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3 of the Most Unique Off the Grid Homes in Australia

As the demand for sustainable housing in Australia increases, a growing number of people are turning to off-grid living.

The grid is the central provision of utilities such as water, electricity and waste disposal that many of us take for granted. In most cases our homes are already ‘plugged in’ and we simply pick our suppliers and pay our bills. But by going off the grid and meeting these needs ourselves we can live self-sufficiently, ending our reliance on essential services that are often sourced or provided unsustainably while also reducing our monthly bills.

The four central components [1] of off the grid homes are their ability to generate electricity, collect rainwater (or access an alternative fresh water source), treat and deal with waste, and minimise their demand for these provisions through increased efficiency.

Many people choose off-grid living in order to reduce their impact on the environment. Some are enticed by the long-term savings that an off grid house can offer at a time when residential real estate prices are rising across Australia [2]. Others who live in remote rural areas find it to be the only viable option, given the prohibitive cost of connecting to the grid in the first place.

Consequently there are more off the grid homes in Australia than you might think. And we’ve taken a look at three of the most interesting examples.

3 of the Most Unique Off the Grid Homes in Australia

Earthship Ironbank – South Australia

Earthships were conceived in the 1970s by American architect Michael Reynolds and brought to Australia in 2009 by enthusiast Martin Freney.

In addition to the standard requirements of electricity production, self-sustaining water supply and waste disposal, central tenets of the Earthship’s design are its use of natural and recycled building materials, an allocated space for producing food, and a system of heating and cooling which uses thermal mass and principles of natural cross-ventilation in order to minimise energy usage.

After doing his PhD on Earthships, Freney built his own in Ironbank, South Australia, from a mixture of recycled materials that included plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans and old tires. Now the finished house, Earthship Ironbank [3], operates as an eco bed and breakfast where guests are invited to take guided tours, learn about its design, and even participate in workshops on how to build their own off grid house.

An Off-Grid Acreage – Hobart, Tasmania

Earthships were conceived in the 1970s by American architect Michael Reynolds and brought to Australia in 2009 by enthusiast Martin Freney.

In addition to the standard requirements of electricity production, self-sustaining water supply and waste disposal, central tenets of the Earthship’s design are its use of natural and recycled building materials, an allocated space for producing food, and a system of heating and cooling which uses thermal mass and principles of natural cross-ventilation in order to minimise energy usage.

After doing his PhD on Earthships, Freney built his own in Ironbank, South Australia, from a mixture of recycled materials that included plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans and old tires. Now the finished house, Earthship Ironbank [3], operates as an eco bed and breakfast where guests are invited to take guided tours, learn about its design, and even participate in workshops on how to build their own off grid house.

An Off-Grid Acreage – Hobart, Tasmania

The Tufts’ decision to go off the grid was practically made for them. After growing tired of city life the couple decided to move away from Sydney, purchasing an acreage 40 minutes from Hobart in Tasmania. But it was only after purchasing the land that they realised their plot – 60% of which is located on conservation land – was not connected to the local electricity grid.

For Peter Tuft, who recalls doing his undergraduate thesis on renewable energy in the ‘70s, this was a great opportunity to build a home that was completely off the grid. “Connecting to the grid would have cost us a lot – possibly the same amount as our off-grid system,” [4] explains Peter, who adds that the beautiful but remote location of their home inspired, as much as it necessitated, their decision to go off the grid.

Though it took around six years of planning, it required just 10 months to build their three-bedroom home, and the results are certainly worth all of the effort and expense; state of the art technology – including solar panels, batteries and a hydro-generator – and an upscale interior mean you could easily fail to realise the house is off the grid. The couple insist that off-grid living has not forced them to compromise on their lifestyle, and it’s no surprise. Together they seem to have built one of the most luxurious off the grid houses in Australia.

Off-Grid Living in the Heart of Sydney

And finally we bring you proof that off-grid living doesn’t have to mean relocating to the middle of nowhere. Michael Mobbs first began taking his home in inner-city Sydney off the grid almost 25 years ago, and now it stands as a shining example that sustainable living is possible anywhere – not just in the far flung reaches of barely accessible countryside.

A key aspect of this home’s design is efficiency. Mobbs claims that while an average four-person house uses between 22-23 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, his needs just three – generated by solar panels on his roof and stored in his own 12kwh battery. On top of this he has installed a sewage recycling system alongside an $11,000 rainwater system (complete with 10,000 litre tank and pump) which collects around 84,000 litres of rainwater a year.

Mobbs believes that a house like his could be converted for around $20,000 today, and that it would return instant savings of between $2,000 and $4,000 a year. As Mobbs’s credo goes, you don’t have to be special to live sustainably.

Can Anyone Build an Off the Grid Home?

More Aussies than ever are deciding to live off the grid – and with the necessary technology getting cheaper, house prices going up and awareness of our planet’s impending environmental crisis increasing, this trend is likely to continue.

Now it’s even possible for people who don’t feel capable of building or designing a house themselves; when it comes to off grid kit homes, Australia has some great options, with a growing number of companies offering modular and prefab constructions [5]that can be built to order. Off the grid homes are now more accessible than ever. For many people, the path to sustainable living could be just around the corner.

References

[1] https://www.lunchboxarchitect.com/blog/off-the-grid/

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-02/australia-house-prices-rise-as-rebound-spreads-to-more-cities#

[3] http://www.earthshipironbank.com.au/

[4] https://www.realestate.com.au/lifestyle/tasmanian-off-grid-home-inspires-sustainable-living/?pid=article-page%7Csource:lifestyle:article-page-bottom

[5] https://renew.org.au/sanctuary-magazine/in-focus/prefab-performers-16-of-the-top-rating-modular-and-prefabricated-homes/

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