Off the Grid House
Architecture for a Change - South Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
The main idea was to create a lightweight, off the grid, and affordable house. The design philosophy relates to critical regionalism within architectural theory. The South-Africa residential design market is still stuck with conventional building methods that aren’t suitable for our environment (colonial building methods). We had to analyse our current solutions, available technology and where the future is heading before we could start designing this house. Currently sustainable design in South-African architecture relates to expensive construction methods. This is mostly a killer for sustainable construction in South-Africa. Having a small budget to work with, we saw it as a challenge to push the boundaries related to sustainability and affordability. This approach is relevant with regards to the current global economic situation. We used light weight construction methods to reduce the impact on the site as well as to minimize the use of concrete foundations (also to accommodate the site and its extreme fall). We therefore incorporated two used shipping containers as structural cantilever elements. The containers used are 2nd-hand containers which isn’t suitable for shipping anymore. We up-cycled the containers into structurally sound building blocks. The other half of the house was constructed from light-weight steel framing – pre-fabricated off site. These frames where delivered to site inside the 2 containers. This gave the containers a second use as a logistical element within the building process. The composite wall consists of various layers to achieve an R value much higher than the current mortar and bricks used in South -Africa. The cavity insulation used is manufactured from waste plastic bottles (up-cycling). We challenged an existing notion (that corrugation is an inferior product) by cladding the building in steel sheeting, providing a modern aesthetic, and is extremely affordable. The floor finish is a cork tile. This is also an upcycled product as the tiles are manufactured from a waste product (from the cork screw making process). The site is equipped with a borehole that pump water from the site, therefore there is no municipal water connection. The house is electrified by a solar system (all the lights are also LED low wattage). Cooking is done with a gas cooker and oven (bottled gas; no need for a municipal connection). We optimized the use of natural light to reduce the use of electrical lighting during the day. We also optimized natural ventilation (cross ventilation) to eliminate the use of aircon in summer. The window system used is a uPVC frame with double glazing to improve insulation level and avoid heat gains.