Can you afford to hire the build? Are you wanting to use environmentally friendly materials? What about the cost? In this article, I will share 6 Housing Ideas for off the grid living for you to consider.
Taking the step towards freedom and living off the grid is a huge decision, not to mention the research involved. Finding the perfect location, checking into the local laws, financial planning, alternative energy, but what about your housing?
Off The Grid Living- What Does It Mean?
This is a touchy topic. Why? Because there are ‘some’ people that will argue off grid living means to disappear. No phone, no internet, now way to be found, and 100% self-sufficient.
However, in my world it means to not be connected to public utilities, AKA ‘the grid’. We still need to buy things we can’t produce or raise. I still need to work online and make money (evil, I know). My family still needs to call us on the phone to make sure we haven’t been eaten by black bears.
To each their own I say, if you want to disappear, *POOF* be gone. But don’t let me catch you online in off grid groups arguing with me claiming I’m not really ‘off grid’ because I have satellite Wi-Fi that I power with our solar panels.
6 Off Grid Alternative Housing Ideas
It’s always a good idea before pursuing any plan to check with the local laws and building codes. If you are building in the states, there are still many counties that are unincorporated.
Which means they don’t have any building and zoning laws. Which has its pluses and minuses. In addition to local laws, you may have to contend with neighborhood restrictions.
If you already live in an area that has building codes, many zoning regulations don’t cover alternative housing materials.
If you experience this situation, it is possible to work with the zoning commission by educating them and providing them with research.
#6 Straw Bale Homes For Living Off The Grid
Straw bale homes are becoming a widely popular alternative housing method. I have good friends who live in the Ozarks in Missouri who are building a large off grid straw bale house with their three children. They are in their third year of construction and almost near completion.
Funny enough, people tend to think of the three little pigs when you tell them you’re building a straw house. However, straw bale homes topically have an R-value of 35 or greater.
In addition, straw bale homes have been proven to be more flame retardant than conventional stick built homes.
Although this idea may be tempting for most, construction does require experience and skill. Poorly constructed straw bale homes can lead to moisture, mold and faulty structural integrity.
Fortunately, how-to workshops are available all over the world for you to gain some hands-on experience.
#5 Off Grid Living In Cordwood Homes
Cordwood homes are made by using softwood, sawdust and mortar mix. Many who use this method to build their alternative housing, use materials harvested from their own land.
The masonry and wood walls provide a thermal mass that keeps homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Cordwood is also naturally rot resistant. Aesthetically pleasing and easily obtainable supplies, cordwood homes are a great off grid alternative housing idea.
#4 Off Grid Alternative Housing Idea- Toda Huts
Toda Huts are homes of an ancient Indian tribe that date back hundreds of years. A once abandoned tradition of building, is now seeing popularity again. As the demand for traditional buildings has increased.
The total construction reminds me of a thatch roof and the design is very primitive. This alternative housing idea would be virtually free to construct, provided you had the tools and labor.
#3 Off Grid Living In Turf Homes
I watched a documentary recently on Iceland that highlighted this alternative housing idea. Although we have a home similar to this concept located not too far from my own, I never knew about their origin or construction.
Settlers in the early 9th century were faced with harsh weather and scarce building material so they were forced to improvise.
Grass roofed houses built on the side of hills provided the settlers with alternative housing that protected them from blistering winds, rains, and even earthquakes.
A tried and true method that has stood the test of time for over one thousand years, turf homes could be a viable option provided you have the right topography.
#2 Off Grid Alternative Housing Idea- Paper
Paper Homes, or papercrete, are an environmentally friendly alternative housing medium that’s been around since the early 1900’s. It is considered an eco-friendly building material because it uses recycled paper.
The paper is made into a pulp, mixed with clay or concrete and formed into bricks. Much like regular bricks function, the papercrete bricks offer fire resistance but have the added bonus of sound-deadening.
To read more on this alternative housing idea, check out our article How to Build an Off-Grid Home Out Of Paper.
#1 Off Grid Alternative Housing Idea- Quonset Home
Quonset housing became popular in the 1940’s during the war. Meant to be temporary living quarters for the military, they are making a huge comeback.
Quonset homes are made with lightweight prefabricated corrugated steel. Most recognizable is the dome shape, but also comes in a more rigid structure design.
They’re considered to be a more affordable alternative housing material and easily assembled.
In addition to homes, Quonsets are great to use for workshops, livestock, offices or storage.
Photo Credit Mother Earth News
Our Off Grid Home In East Tennessee
Although there were several ideas that I wanted to incorporate when we built our off grid home, we ended up using rough-sawn lumber from our land.
Time was of the essence when we were building so we had to make quick decisions, rough-sawn lumber was the best medium for us. We incorporated many used and recycled items in our build to help us save money on construction costs.
We were blessed to have the opportunity to document our build for Building Off The Grid with Discovery Channel and the History Channel. You can still find our episode online, Building Off The Grid: Smoky Mountain Homestead., and see how we built our house from scratch .
Taking The Next Step Towards Living Off The Grid
You have your land, your building ideas, then what? There are several steps to building off the grid and getting started.
We like to share our journey, what worked for us and what didn’t work, in order to help anyone we can. Off grid living is tough (rewarding), and we need all the help and advice we can get from those that have walked the path before us.
We do have 12 Things You Must Do Before Living Off Grid (we strongly suggest) that may give you some thoughts to ponder on.
Do you know of an alternative building method I didn’t mention?
For thousands of years, people have built homes and dwellings out of nature and alternative materials. It’s time to think outside of the box and be inspired again.
We plan on building four off grid cabins using some of the ideas I mentioned in this article. So if you have another idea, please share it with us, we may use it!