Eco-homes for $70,000

Dunster – new off-grid design
British eco-architect Bill Dunster has taken advice from the off-grid community and launched plans for small, off-grid holiday homes around the world.

The £40k-50k ($70k-85k) buildings would not need a connection to electricity, gas or sewerage utilities and Dunster says he is in talks with tourism companies to design the holiday homes.

The architect has produced draft plans for 30m2 “Landark” cabins, designed to sleep up to six people. They will include a composting toilet, wood-fired kitchen stove, a green roof and solar panels. A communal wind turbine could be installed where the cabins are built in a cluster.

The buildings could also be used as affordable homes or offices, but it is likely that their first commercial application will be for holiday-makers. ZEDfactory is scouting out sites where the timber cabins could be marketed as “luxury camping” accommodation.

It is in talks with partners in the West Country, Scotland and the Pyrenees; between eight and 15 cabins could be built in each of these sites.

Dunster is hoping that the designs will also be attractive as green homes for low-income residents.

He said: “If you’ve got not very much money and you want to live in a comfortable home run entirely from renewable energy that sits beautifully in the landscape, then this is it.

“In some ways it’s more desirable than a conventional home with all its costs and its problems. Do you want to spend your life paying off a mortgage or just whack one of these down?”

He said the lodges, which do not need conventional foundations, could be built in the countryside, in supermarket car parks or even on the top of existing buildings. They would be easy to move or to recycle, and would leave “no permanent damage” to their previous site.

The designs are likely to raise eyebrows among critics of microrenewables, who say solar and wind are too unreliable to cover all energy needs. But Dunster has argued that on-site renewables are sufficient as long as people cut the amount of energy they consume.

John Shakespeare, product designer at ZEDfactory who has led the design team, said: “It’s about going back to nature. The cabins don’t have a huge electricity load and there will be batteries that charge up on solar power. We are confident it can provide electricity all the time.”

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