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Prefab ZeroHouse is Off-Grid and Self Sustainable

This Prefab ZeroHouse is a guest post by Pamela Putnam

Introducing zeroHouse, a small, prefabricated building that can easily be shipped and quickly erected. It is completely self-sufficient and incredibly comfortable. Most notably you can live here without having any external utilities connected or even waste disposal connections! It’s fully self sufficient. Let’s go on a tour…

Enter zeroHouse through the front entry, which is a Kevlar reinforced door shell with vacuum-sealed aerogel insulating core.  You will see the living room to your right, furnished with a modular wraparound couch, 42″ LCD TV, and ample built-in storage.  To your left is the kitchen, equipped with a full array of high-efficiency appliances, including an induction cooktop, microwave oven, and full-size refrigerator. The dining area includes a restaurant-style booth, and comfortably seats four adults.

Climb the stairs located in the entry to the second floor, where you will find two bedrooms, each furnished with a king-size bed, window seat, and large closet. The full bathroom, which features a large shower, full vanity, and a porcelain low-flush toilet, opens onto its own private sun-deck with outdoor shower and lounge chairs. A covered deck off the upstairs entry provides the perfect rooftop area for outdoor living.

Prefab ZeroHouse is Off-Grid and Fully Sustainable


Images © Specht Harpman

prefab-zerohouse-off-grid-self-sustainable-02 prefab-zerohouse-off-grid-self-sustainable-03 prefab-zerohouse-off-grid-self-sustainable-03a prefab-zerohouse-off-grid-self-sustainable-04 prefab-zerohouse-off-grid-self-sustainable-05 prefab-zerohouse-off-grid-self-sustainable-06

Images © Specht Harpman

How would you like living in one of these efficient and ecologically sound, yet completely functional ZeroHouses?


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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 76 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    February 9, 2015, 2:13 pm

    Hotdamn!!! You had me at ” Kevlar reinforced door shell with vacuum-sealed aerogel insulating core.” Not that I’d need a Kevlar door for the (strike out) Crack House that I’d be running outta here. 😉 But, it sure would provide peace of mind for a vacation home!

    Plus, what home can’t you fall in love with that features a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes on the kitchen table?!? 😀

    Now…let the complaining BEGIN! LOL

    • Ralph Sly
      February 10, 2015, 4:25 am

      I’ll sure as hell start the complaining. Put a little iron in the fiber for heaven sakes. Two scoops please.

      • Cahow
        February 10, 2015, 10:09 am

        Ralph: you brighten up my day with each comment of yours I read. 😀

        So glad to see you back here!

  • Lebron Burton
    February 9, 2015, 2:15 pm

    Neat but still looks to be in theory and with a price tag $350k. I don’t know that I see simplification in that.

    • February 9, 2015, 2:29 pm

      YIKES!!! (re:$350,000)

    • Ahmed
      February 10, 2015, 11:13 pm

      Beautiful, but once again…is this supposed to b affordable? Ps. The floor plan is awesome….it gives me ideas….

  • J.L. Frusha
    February 9, 2015, 2:31 pm

    $538 per square foot? Is that a NASA project?

    • Anni
      February 9, 2015, 3:54 pm

      LOL Right!

  • Victoria
    February 9, 2015, 2:31 pm

    The price of this house is completely unaffordable to many people. I can’t see many people who are wanting to downsize spending $350k on a house. Many of the tiny houses are $35-50k, so if they want to realistically enter the tiny house market, the designers need to consider that. Even with the luxury of being self-sufficient, the price tag is out of reach for many. If you took a $35k tiny house and added solar panels and a water storage system, it would still be under $100k.

  • Karen R
    February 9, 2015, 2:40 pm

    Such a great house, but it SHOULD be at that price. My usual obsession . . .I want another half (or full) bath.

  • Terry
    February 9, 2015, 2:44 pm

    The concept works…….but let’s dumb it down with a couple shipping containers…..at 1/20th the cost.

    • Sharon
      February 9, 2015, 2:56 pm

      Exactly what I was thinking. Couple of forty footers would work.

