Living off grid hasn’t always had the best reputation. Ramshackle buildings without running water are the image that the media often presents of the thousands of people across Europe living without the assistance of public utility services. Becoming fully reliant on your own energy generation, water sanitation, food production and waste disposal is a massive undertaking so it isn’t surprising that it isn’t that mainstream.
Dominic Bradbury wants to dispel this myth of off-grid homes being architecturally unappealing. His book Off the Grid - Houses for Escape, takes a look a some of the most beautifully designed self-sufficient homes to prove that it is possible to live a low-impact lifestyle without compromising your aesthetics.
Dominic spoke to Euronews Living about how these elegant designs and their inhabitants are treading lightly on the environments that frame them and redefining what it means to live responsibly.
Could you explain a little about the concept of the book?
“In the past, I have written about ‘new natural houses’ and the subject of sustainable living but with this book, I wanted to go a step further and look at houses that really do touch the land as lightly as possible and that are truly off grid or net zero in their energy use. We have found some amazing examples of off the grid houses from around the world and in some wonderful locations. They are houses of beauty, modesty and great sensitivity, which use a whole collection of solutions to preserve and generate energy while maintaining their own self-sufficiency.”
What inspired you to create this survey of off-grid homes?
“The question that we wanted to ask was 'is it really possible to build a home that is architecturally accomplished but also genuinely off the grid?’ We are all aware of the vulnerability of the planet and its natural environment, so the idea of taking a more responsible attitude to design and building houses for ourselves has a become a really vital concern. Any kind of building has some kind of impact, if we are honest, but the houses in this book have been designed and built with particular sensitivity to the landscape while incorporating a whole portfolio of ideas and solutions, which means that both their carbon footprint and their overall impact on the land is as minimal and respectful as possible. The houses themselves - together with their owners and architects - were the true point of inspiration.”
When we imagine off-grid homes, often the picture that this brings to mind is not particularly beautiful. Were you surprised by any of the houses featured in the book?
“When I was curating the material for the book, I wanted to make sure that the choice of houses and settings would be inspirational, engaging and global. We wanted to dispel the myth that going off grid means compromising on the idea of architectural beauty. The houses in the book are, to my mind, beautifully designed and responsible, while sitting quietly in some extraordinary settings of very different kinds. Some are by the coast, some in the wilderness and some in the mountains and hills, but they all respect and honour their surroundings.”
What is your favourite of the homes featured in the book?
“There are a lot of favourites here. I do love the two small houses in New Zealand that are on the cover of the book, by Cheshire Architects, but I also love the Studios on Fogo Island by Todd Saunders and the House in Extremadura, Spain, by Ábaton Arquitectura. There are a lot of favourites and that’s partly because there are so many different and wonderful ways of heading off grid without compromising on design quality. So many of the solutions for going off grid are now just common sense.”
Off the Grid - Houses for Escape is available from Thames & Hudson here.