Several months ago, in an interesting discussion with Marc LaChance, I was introduced to off-the-grid homebuilding. Marc has a plan and the means to build homes where electrical, telephone, gas, water and sewer lines do not run. I saw some early plans for his homes, and was highly impressed with their beauty, functionality and earth-friendliness.
It seems when one door opens in the mind, it leads to a series of others.
Late last night while waiting at home for two sons to return from their day at sea and evening on the sand, I discovered this charming woodland cottage, built into and of the earth. Truly off-the-grid, this hand built cottage in Wales is made of sticks, stones, straw, mud and scrap wood, along with some recycled cast-offs.
And it didnt exactly break the bank or back either.
Built with utmost respect for the environment, this unusual cottage cost less than $10,000 to build, and required around 1000 to 1500 man hours to construct which equated to about four months. Built into a hillside for protection and low visual impact, this dwelling utilizes stones and mud for retaining walls and foundations and oak thinnings (spare wood) from local forests for framing.
The interior is a marvel, with its reciprocal and natural roof rafters, limestone walls (breathable and more earth-friendly than concrete), straw bales for insulation under the floors and in the construction of the walls and roof, a center skylight for natural lighting, and scrap wood for floors and fittings.
I have had a hard time pulling myself away from this project. The rounded walls, windows and doors certainly reflect out-of-the-box thinking and design, as do the undulating wooden ceilings. The ingenuity that went into making this a functional home also capture the imagination.
Solar panels provide energy for lighting, music and computers. I did not see them in the photos, but trust they are there because Moabi, the designer and a Portuguese photographer, lives there with his family that includes two small children.
Water is delivered by gravity to the home from a neaby spring, while roof water run-off is collected in a pond for gardening purposes.
Food refrigeration is provided by cooled air coming underground through the cool foundation.
Toilet? Compost appears to be the guiding word.
Heat? A woodburning stove works well, especially since local fuel is abundant. Additionally, the fireplace flue goes through a large stone and plaster hump that retains and slowly releases heat into the home.
The bedroom is in an upstairs loft area, which overlooks the room below. This gives the distinct feel of a tree house in the forest.
I wondered what knowledge, what skills and what tools were involved in creating this unusual home. According to the amateur architect, designer and builder Moabi, his primary tools were a chainsaw, hammer, and a 1 inch chisel. He claims to be neither a builder nor a carpenter, but that seems hard to believe.
More than anything, Moabi seems to be a man who respects the earth, has fun with its offerings, and has a wonderful eye for natural design. There must also be much of the tree-house-building boy still inside the man who has now built at least two of these earth-friendly homes.
Moabis Low Impact Woodland Home site proved to be a great diversion last night and one worth sharing today.
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