Energy Independence and the Micro Cabin

By Dan Gregory

Mark Iacocca's 688 sq. ft. Mountain Shelters Plan is designed for cold and mixed climates.

As the price of gas — not to mention electricity, heating oil, and other energy resources and building materials — continues to rise, it’s important to keep on the lookout for creative alternatives, especially when it comes to building a new home or vacation cabin. Enter Mark Iacocca, a designer/builder and LEED-certified professional whose tiny, innovative, off-the-grid cabins — he calls them “recreational shelters” — are the latest additions to Houseplans.com's collection.

Mountain Shelters Plan 556-3, which is 668 sq. ft., is designed for cold and mixed climates and rests on a crawl space foundation; walls are also 2-by-6 studs with spray foam insulation — the barrel is part of the rainwater harvesting system.

The exterior walls His Desert Shelters Plan  556-1 are constructed from 2-by-6 studs with spray foam insulation in the cavities for strong thermal resistance to extremes of heat and cold. The low roof slope is ideal for mounting solar panels. Inside, the plan is compact and efficient, with  bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and common area in 672 sq. ft. The circle by the rear utility closet indicates the rainwater harvesting tank.

Forest Shelters Plan 556-2 takes a different tack and is conceived for all climate zones. A steel pier foundation raises the main floor well above grade to keep the site as undisturbed as possible. The 606 sq. ft. layout is simplicity itself, with living, dining, cooking in one space on the main floor and sleeping in the loft. A solar PV system design is included.

Jungle Shelters Plan 556-4 is, as you would expect by the name, aimed at hot, humid climates and uses a pier foundation and fiber cement siding. Solar panels are not feasible for this design because of the layer of thatch protecting the rubber roofing from harmful UV rays (rubber was selected for durability and affordability) so Mark suggests using a pole-mounted array. The smallest of Mark’s plans, this one is only 384 sq. ft.

Needless to say, Mark is aiming his designs at people who are building in areas where connecting to the grid may be difficult or impossible –  and that’s a good definition of a vacation getaway. Welcome to the neighborhood, Mark! For more about micro-cottage and cabin plans, click here.


Originally Published in Eye On Design

08/26/2013