      • Peter
        February 9, 2015, 3:48 pm

        Did you ever walk into a storage container in the summer or winter? R-zero!/extreme hot and cold. R58 is what you want for sure ;).

    • Anni
      February 9, 2015, 3:54 pm


    • susan
      February 9, 2015, 8:59 pm

      Right on Terry!!

  • Becky
    February 9, 2015, 2:44 pm

    How about little or tiny homes that don’t need a mortgage. Thought the point was to not spend a ton of money. I love the small/tiny houses. Not going to pay for one when I can get a regular house at a cheaper price.

    • Cahow
      February 9, 2015, 3:21 pm

      Becky: these homes are provided for INSPIRATION and stirring one’s Imagination.

      Just like the time honoured Paris/Toyko/London Fashion Weeks that features Haute Couture one-of-a-kind clothing starting at FIVE FIGURES, it’s only the 1% that can afford those labor and material intensive outfits. There is literally NO price tag associated with the construction of these unique creations.

      But, that doesn’t mean that H & M, Target and Walmart won’t find elements of each item of clothing to incorporate into fashion that Every Man/Woman can afford. Same goes for homes: Take what interests you and fits within your budget, abandon the rest.

      I leave you with one of the more memorable scenes from The Devil Wears Prada, where Andy Sachs, the intern, is snickering over the belting choice of two designer dresses.

      Her boss, Miranda Priestly “educates” the Reverse Snobbism of Andy with this quote: “‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff. ”

      So it is with Tiny-Small Houses in the Upper Brackets: they are Haute Couture. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired to use them for our own benefit. 😀

      • Jennifer
        February 10, 2015, 7:31 am

        I remember that scene.
        I agree, it’s good to have some ‘off of the trailer’ thinking at times. Too many times, I’ve gone to a website to look at tiny house plans and found the same cookie cutter plans. While I realize certain design elements have to fit within our given restrictions for THOW, I still feel there is another way to produce a tiny house. I’m in the planning stages now and I’m going to pick and choose from all the designs I see to find something that is uniquely me and still looks good in my tiny house.

      • alice h
        February 10, 2015, 11:43 am

        Perfect analogy! Another thing to consider about the price, you’re spending a lot in up front costs but cutting way back on subsequent bills. Of course if it was my place I’d have to incorporate wind power collection on the front, cleverly disguised as a propeller. It just looks like the thing could fly so what the heck.

      • barb
        February 11, 2015, 2:48 pm

        What Cahow said… 🙂

        • Cahow
          February 11, 2015, 5:38 pm

          Hey, Babe! <3

  • Loki
    February 9, 2015, 2:50 pm

    $538/square foot and no opening windows on the first floor. this is an architect’s dream but I wouldn’t call it livable.

  • Barb
    February 9, 2015, 2:53 pm

    It’s not for me, due to stairs, cost, and the ultra-modern look and feel (just not cozy-seeming.) But when I read about it on its own website, I was impressed by the self-sufficient aspect: creating all its own power and processing waste, all inclusively. That is pretty cool, and all its extra features help account for the high cost. But still, not for me, and I think it would appeal to only a few people with very specific needs in mind.

  • Jim Kane
    February 9, 2015, 3:20 pm

    Throw in another 20-40,000 for well, septic, solar, land………. all those little extras.
    It isn’t really that ‘cool’. Especially for THAT kind of $$$$

  • Rich
    February 9, 2015, 3:30 pm

    What amazes me about these innovative creations is their total disregard for the taste of the american people….. not even the hint of a gable roof or plastic shutters….. this will never do! HAHA

    • Cahow
      February 9, 2015, 3:35 pm

      Don’t forget Lawn Fawns and Garden Gnomes…oh, and Plastic Pink Flamingos, too!

      • Sharee
        February 9, 2015, 8:45 pm

        Pink flamingos? I want one.

    • Paul Waddington
      February 9, 2015, 7:51 pm

      Cantilevered flat roofs? Can’t wait to see that in 3′ of snow!

