The barrier islands of South Carolina get hit with hurricanes and occasionally brush fires, so building on the island requires a formidable defense plan. On Cusabo Island near Charleston, one family wanted an off-grid home that sat lightly on the earth, but at the same time was solid and durable enough to withstand the harshest of weather conditions. They decided on an elevated, prefab home made with recycled steel and SIP panels, which minimized on-site construction times and ensured that the home will still be there after a hurricane, fire or a flood.
Designed by Seattle-based Woollen Studio and built by Park City, UT-based EcoSteel, the Cusabo Island home is a prefab wonder. Engineered to exceed FEMA flood zone code requirements, with helical foundations, a steel structure, steel exterior wall and roof panels, which allow for extreme 140mph wind loading capabilities and superior fire resistance. The 3,888 square foot home features a number of balconies, two bedrooms and an open floor plan living and dining area. The home was prefabricated off-site and then flown in via helicopter for quick and low-impact construction (minus the helicopter time).
As the home is located in a remote location on an island, services are not close, so it needed to be completely self-sufficient in terms of utilities as well as protection. Solar photovoltaics, a wind turbine and evacuated tube collectors provide enough electricity and hot water to make the home totally off-grid. Composting toilets handle waste and a leach field processes grey water, while a rainwater catchment system collects water for household use.
Insulated storm doors and shutters protect the home during Atlantic storms and minimize heat gain and loss. Sun screens, wide overhangs and louvered doors provide shade protection. Passive solar design and natural ventilation help further minimize energy usage. The home is also built high off the ground to protect it from storm surges and flooding, but when everything is calm, the owners make use of a screened-in porch on the ground floor to take refuge from the heat and the insects.