Indianapolis-based architecture and design studio atelierRISTING recently completed the Glass Cabin, a family retreat that operates off the grid with minimal site impact. Designed and built by the architects on land belonging to a sesquicentennial farm in northeastern Iowa, the property is elevated off the ground to minimize disturbance of the grasslands and floodplain. Built in the shape of a wood-framed pole barn, the low-maintenance building is powered with solar energy.
Set in a clearing in the woods next to the Wapsipinicon River, the Glass Cabin derives its name from full-height low-E insulated glazing that wraps around its northern facade. Barn-inspired timber doors slide over the northern glass front for security when the retreat isn’t used. Flanked by outdoor terraces, the elevated home includes two bedrooms, one bathroom with a composting toilet, a great room, kitchenette and screened porch within 1,120 square feet. Indoor-outdoor living is embraced throughout the light-filled abode, as is natural ventilation.
Natural and reclaimed materials were used throughout the off-grid home. Western Red Cedar was used for the structural framing, barn doors, exterior and interior siding and exterior decking because of its natural resistance to moisture, insects and fire. The timber was left untreated and will develop a silvery gray patina over time to match the aged barns nearby. Natural cork was used for the flooring, while the wall cabinets were custom-built from cedar. “While primarily a three-season retreat, a Norwegian designed wood stove provides warmth for the holidays,” the architects added.
To minimize construction waste, standard lumber sizes were used. The Glass Cabin, oriented on a north-south axis, relies on passive solar strategies to keep its energy footprint at a minimum. Energy efficiency is also secured with highly efficient mineral wool and rigid insulation, achieved by using R-30 floors, an R-20 roof and R-15 walls. The white metal roof also helps to minimize heat gain.
Images by Steven & Carol Risting