      • Anni
        February 10, 2015, 12:56 pm

        Exactly, not only does the price limit who can buy it, it’s also limited in where you can put it. No snow or wind areas for sure.

  • Kat
    February 9, 2015, 3:31 pm

    Intergalactic Genius! Wow

  • February 9, 2015, 3:37 pm

    So glad you posted this! High price tag for certain, but great for inspiration – 2 storage containers would do the trick! BTW, I so look forward to your emails! Opening each link is like opening presents, “What new Tiny House is behind this link, and that one?”…LOL

  • Martha
    February 9, 2015, 3:38 pm

    I’m turned off by the outside, but I think I’ll go over to check out the website as Barb mentioned above.

  • Peter
    February 9, 2015, 3:52 pm

    Absolutely love the whole package/concept. This is the future in my opinion. Overtime volume will bring cost down.

  • Anni
    February 9, 2015, 3:59 pm

    I like everything about it, but what municipalities will allow this? We’re back to the age old problem – where do you put it, and in this case, how do you afford it? For most who can spend this, they’re looking at vastly different housing. What about cold climates, climates with wind – tornados, hurricanes? Looks like it’d launch awesomely. LOL

    Great for the few this concept will appeal to in price and design and appropriate locale IF it can actually be built somewhere without enough red tape to stretch from here to the moon.

    • Lisa E.
      February 9, 2015, 8:15 pm

      Simple: If you can afford this, you can also afford to buy your own island to put it on. Problem solved.

      • Anni
        February 9, 2015, 8:40 pm

        Well, maybe if you can afford your own island you then could put this house on it, but I think there would be very few people who own $350K houses who can afford a private island!

        Either way, it boils down to this not really being feasible for many, for many reasons. I’ve come to the point where I’m tired of seeing concept houses. They rarely, if ever, come to market, and as one person pointed out, these are like the crazy, outlandish couture dresses we drool over during fashion week in Paris, and then some of the design, balls and baubles trickle down into mainstream society. Few people will ‘wear’ this designer house.

        • Cahow
          February 9, 2015, 9:14 pm

          Anni: very nice tie-in of your closing comment with my earlier one.

          Concepts in ANY industry provide the *spark* to fuel many affordable future dreams down the line.

        • Anni
          February 9, 2015, 9:29 pm

          True again, yes, they do provide the spark. Sadly, ignition is painfully slow in this industry, mainly due to lack of locale and municipalities that will even begin to consider smaller houses, much less tiny houses, and worse – off the grid. We’re depended upon to bring revenues into a city via square footage and over-use of natural resources. Tiny, sustainable houses do nothing to support cities, unfortunately, and the construction community is a whole ‘nother story. Having said that, I’m working on getting a shipping container house off the ground in Louisville, KY where I actually do have the green light from the city. Wish me luck!

        • Cahow
          February 10, 2015, 10:12 am

          ALL the best to you, Anni!!!

          I adore Kentucky: I’ve been to each corner of the state and each has it’s charm. My Uni roommate was from Lexington and her husband is from the East Side of the state; when visiting with them, we’ve traveled through Posh & Poverty, but the natural areas are stunning. 😀

  • Joanna
    February 9, 2015, 4:07 pm

    Looks great when a whole bunch of nothing surrounds it except for distant mountain ranges. Not so sure about how it would be when shoe horned into a suburban or city lot.
    The price is insane.

  • Calvin
    February 9, 2015, 4:22 pm

    I would like to know if it would withstand wind loads of 100 mph or more.

  • Margaret Hinkson
    February 9, 2015, 4:44 pm

    I started looking at tiny houses because of the tiny cost ,now it’s got insane as predicted !

  • Lesa
    February 9, 2015, 5:45 pm

    Ironically, with a price tag of 350K, it seems to be getting away from the core idea ( at least that was my perception ) of the tiny/small house movement via downsizing due to an array of factors; reducing carbon footprint, wasteful space, current toxic elements, amongst a litany of things – primarily reducing the cost per sq ft of housing. At this point I would presume that if the median cost of a reg sized home in So Cal is 675K, this would be a bargain. The architecture is simply magnificent and it will keep dreams and ingenuity alive.

