Off Grid Community

2880sqft 25k Shipping Container Home
A shipping container home could be implemented in lieu of a traditional stick built house.



Pilot Project: The “Off Grid Community Project” is the first stage of a multi-stage project which if successful could expand into a small self-sustaining community.

Concept: Build a sustainable living self-sufficient off-the-grid home system, which anyone can build for less than $100k, and open source the plans to the world. An “affordable” 1500-2500 sq ft open sourced natural material home, greenhouse, 5kw wind turbine, and a 5kw solar array, for less than $100k (crowdsourced home & community building)


Off Grid Community


All over the world people cannot afford to live sustainably, much less comfortably. They cannot afford to buy a home, land, and the needed technology to make themselves and their families self-sufficient. Most people, if they are able to find employment, spend most of their time working just to pay bills, and can barely keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.


The idea isn’t just to build a house on a piece of land, but rather a whole system whereby a reasonably sized family can live comfortably, producing their own food and energy, enabling them to become self-sufficient. This has the added benefit of contributing food and energy to the community as well.

The energy efficient system is designed to combine current off-the-shelf technology which is proven and affordable, creating a hybrid system of living that provides the necessities, comforts, and some of the luxuries of traditional homes.

By combining proven technologies, the learning curve isn’t as great a hurdle, and you remove the troublesome burden of “reinventing the wheel”. Innovation can come “after” the system is built and there is time to think and ponder on how to improve the system.

People need a place to live and call home. Once they have that, they can think about the future. They need to secure themselves and their families first, making sure things are provided for their loved ones and themselves. The greatest part about this “off-the-shelf- hybrid system, is it will work. ALL technologies have been proven, tested, and people use them every day. The only difference with this idea is combining current technologies to form a completely self-sufficient and extensive living system.

Off grid community systems:

  • 100% natural and recycled materials
  • 100% off the grid sustainable living
  • 100% “green” eco-friendly construction
  • Either earthen structure, strawbale, cob, rammed earth, bamboo, compressed earth block, etc.
  • Equip with 5-10kw wind turbine
  • Equip with 5-10kw solar array
  • Greenhouse: 1000-1500 square foot greenhouse for growing organic food year round, regardless of climate or location.
  • Materials & design – strawbales, mud plaster, CEB (compressed earth brick) and/or, soy and corn-based building materials, recycled materials, bamboo, etc.
  • Open source technologies: houses will be built using 100% Open Source technology
  • BUILD IT FOR LESS THAN $100k – Including land, time, labor, equipment, permitting, and materials.
  • Create a design that can be implemented for $50k complete with land and materials.
  • Brainstorm about ways to do it for $25k or less
  • Perhaps use cargo containers and strawbales for the building. This really lowers costs and provides insulation in cold or hot environments.
UPDATE: Recycled Shipping Containers make great homes, are safe and secure, and are readily available very inexpensively.

HOME: 320-2500 square foot home. Depending on material costs.

GREENHOUSE: For growing produce for consumption and for sale at local community farmers market.


  • 5kw Wind Turbine: Produces enough electricity to power a small home
  • 5kw Solar Panel Array: Produces enough electricity to power a small home

Participants & Building: The home will be built using mostly volunteer time, labor, equipment.

Partner with Manufacturers for discounted/free Building Materials: 

Materials could be purchased at cost (or free)  from ECOFRIENDLY MATERIAL MANUFACTURERS in exchange for their “partnership”. Benefits include becoming part of the “Open Source Home Project Team”, recognition of their giving on their own product page on this website, promoting their business, free publicity/advertising/exposure for their company, their participation helps to create a new kind of sustainable home system.

  • Increase their company’s visibility
  • Creates interest in their products and services
  • Investment in the betterment of humanity, education, lifestyle, and progress
  • Enhancement of business image
  • Increased advertising opportunity
  • Demonstrates concern for community issues

Open Sourced Building

House(s) would be built using as much open sourced labor, equipment, technology and software as possible.

  • Open Source Home System
  • Open Source Architecture
  • Open Source Design
  • Open Source Agriculture

Model Sold: When complete the house would be placed on the market and sold at near market value.

Profit Sharing: Profits (if any) would be split with the whole team.


Phase I: Green Architecture Design Contest ($ prize)
Phase II: Design Selection & Modification
Phase III: Recruitment & Planning
Phase IV: Permitting
Phase V: The Build
Phase VI: The Sale
Phase VII: The Share (profit share or forming of residential/agricultural co-op)


  • Shipping Container Homes
  • Geodesic Domes Houses
  • Compressed Earth Brick
  • Rammed Earth
  • Straw Bale
  • Cob
  • Bamboo


Stage 2: After the pilot “Open Source Home Project”


Off Grid Community

This is a simple 3D model of the concept of the open community project. This is an agriculture co-op community, using the above Open Source Home Project system, and expanding it into a full community farm project where residents are also owners in the farm and share in the proceeds of the farm revenue. It also doubles as a farmers market on weekends to provide revenue for community families.

