Off grid eco.friendly house builds

woodbutcher

Veteran
Location
S W France
I have been thinking of building an off grid (probably timber construction) single storey house . Just wondering if anyone has either first hand experience or knows of good source of reference literature 👍
 

TheDoctor

Resistance is futile!
Moderator
Location
Stevenage
Have a quick Google for tiny houses. They're single storey, wood construction and designed to be easily built.
 

johnblack

Senior Member
Completely - almost - unrelated, but Building Off The Grid on discovery is one of my favourite TV programmes. Seriously, its on daily at 4pm and well worth watching if this is your bag.
Was just about to say this. Since lockdown and enforced working from home, I have been watching Building off the Grid, along with Homestead Rescue and Barnwood Builders.

I have also purchased a number of check shirts, trucker caps and now go by the name off Billy-Joe Jim Bob.
 

Cycleops

Legendary Member
Location
Accra, Ghana
If you can do it more power to you. How do the authorities there view these kind of initiatives?
In the UK you'll get some jobsworth from the local council come down with his plastic briefcase and tell you to remove it.
 

wafter

Über Member
Location
Oxford
Can't offer any advice but kudos for you attitude; this is something I'd love to do, although sadly well outside my abilities it seems :sad:

Personally I've always liked the idea of a semi-subterrainian lair built into the side of a hill, for its reduced visual / environmental impact, security and year-round temperature stability..
 

mudsticks

Obviously an Aubergine
I have been thinking of building an off grid (probably timber construction) single storey house . Just wondering if anyone has either first hand experience or knows of good source of reference literature 👍
Google timber framing / France you'll find lots of references.

As in the UK, finding a plot and obtaining building permissions are the hardest bits for most people.

It used to be a lot cheaper in France, then all the Brits ( including my ma) turned up and pushed up the price of tumble down shacks which have technically got permission to build, or restore something residential.

Supposed to be building a similar type thing here , but time / life / other complications have got in the way.
Got the plot and the permission to reside under agricultural conditions, but maybe its just too easy living the trailer trash stylee .

Should crack on with it really - Ok CC Purdah - til its done - see you in about seven years time - or so - when there's a picture to show :okay:
 

slowmotion

Quite dreadful
Location
lost somewhere
There's a lot of stuff on YouTube. Type "Earthship" in the search box and plenty of interesting clips will pop up.
 

SafetyThird

Active Member
Location
North Devon
go over to https://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php and have a read. Pretty much the home of off grid folks in the UK. As Mudsticks mentioned, you're biggest issues are going to be finding a plot and getting the relevant permissions. Doing something similar has been my dream since I was a teenager but the sort of building I wanted just wouldn't pass planning.

Earthships, while lovely, won't get planning in the UK, there's only two and they're demonstration buildings that you can't live in. Very interesting though. Look for a film called Garbage Warrior, which is about Mike Reynolds who invented them and the struggles he faced along the way. Likewise look at earth bag building promoted by Owen geiger, plenty of stuff on YouTube as well. Oh for the open spaces of America and counties which don't require building to code.

There's a bunch of off grid and timber framed houses on Grand Designs if you look through their index. Ben Law's build is the most famous and very similar to what I designed for myself 30 years ago except I wanted to use post and beam, not cruck framing.

Going off-grid is very much a state of mind. Everything about the house and your needs must be rethought in relation to it. If you still want the modern toys of computers, internet, big tv and stereo etc, you'll need a big battery supply, which means a need to charge it whatever the weather. PV is so cheap now, put in lots, but it doesn't work if we have typically British weather.

For heating, wood is great but only if you're home all day to stoke the fires, have a woodland to feed it and about 2 solid months each year to cut, move, split and stack the wood and the space for 2-3 years worth of it as it dries. This is how I heat my own house as we have no central heating. Wish when I renovated this place I'd dug out the floors and put in underfloor heating and a ground source heat pump, but that's expensive and needs mains power really to run the pump.

The absolute biggest thing you can do to make a house affordable and buildable is to design it to be small and insulate the heck out of it. An alternative would be to look for a place in the country you can buy and then renovate, which is what we did over the past several years. Stripped to bare shell, new windows, doors, new upstairs floors, new render inside and out, new wood stoves for heating, 6kw of solar on the roof, solar diverter for hot water, we have 7 acres of old woodland which heats the house and we work from home so we can light the fires first thing and keep the place ticking over all day in the winter.

Consider also building partially off grid. Get mains power in (it might cost £20k but worth every penny and about what you'd spend on an off grid system) but be off sewage and water grids. Rainwater capture is cheap and pretty reliable here and perfect for washing machines and flushing toilets which waste so much clean water. Sewage can be treated with traditional septic systems, reed beds, modern treatment plants or you could go the composting toilet route.

Looking at the bookshelf next to my chair as I type this, here's a few from my library to get you started:

The woodland house - Ben Law
roundwood timber framing - ben law
The old house eco handbook
Small homes, the right size - Lloyd Khan
Serious Straw Bale - lacinski and bergeron
Building with Straw Bales - Barbara jones
Building with awareness - ted owens (very good book on building a small modern off grid home cheaply)
The renewable energy handbook - Kemp
Cabin Porn
create and oasis with grey water - art ludwig
building a low impact roundhouse - Tony wrench (for information about how difficult building off grid is from a planning point of view)
The timber framed home - Ted Benson
Build a Classic Timber framed home - Sobon (definitely get this one)
Little house on a small planet - Salomon
Tiny Homes, simple shelter - Lloyd Khan
The good life - Helen and Scott Nearing
 
OP
woodbutcher

woodbutcher

Veteran
Location
S W France
Many thanks for that comprehensive advice and list of references. I have Ben Laws books and maybe they are what fired my enthusiasm for doing something like it myself.
We have a lot of land available including several hectares of forest , not sure quite how much.
We live in SW France Lot/Dordogne region. Planning here is a bit flexible to say the least and a lot depends on how good your relationship with the Marie is. Generally speaking eco friendly building is smiled upon in this region so l live in hope.
We have horses and l built several structures for them including a timber framed and clad structure with solar panels and a rainwater collection system so l have some experience, albeit limited .The main thing is that it didn't put me off having another go !
 

SafetyThird

Active Member
Location
North Devon
Ah, I should have noticed where you were based, I'm guessing that will make things somewhat easier from a planning point. If you've built the things you've mentioned, a house isn't much different. Look at some of Lloyd Khan's books from the 70's such as Home Work and you'll see the things the pacific coast builders put together. It was a hippy ideal and they embraced it along with the back to the land movement. It turned out not to be as easy as they expected but there's some amazing building work done by folks with no experience.

Lloyd Khan is something of a hero to me, you can learn a little of him here. He took up longboard skateboarding in his 70's :biggrin:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kPzMSvdDA
 
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