechanical ventilation system in conjunction with a geothermal heat pump. The roof is built in such a way so as to collect rainwater into a tank, thus meeting the owner's annual water needs.
Camp Baird: created by the architect Malcolm Davis in northern California, it's designed to be a huge open space in which light and air can circulate freely. This house also uses a photovoltaic system to generate the necessary electricity, while a solar thermal system guarantees sufficient hot household water for hygienic needs, and to warm the water for the swimming pool.
Estate in Extremadura: immersed in the wilderness of the Spanish province of Càceres, which is famous for its huge forests of cork trees, this old farmhouse was completely renovated by the Àbaton architecture studio which had to solve the problem of there being no utilities whatsoever in this remote location. The electricity is supplied by a mix of photovoltaic power and a mini-hydropower system, while the building's envelope and openings minimise the energy requirements. The swimming pool also acts as a water tank when it comes to irrigating the garden.
The Luca Pasqualetti Mountain Shelter: off-grid architecture is ideal for remote accommodation facilities such as mountain shelters or huts. And that's exactly the case for the Pasqualetti Mountain Shelter perched on the summit of the Morion in Valpelline, Valle d’Aosta, designed by the Italian architects Roberto Dini and Stefano Girodo. The large window takes full advantage of the Sun's light and heat. The “double-door” entrance reduces heat loss. The prefabricated wood and steel structure guarantees excellent thermal insulation. A small solar panel with a battery meets the modest lighting needs.