Some places are keen to put super-modern ideas into practice. Rolf Disch, for instance, turned his design for the Heliotrope into a reality more than two decades ago in Freiburg, Germany. Constructed in 1994, this circular residence turns with the sun, which allows it to capture the most solar energy possible. It is the first example of Disch’s concept of “PlusEnergy”: buildings that create an overall energy surplus. This concept is still being explored in Germany and elsewhere: in late 2011, a practical test began for a building called the Effizienzhaus Plus (Efficiency House Plus), a beautiful and spacious urban home in the center of Berlin that produces energy greatly exceeding its own use.
Tiny homes are a popular and pragmatic trend. Earlier this year, Estonian design firm Kodasema debuted KODA, a solar-powered modular dwelling that can be put up in less than seven hours — and can then be taken down and moved elsewhere at will. While it does typically depend on having connection points for water, waste and electric power, KODA is capable of going totally off-grid for shorter periods of time.
For those who aspire toward a completely sustainable lifestyle that’s also more adventurous, it may be tempting to go off the grid and get out of town, escaping the chaos of city life. Specht Harpman’s zeroHouse can be taken almost anywhere. All of its components can be transported by two flatbed trucks and it takes less than a day to assemble — not to mention, it can stand on inclines of 35 degrees, sit in water 10 feet deep, and even endure 140 mph winds. The building is climate-controlled and energy-independent, with high-efficiency appliances and air conditioning.
04. Pump House
Some tiny homes can be completely self-sufficient. A notable example is the Pump House, a privately-commissioned building completed by Australia’s Branch Studio Architects (BSA) 2013. Erected in rural Victoria, the Pump House is the epitome of simple, elegant and energy-efficient living. It uses solar panels, stored water, a wood-burning stove, and a wealth of unobstructed natural light to meet all the needs of its inhabitants, and then some.
05. Stamp House
It’s hard to get more off-grid than Australia’s Stamp House, however, which is a mammoth next to the Pump House. Constructed in northern Queensland by Charles Wright Architects, the Stamp House is a remote wonder whose six-point symmetrical structure is situated between the rainforest and the beach, and accessible by a lone bridge.
In spite of that, the building is recognized as a designated shelter should disaster strike the region. Not only can this bulwark withstand a Category 5 cyclone, but it features on-site sewage treatment facilities, grey water recycling and irrigation, a 250,000 litre capacity for harvesting and reticulating water, and its own roof-bound solar system and solar backup generator.
06. Autonomous Tent
For those who prefer to chase storms rather than run away from them, the Colorado-based Autonomous Tent Co. specializes in customizing luxurious, semi-permanent buildings that can resist batterings from heavy snow and hurricane-force winds up to 90 mph — while also boasting top-of-the-line water filtration, waste composting, wind power and solar technology.
These deluxe “tents” are engineered with more in mind than comfort alone. The Autonomous Tent Co.’s core philosophy is to “leave no trace”: to be able to inhabit and appreciate a pristine natural wilderness for a while, living in serenity and splendor, and then to pack up and carry on with no evidence that the home was ever there.
Written by Dillon Ramsey
Headline photo by Kodiak Greenwood, courtesy of Autonomous Tent Co.