This 872 s.f. off-grid straw-bale project is a getaway home for a San Francisco couple with two active young boys.

Located at 3600 ft. elevation in the remote Nevada County, the house mediates the northern edge of a forest glade, with driveway access and entry against a steeper slope to the north. The entry/mudroom, bath and mechanical space are located in a wood-framed volume a half level up from the main living space. This simple, straw-bale volume opens to a south-facing terrace, connecting it to the forest glade, and a more intimate queen bed sized sleeping bay. An open loft above the kitchen provides additional sleeping space for kids and guests.

The house features energy independence by necessity. Solar hot water collectors provide domestic hot water as well as space heating by flowing the heated fluid first through a heat exchanger and then into tubing buried in a 2 ft. bed of sand beneath the floor slabs. P.V. panels on the roof harvest electricity, stored in batteries, powering the well pump and other domestic needs.

The metal roof, earth-cement on bale walls, fiber-cement siding and fire safe perimeter aim to survive a wildfire, ensuring that this small cabin will provide many years of service.

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