Nestled in the forests of Australia’s Blue Mountains, Anderson Architecture’s Off Grid House is an experimental dwelling that pushes the limits of sustainable living in remote regions.

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A rendering of a black cabin with a roof overhanging a gray deck where two people sit.

The house is split into two cabins with steep skillion roofs, slanting in opposite directions to feed 30,000-liter water tanks. The first volume houses the sleeping quarters and is oriented towards the sun to maximize comfort at night through passive solar performance during the day. The other volume contains the open plan kitchen, living space and dining area. Its roof is angled towards the north, ideal for supporting the solar panels that power the house. The solar system is so robust that it provides enough energy for the home without needing a backup generator.

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A single-level cabin with a roof over a gray patio that borders a forest.

The living space’s glass doors open to blur the boundary between the interior and the veranda overlooking the cliff’s edge. The porch decking is made from low carbon magnesium oxide board and clad with 60% post-consumer recycled content.

An interior living space where a dining area connects to a living room, both bordered by a wall of glass overlooking a forest.

The site was a pivotal factor in determining the design of several details. Stringybark timber sourced from the site is used for the internal structure, as well as for furniture and joinery. The fireproof cement shell and low carbon cement decking can withstand bushfire attacks and are pest-resistant. Motorized screens over the windows also serve as fire protection, and the large metal screen above the porch can act as both a shading device and flame zone barrier when pulled down to vertically seal off the house.

To the left, a glass door overlooking the veranda. To the right, a living room with a sofa and two chairs.

Thermal comfort was another factor that drove the implementation of eco-friendly systems. The house employs double glazing, a black oxide concrete floor with hydronic in-slab heating, and high levels of insulation. Stale exhaust air heats fresh air, which the heat recovery system ducts to the home’s public and private zones. These are all supplemented by a small fireplace with wood sourced from the site for additional heating.

A kitchen with black cabinets with wood countertops. A large window above the sink overlooks a forest.

The home’s impressive thermal performance has earned it an 8.2 out of 10-star rating on Australia’s Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). With its enticing modern style and sustainable systems, the Off Grid House has also been shortlisted for several awards, including the 2021 Houses Awards under the New House and Sustainability categories.

+ Anderson Architecture

Photography by Nick Bowers