My wife and I are looking to build a fairly small dwelling completely off grid on our 12 acre plot in Texas (an hour East of Dallas). It's very hot here so keeping the place cool will be the main concern. Can you guys offer some pointers as to what kind of house we might should be looking to build? Being off grid is the main goal here, not so much size or aesthetics. Of course money is always an issue.
Hi Brandon, sounds a great project to embark on. I'm sure whatever you end up with; shipping containers, straw bale or earthship all could be possibilities on a budget, a holistic design approach would be best. Perhaps piece together where you'd like to end up……... how much space do you need, how much energy do you need to produce, what does your energy demand profile look like, what about water and the available plot possibilities orientation, shading, sheltering…… and engage some local designers for their ideas. Good luck.
I work for a client in Texas on a regular basis, and as a design/builder, my first advice to those thinking of building anything is know your limitation (in time if any, in you bank account, in you personal endurance, and abilities) plan well (mistakes on paper are much less expensive) and take your time (it will always take longer than you expected.)
This simple procedures are so critical, yet so often overlooked. Identifying all your limitation will help create a viable outline of what is achievable with resources available, in turn saving a great deal of frustration. Frustration undermines the quality of a project, causes safety issues, and makes the general process of facilitation unpleasant.
Plan is another area that many owner builders fail themselves, whether you thought of doing all the work or just some of it, the moving parts of the project must be thoroughly and logistical thought and planned for completely. Without doing this mistakes are made. You want as many mistakes as possible done on the plan, and not in real life.
DO NOT RUSH the project. Triple all time estimates and if you see you are going to exceed a time hack (estimate) accept it and adjust the plan, as frustration will only cause more issues.
On a tangible side, look to the indigenous and vernacular folk architecture that will fit your needs for both aesthetics, structure and space. What are your resources (mental, physical, skill set, and fiscal)? Are you going to build all or some of this? These resources include the land and what it can (and can not) provide, human, and personal as well.
Get some of this out of the way, and I am sure you will have more questions.
We built a tiny cottage (252 sq-ft) for our family of five by our family of five. We did all the labor. It took us two months to close in - November and December in norther Vermont mountains which is not good building weather. Think snow. But we made it. Total cost of construction for all materials was $7,000. We did a high mass, well insulated construction. Poured concrete floating pad on insulation on gravel. Core filled steel reinforced block walls. Ferro-cement 1.5" thick barrel vault roof. All doable techniques for two adults, a teen and a ten year old and a three year old. A great homeschool project.
If you have some basic building experience it's a very doable project. Start earlier in the year than we did. But then you're in Texas so it is always earlier in the year!