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Living Off The Grid In Hawaii...Closer To Becoming A Reality

When you hear the phrase “living off-the-grid”, you might picture a grass hut out in the boonies somewhere without neighbors and none of the comforts most of us “need” or should I say “want” in our lives. But what if innovative sustainable architectural systems made it possible to live off-the-grid within the urban context?

Still in its preliminary stages of construction in Amlan, the Philippines, the B House 8 design is an experimental build in many ways. Aesthetically, it’s very different, a unique mix of bamboo and recycled shipping containers, a scorpion-shaped floor plan and rooms that face in eight different directions. Beyond its aesthetics, this build has an important purpose: to test the limits of sustainable architecture within a tropical urban setting.

As the fastest growing wood on earth and unmatched strength-to-weight ratio, bamboo seems to be an obvious choice for a tropical building. What might be less obvious is the material’s performance as insulation and to reinforce foundation slabs. In the design of the B House 8, bamboo strips treated with borax vinegar and chili pepper surround the exterior to act as insulation as well as an earthy tropical finish. It has prevented more cracks in the foundation slabs than similar slabs that have been reinforced with steel.

Another sustainable alternative we are planning to use for this project, is a siding developed in Spain. It is made with rice hulls and linseed oil. The result looks just like wood siding, outlives wood and does not need repainting for up to 25 years. Resulting in a significant reduction in foreign toxins being introduced into the environment. One of the benefits to this ‘green’ material is that your sustainable home could still look fairly traditional if you wanted it to.

When it comes to ‘off-the-grid’ access to power, Hawaii is already the number one state in the US for the use of solar energy. The next step is disconnecting from the central system when it comes to your home’s water system. For the B House 8, a sewage garden has been developed with a hybrid septic tank system. After the solids are separated, the rest goes into a landscape area where bamboo and ginger plants absorb all the toxins and what remains is similar to secondary treated water. BioSeptic systems are already creating a buzz in Hawaii and across the country as we become more aware of protecting our oceans. The system developed for the B House 8 helps prove that the natural way can also be the most efficient way. As a necessary bonus, it eliminates any unfortunate odors that may usually come with having your own sewage system.

Unfortunately, for now, it would seem that these off-the-grid techniques and systems are a ‘luxury’ only accessible to people with a large budget. However, the architectural industry is headed to becoming 100% green, especially with Hawaii’s 2050 Sustainability Plan well underway. Eventually, perhaps within the next five to ten years as more people adapt to this lifestyle, the costs will drop and make sustainable housing accessible to everyone in Hawaii.

For more information and to connect with Dean:

Dean Sinco

Dean Sinco

Principal Architect, Entheos

Cell: 808 226 8711

Office Tel: +63 422 2294

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