    • Anni
      February 9, 2015, 5:49 pm

      I agree on the ‘bargain’ from that perspective, though So Cal building and zoning would extract another couple hundred grand in red tape and hold the project up for years. There was a small house builder in California who now refuses to build anything there and moved his business out of state due to the horrific ordinances and costly red tape they were constantly wrapping his projects in. My father worked new construction in California for 40 years, it never got any better, it only got worse and worse.

      • Cahow
        February 9, 2015, 6:00 pm

        Build in Vermont or New Hampshire. I have family over there and no one gives a shite about what you build: they are too fiercely independent to protest what YOU’RE doing because they are too busy doing their OWN thing. Nice area to live in; Moose hunting is really popular, too.

      • Lesa
        February 10, 2015, 12:34 am

        Thank you for your spot-on response Anni. You are absolutely correct about the project being mired in red tape, zoning and building codes, and the underlying construction quest to ‘ stay between the lines ‘ on everything here in So Cal. I can also attest to similar reasons that my uncle and father let construction go by the way side after several years as well; it was getting more difficult and riddled with additional headaches. It’s no wonder I can’t find anyone on the internet (so far) that comes up as a small house builder in So Cal, but there are a few in Northern Ca.

        • Anni
          February 10, 2015, 1:18 am


          Thank you very much. It’s such a shame, too, as So Cal has its share of financial issues and there is plenty of wide open desert to build in. Seems a perfect use for all that land, revenue and good weather, don’t you think? But as you know, those who create the red tape in So Cal don’t think. It’s crazy.

          Yes, there are builders in N. Cal. Hopefully they’re able to eek out a living under California code. Don’t get me wrong, the safety codes are top notch, it’s getting anything approved to be built.

          I moved to Louisville, KY 10 years ago from So Cal. It’s called the city of possibilities, and it’s true. The local government is accessible, reasonable, and downright helpful. I was so used to hearing nothing but NO on every imaginable topic in California, that is if you could get through the phone maze and recordings to begin with, that it was weird to first hear a human being answer the phone, then next hear YES over and over again – and directly from planners who will talk on the phone at length with you. I love living here, awesome city. It’s one of the best kept secrets in the Nation!

        • barb
          February 11, 2015, 2:54 pm

          Thanks for the insight on Louisville. It’s not too far north of where I live now. I *might* consider moving a little north of here to get cooperation from the authorities on a small dwelling.

  • Joyce
    February 9, 2015, 7:25 pm

    “X” marks the spot. A treasure for someone but not for me. I like the other ideas of water collection, use of biodegradable soaps for easing the filtration of grey water, composting toilets, solar and/or wind energy for power, natural and local sources for heat, etc. all in a much more size friendly and cost effective building.

  • gianni
    February 9, 2015, 8:01 pm

    Even though it wouldn’t work for my situation, I did like the idea of being totally independent of any utilities. Can’t do the steps but it would look great in a very rural setting. Awesome ideas though and eventually the prices will come down as more of these ideas get put into production.
    Keep up the great work!

  • BK
    February 9, 2015, 8:17 pm

    Just $350,000 and it is yours. I hope I am a bit more frugal and free.

  • Lisa E.
    February 9, 2015, 8:20 pm

    If there is enough money to build/purchase one of these, I don’t see why they don’t get rid of the stairs in favor of an Elevette.

  • lee van winkle
    February 9, 2015, 10:45 pm

    I love all these free thinkers but at 81 I say give me a mortgage free self contained tiny home on a country acre and the old time religion and I will be as happy as any man on the planet. Lee Van Winkle

    • Anni
      February 10, 2015, 12:58 pm

      Right on, Lee. I’m 51 and agree with your vision!

