off-grid rural house

From the architect:

Much of Nulla Vale is ‘granite country’, a landscape that is both beautiful and harsh; a landscape created through geological conditions over millions of years and by land clearing and grazing. The site is a 300-acre parcel of pastoral land that is dotted with granite outcrops and the occasional gum tree.

Our clients are intending to eventually build their full-time home on this land. But to begin with they asked for a place to be able to stay, a basic dwelling with the minimum of amenity. Somewhere they could spend weekends as they make a connection to the land and begin their caretaking period of the site. The design is intended to anticipate the final home without predetermining it. They also required a shed to house land care equipment and the PV panels and battery required to power the house. With no mains connection to services of any kind, the house is 100 percent off-grid.

The building site is located on a saddle of land half way along a desire line that runs from the site’s high point to a natural ledge with distant views in the west. The structures are conceived as settler wagons, arrested in motion as they pass through the site.

The shed and house are identical in their overall dimensions and from a distance their silhouette is the familiar gable-ended form commonly associated with farming sheds. Up close however, the two structures are clearly defined as shed and house through material, void and volume. The shed was custom-designed by us directly with a shed fabrication company using their systems to create a shed that is part-storage part-entryway. The structure is clad entirely in heritage grade corrugated galvanised iron with a roof oriented and pitched to maximise solar exposure through the seasons.

off-grid rural house

The house is constructed from salvaged bricks and corrugated iron in addition to rough sawn timber and new galvanised roofing on pre-engineered timber trusses that are left exposed both inside and out. Materials were selected to meet the clients’ brief that the house fit within the idea of an ‘old shed’. Internally the finishes are the same as outside, no plasterboard and no paint. LED lighting strips concealed on top of the rafters reflect light off the foil-backed insulation. The house provides the means to eat, sleep and wash in a space that is part of the experience of being on the site and not removed from it.

off-grid rural house


  • Compact footprint orientated to optimise northern solar access
  • Efficiently milled radial timber batten and board cladding installed green without high energy kiln drying
  • Material use minimised, reflective insulation blanket as ceiling finish, soffit unlined
  • Roof overhang calculated to protect from the hot summer sun. Low winter sun is invited deeply into plan, absorbed by burnished concrete slab
  • Additional thermal mass provided by double brick walls insulated with 80mm thick spray foam
  • High performance timber windows positioned for cross-ventilation and night purging
  • Lifecycle cost carefully considered as building will be extended when the owners make a permanent tree change. Western wall is lightweight framed and the large double hung window is salvaged so it can be removed when the house is extended
  • Prefabrication of trusses and custom designed shed utilised to enhance buildability and reduce wastage as all components carefully sized in the factory
  • 5.2 kWp PV system
  • 2 X 20,210L rainwater tanks