OFF-the-grid living usually conjures up images of a mud-brick bush shack with a pit loo but one local architect has turned the concept on its head, with a high-end home at Coorabell that has graced the cover of Grand Designs magazine.
While the Coorabell house has all the mod-cons of your average home, along with views and a wow-factor that saw it featured in the design magazine, the owners don't pay any utility bills.
The Coorabell residence is the first fully off-grid project of Federal architect Sam Zaher, in which no connections to local water, waste or electricity systems are required.
The brief was to create a modern, stylish and interesting home that would sit lightly on 27ha of land, be open, airy and age well - and it has been an ethical as well as design success, the architect said.
"Sometimes I question the environmental impacts of this profession, but with a project like this it proves you can have your cake and eat it too," Mr Zaher said.
"It proves that we can design beautiful, modern homes in a green way."
The house collects and harvests rainwater; has double glazing to minimise energy consumption; and has an onsite black and grey waste system.
Power is supplied through an 8kW solar energy system with back-up batteries, negating the need to be connected to the grid.
The owners of the home intend on planting 100,000 trees to offset the carbon footprint of the build and provide future income (through forestry), Mr Zaher said.
While all of his designs incorporate sustainable features, not every client has the desire or budget to take sustainability to this level, Mr Zaher said, although he would like to see that change.
"The outlay can cost more in the beginning, but those costs can be recouped by not having to pay bills and (the sustainable features) straight away add more value to your property," he said.
"It's a guilt-free design."
Features of the off-grid home
Spectacular views of Byron Bay to the Border Ranges
Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study, kitchen and living/dining area, two decks, an outdoor central courtyard, laundry, garage and tool shed
Cantilevered design and U-shaped plan maximise space and create several separate outdoor areas
Rainwater collected and harvested
Double glazing to minimise energy consumption
On-site black and grey waste system
Insulation; north-facing living areas and a deep overhang to the north-facing glazing, and external shutters to the western glazing further reduce energy consumption (in heating and cooling)