2880sqft 25k Shipping Container Home
A shipping container home could be implemented in lieu of a traditional stick built house.

Since this is a co-op business, those families would be part owners in the residential/agriculture co-op which will function similarly to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm.

A Hybrid Cooperative Farm/Community: The entire project is designed with community in mind. From residential, to agricultural, to business, the entire concept is energy efficient and all “units” function as a whole. Each home system acts as energy/food producers.

Cooperative Machine: It’s basically a bioecomachine generator, powering the farm through the cooperative sharing of energy produced by the home “units” which produce about 5-7 kilowatts of electricity per hour through the wind/solar 10kw power system. The average home in the United States uses about 1500 kilowatts of power each month.

Off grid shipping container cabin

SOLAR POWER SYSTEM: There are 32 home systems. This equates to a whole system that will generate (at peak) approximately 160 kilowatts per hour at 50% efficiency. The community will be built in Southern California which has an average of 6 hours of good sunlight per day. On less sunny days, winds pick up, and the 5kw Wind Turbine will supplement energy generation.

  • 32 home systems x 5kw = 160 kw per hour
  • 6 hours x 160 kw per hour (at peak) = 960 kilowatts of electricity generation per day
  • 960 kilowatts per day x 30 days = 28,800 kilowatts of electricity generation per month

If you want to take it further or think this isn’t enough power for 32 homes, keep in mind 33% of the time homes will probably be vacant because families will be out and about. That is 9504 kilowatts of electricity per month that can run the farm while houses are not in use.

This system (at roughly 50% efficiency) should produce ~960kw per day for the entire farm/community during daylight hours.

WIND POWER SYSTEM: Wind blows approximately 50% of the time in Southern California.

  • 24 hours per day x 30 days = 720 hours per month / 2 = 360 hours of run time
  • Figure 50% efficiency which cuts that number down to 180 hours of wind/generation time.
  • 180 hours x 5kw = 900 kilowatts of power per month per unit
  • 32 home systems x 900 kilowatts = 27,000 kilowatts per month

GREENHOUSE SYSTEM: There are 32 greenhouses on 32 lots. Each greenhouse is at least 1000-1200 square feet. This means there are 32,000-38,400 square feet of growing space to produce organic food crops, and specialty herbs, spices, and even include a small aquaponics system if the homeowner chooses.

The idea, of course, is a completely modular system which allows homeowner/community member to become 100% self-sufficient, as well as produce food. Excesses can be sold at the market.

WATER SYSTEM: Water could be produced by a community well, and/or a combination of a water collection system, lake/pond, and individual water collection.

ATMOSPHERIC WATER GENERATOR: Water production can also be supplemented by individual atmospheric water generators.

A water generator is a simple system that combines off-the-shelf technology (refrigerator) some copper tubing, vegetable oil, a charcoal filter, and two small DC water pumps to produce water through a condensation method and collects the water in sterilized water tanks. All parts should cost less than $1000 to build the unit. We’ll also store water in large tanks and/or reservoirs located throughout the community.

Atmospheric water generator concept


Off Grid Community Project


Stage 3: After the pilot “Open Source Community Farm Project”


Vertical farm solar lighting array



Here is a list of resource links relating to green technology and open source information.

Open Source:



Sustainable Living:

Open Source Ecology:

Global Village Construction Set:



Shipping Container Architecture:


Shelter Forums – Natural Building Forum:

Strawbale Construction:

Green Wiki:

Removing Institutional Barriers to Sustainability:

Community Supported Agriculture:

Natural Building:


Off The Grid:

Self Sufficiency:

In-Situ Resource Utilization:

DIY Ethic:


Build Out:

Open Source Home Design Competition:

Green Power Science:

Open Structures:

How to build an Open Source Community:

Design Ideas Daily:


Bio Plastics:

Bio Plastic Products:

Algae Biofuel VIDEO:

Algae Biofuel:

Algae fuel:


Vertical Farming:

Solar Bottle Lights:

Compressed Earth Block:





Factor e Farm Infrastructure Buildout 2011:

Factor e Farm:



  1. I’ve made several drawings for round communities as well, but eventually I gave up on round systems. They look very cool on paper, but in practice it’s rather difficult to put solar panels on houses that are configured into a round community system.

    To get a good hit from the sun, the long side of the houses and greenhouses need to run in an east to west configuration and the solar panels need to face south. The same thing is true even if all you design for is passive solar, which is great low-cost alternative for reducing ones annual heat bills.

    I hate to tell you this, but you are not going to get a decent layout for anything even remotely solar in the round community layout you have pictured.

