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Modern off-grid homes break stereotypes of naturalistic lifestyle

Living off-grid conjures images of survivalists in remote places and a rustic, “Little House on the Prairie” lifestyle with chores from morning to night.

Yet only a tiny fraction of people living off-grid do it like that, and fewer still live more than an hour from any town.

“Living off-grid does not mean you do not buy your groceries at a store or take your waste to the local dump,” says Gary Collins, who has lived off-grid, or mostly off-grid, for a decade. “It just means you are not connected to utility grids.”

He has published books on the subject, and leads online classes.

Although precise numbers of off-grid households are hard to come by, Collins estimates that only 1% of those living off-grid are in truly remote areas. Overall, the off-grid movement remains small. But it got a boost after the COVID-19 pandemic hit: City dwellers began to explore different ways of living.

Off-grid living unique to each person

More-frequent power outages, utility grids’ struggles and price hikes to handle the severe weather events brought on by climate change have added to interest.

The view from an off-grid guest house in Hollister Ranch, Calif., One of the last remaining undeveloped coastal areas in California, located on a wildlife preserve.  The Anacapa Architecture firm, in Santa Barbara, California, and Portland, Oregon, has designed several upscale off-grid homes in recent years, and has several more off-grid projects in the works.

There are also those who remain connected to the grid but try to power their homes independent of it. Author Sheri Koones, whose books about sustainable houses include “Prefabulous and Almost Off the Grid,” cites the rise in “net metering,” when your property’s renewable energy source – usually solar – is producing more energy than you use, and your local utility pays you for the excess.

Today, off-grid living encompasses everything from “dry camping” in RVs (with no electrical or water hookups) to swank Santa Barbara estates, from modest dwellings tucked just outside of towns to – yes – remote rustic cabins.

Mount Jefferson looms over off-grid homes at the Three Rivers Recreational Area in Lake Billy Chinook, Ore., On April 26, 2007. Everyone in this community lives

“Everyone does it differently and everyone does it their own way, because it’s their own adventure,” Collins says.

Elegant designs for a modern feel

The Anacapa Architecture firm, in Santa Barbara, California, and Portland, Oregon, has built several upscale off-grid homes in recent years, and has several more off-grid projects in the works.

“There’s definitely an increase in traction for this kind of lifestyle, especially in the last two years,” says Jon Bang, marketing and PR coordinator for Anacapa Architecture. “There’s a desire to get more in tune with nature.”

The lifestyle that Anacapa homes aim for is one of modernist elegance, not roughing it. Bang says new technologies can ensure comfortable self-sufficiency.

Another image of an off-grid guest house in Hollister Ranch, Calif., Designed by The Anacapa Architecture firm.  A high level of sensitivity to environmental impacts was exercised throughout all phases of design and construction, the firm says.

Such homes are also carefully designed to take advantage of the site’s landscape features with an eye to sustainability. For example, one of the firm’s homes is built into a hillside and has a green roof.

For those without the means to hire architects, there are numerous recent books, blogs, YouTube videos and more dedicated to the subject.

“A lot of people are interested in it now,” Collins says. “They contact me after watching something on TV or on YouTube and I tell them,` If you learned everything you know on YouTube, you are never going to survive. ‘”

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