News Home & Design This Off-Grid Home Is Designed to Withstand Sun, Wind, and Bushfires A self-sufficient dwelling goes back to the elements. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast on August 09, 2021 LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process on August 9, 2021 07:22PM EDT Dave Kulesza Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices As a perennial Treehugger favorite, off-grid homes can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from the tiny to the ultra-minimalist, all the way to prefabricated and modular options. Whatever form they may take, these self-sufficient dwellings represent a renewed connection with nature, where one's needs are closely tied with what nature can provide. Out in the remote area of High Camp, about one hour north of Melbourne, Australia, Ben Callery Architects (previously) created this off-grid refuge for a retired couple looking for a simple, self-sufficient dwelling that would be protected from the harsh elements of the bush. Dave Kulesza Situated on top of a hill that is dotted by a handful of lonely trees, the Elemental House is designed to immerse its inhabitants in the natural landscape -- its thick roof offering shelter from the blistering sun, bushfires, and voracious winds that approach cyclone-like speeds, while also providing sweeping, expansive views of a rugged landscape. As the firm explains: ‘Elemental’ refers to a relationship with the forces of nature but it also speaks to a desire for simplicity: an abstract geometric form and a reduced palette of materials, as we seek an architectural expression that embodies that spirit of freedom, adventure and minimalism that is synonymous with going ‘off-grid.’ The site is raw and windswept. Arriving form the city there is an arresting sense of quietness audibly and visually that heightens your senses. This quietness provides cues for the architecture. Dave Kulesza With a footprint of 1,614 square feet (150 square meters), the home has an orientation for the living room that favors the spectacular views to the east, while also allowing for passive solar gain on its northern side, where the bedroom and bathroom are located. The cabin sits on a remote site of 100 acres of former farmland. Its seclusion meant that the home had to be completely self-sufficient in terms of energy and water. To achieve this, the design includes a 24-panel solar power system that can store and provide electricity even on the cloudiest of days, in addition to two large water tanks that store harvested rainwater—all of which are located in an area near the house. Dave Kulesza Besides this, a woodstove in the living room offers sufficient heating in winter, and a 5-kilowatt split-system air conditioner cools things down efficiently during the hot summers. All of the energy needs of the home are minimized, thanks to its well-insulated, thermally efficient envelope. The extensive eaves over the house help to shelter the occupants from the brutal sun. Dave Kulesza Yet, there are also two wooden decks—north and south, with one holding an outdoor bathtub—which helps one to embrace the blazing sunlight. Dave Kulesza The choice of Australian spotted gum timber for the exterior was not only an aesthetic one but also a practical one, say the architects: "This Australian hardwood is so durable that it meets the bushfire requirements and does not need ongoing maintenance. It can simply go grey gracefully, quietly settling into its landscape." Inside, the architects have the material and color palette simple and somber—darkly painted oriented strand board (OSB) for the cabinetry, the thick thermal mass of the concrete floor, spotted gum timber for the ceiling—all of it extending a visual refuge from the bright austerity of the landscape outside. Dave Kulesza The kitchen is laid out to emphasize that landscape, with an emphasis on horizontal lines along the counter, island, and the mirrored backsplash. Dave Kulesza Along one glazed wall, there is a low and lengthy bench, which not only meets the bushfire safety requirements that they are a certain height off the ground but also provides opportunities to completely soak up the incredible vistas beyond. Dave Kulesza As the firm says, the overarching idea is to create a stunning home where one can immerse oneself in the natural elements, even as it provides protection: "Under this big hard sun you find yourself drawn to the shade of the few lonely trees on the site, craving shelter in a primal way. This intuitive yearning for shelter inspired our response. The form is a bold geometry. Low-slung, horizontal and squat, it is braced for impact. It is an elemental expression of the shelter that we seek from above. To see more, visit Ben Callery Architects and Instagram.