    You mention aquaponic greenhouses and that’s a very cool idea as far as it goes, but aquaponics is also a very limited system. Unfortunately, fish don’t produce enough nutrients in their waste to so that vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers will fruit, so unless you are willing to live on a diet that consists mainly of salad greens and tilapia, you’ll have to expand your food growing system by a considerable degree.

    And what are you going to do for waste management? Unless everyone is perfectly content with no-flush composting toilets, you’re in deep trouble. At the very least you will be required by law to put in a septic tank and a drain field for every single house in the community. Do you want septic tanks right next to your water supply? Yuk! Even if you did, I can just about promise you that the building codes wouldn’t allow it. You will be required to put in a sewage and wastewater treatment plant. Where will you put it? Will it be an anaerobic digester, constructed wetlands, or will it be designed like the typical municipal sewage treatment plants? Anyway you do it you are looking at millions of dollars.

    And herein lies the rub, my friend. You will quickly find out that an off-grid community of 32 houses is not large enough to justify the expense of the sewage and water treatment system you will be required by law to put in.

    I’ve been designing off-grid sustainable eco-communities for over 30 years. As far as I can tell, you will need to plan on a system that has somewhere around 700 to 1000 homes because anything less is not large enough to justify the infrastructure cost. People who live on the grid typically tie into an already existing infrastructure. When you design for “off-grid” you are the one who has to put in the infrastructure, and you’ve got to do it “their way” or you won’t be given a building permit.

    Furthermore, if you are going to be truly self-reliant as far as food, you will have to add dairy, eggs and meat products, as well as vegetables, fruits and grains. It’s true that a co-op styled community system can grow far more food that either a single family farm or even a big corporate farm can, but you’ve got to figure on way more land than you’ve got pictured.

    I honestly do not think you can be a self reliant community on anything less than about two acres per household or one acre per adult.

    I hate to tell you this, but the real facts of life are by the time you figure out how grow potatoes, garlic, onions and carrots in a vertical wall of water-filled plastic tubes, you will have spent a small fortune on plastic, pumps and aeroponic hose emitters and pumped several hundred pounds of questionable chemicals into the water growing the food you intend to eat. That sort of food-growing operation is not very “sustainable” but it sure does make lots and lots of money for the folks selling hydroponic grow systems to the public.

    By the way, if children are going to live in your community then they’ll need milk to grow strong bones and teeth. That means you’ll need either dairy cows or goats. To be self-sufficient in food, you’ll need poultry, pork and beef animals too. And you’ll need to figure out how to feed those animals along with what to do with their waste. Those animals are necessary because if you intend to grow organic food, you are going to need to compost animal manures. Otherwise, you’ll just be buying more chemical fertilizers.

    Folks can beat their drums for a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle all they want to, but the facts are most people eat meat. From the looks of things you plan on limiting your self-sufficient community dreams to only vegans and vegetarians. If so, it’s my guess that you’ll end up with no more than about 20% of the population being men. Most men still want their meat and potatoes and they will refuse to live in any self sufficient agro-community that doesn’t include eating meat. It’s just a fact of life…

    Designing truly self-reliant, sustainable eco-friendly communities is actually far more involved than what you have planned, but you are certainly heading in the right direction. It takes a lot of thought to come up with a plan that is actually workable. You’ve obviously boiled it down to “the big four” (food, shelter, water and energy) but trust me, if you forget sewage treatment none of it is going to fly.

    • I think it is a great concept. More anything thing we need to go forward. No plan is perfect. But, the plan is the start. I started with a plan and worked out the issues as they came up. You don’t hundreds of homes to to make a self sustainable community. You need to get to work and make it happen. I started St. Michael’s sustainable community in Costa Rica. We have heard of cattle, horses, sheep, chickens, springs for water, gardens, acres of corn, rice, and beans. The infrastructure was not difficult. Our farm run from 1.5 acres to over 8 acres. We use septic systems with plants to treat waste water. None of which are near our drinking water. We are still on the grid for power but, hope to have solar systems in place to be completely off the gird. One thing that I found that helps productivity is having two people responsible for all of the gardening, fish ponds, and animals. Those two people on our 98.5 acres produce more than enough food to feed our community. We sell the rest. If you plan you can do it. The hardest part is taking the leap of faith. This community is also all ocean view and selling for under $1 a sq foot.

      Justin Dolan

  2. i would love to do this i have so many ideas about farming like if people have pets the number 2 can be used for fertilizer not much differant than cow manure. or have some yards that have cows and some that house the chickens and some that have pigs and so on. you could even have a butcher on site in a house so it can actually be like a small community. wow the perfect life lol. maybe even private security in smart cars ran off of water or corn . i can see it now. i am actually excited about this project to bad i am in no shape or form to help out maybe the security part ex military. send me more info on price and specs and maybe we can do something.