  • John
    February 9, 2015, 10:57 pm

    Curious as to how many gallons of water are held in the tanks in the ‘attic’? Tons of weight up there when full. Also, induction stovetop and other modern appliances on a battery bank juiced up by solar? I don’t think technology has caught up with this vision yet. Reminds me of when I was a kid and the popular science magazines would put futuristic drawings in them to promote there utopian vision.
    Me… simplify… reduce… live life. 🙂

  • Larry B
    February 9, 2015, 11:10 pm

    Totally unrealistic.. A rich persons toy. Better luck with shipping containers and a little planning.

  • Sgt Bill
    February 10, 2015, 12:08 am

    The price tag is out of reach for most (92%+ I’d guess) of us. However, the idea of stacking two shipping containers, at a 90 degree angle is worth following up, I think.
    Yes, A shipping container is only 8′ wide, and I’d guess this to be about 10-12′ wide. But, the idea bears further study, and maybe even trying out. A shipping container is strong enough to bear the weight of another (they stack 6-8 high on ships) and is up to 53′ feet long. So U are talking 424 square feet per level. Add the elevated desks, ~360 square feet each, and they could even be screened in, so you are talking real living space here. Add solar panels to the ‘roof,’ and you are totally off grid. Maybe, with enough power to operate a shallow well too.
    Interesting idea! If I win the lotto I might even be able to afford one!:-)

    • Anni
      February 10, 2015, 1:05 pm

      I’m building a shipping container house and can tell you that while you can stack two containers at a 90 degree angle, the engineering costs skyrocket by doing so. The containers are only solid when stacked as the system was designed – the strength is in the 4 corners of steel. The Corten steel walls are actually pretty flimsy on their own. So, to stack a container sideways atop another container requires an engineering plan with steel cross bracing and much more. The middle of a shipping container is not designed to carry the sideways weight of another container. If you can find sites that show this, you’ll see a whole steel beam system that supports the top container. Costly.

      The other issue with doing it is energy efficiency. When two are stacked as intended, the heating and cooling are within the same walls from lower to upper floors. When you have wings jutting out, you lose that envelope and now have exposed floors that need a lot more insulation.

      It can be done, it just takes engineering dollars to do so. I hear you on that lottery!

      • February 11, 2015, 12:30 am

        Well heck, if you are just putting the two containers in one place, and at right angles… Call a local welder. They should be able to make it strong in the right way… And for very little cost. Steel is easy to work with, and stronger than anything nature can deliver… Except rust.

        • Anni
          February 11, 2015, 1:08 am

          To meet code and to get permits you have to have blue prints signed off by an engineer whether you’re stacking them or cantilevering them, or not. Welding alone won’t guarantee safety – which with tons of steel you’d definitely want. Every door and window opening that’s cut in has to be properly braced because the sides of shipping containers are actually pretty flimsy on their own. Their strength and stackability lies only in the beams at the four corners. I would not live in any steel structure that wasn’t professionally engineered.

  • Wolf
    February 10, 2015, 1:01 pm

    Obviously, not for everyone to live in, but it sure as heck is for everyone to see and get inspired. More exotic designs, please. Stirs the imagination and that’s a great thing. Now, if we could just get some engineering data – I bet we could come up with a variation that could be folded in case of high winds, Hurricanes, and transport.

  • Kelly Libert
    February 10, 2015, 4:41 pm

    LOVE it! I am sure that much of what I admire could be executed less expensively with a little creativity. Great inspiration! Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  • Cheryl Smith-Bell
    February 10, 2015, 6:00 pm

    Nice try, and all wonderful greenie ideas, but it wouldn’t fly here in Texas! Oh wait, maybe it would with those wings, in our wind! I’m sure that is a guess [$] for all the technology they are incorporating. Not doable in a wind prone area, which basicly most wilderness settings would be, and snow would load it too. Nice but not practical at all. Lay out is nice tho!

  • Bambi
    February 10, 2015, 7:23 pm

    As always I love receiving your daily posts and seeing what fantastic things are behind each link.
    Nice futuristic look, but nothing TH living, especially the price that I’m interested in. Structure has to be affordable.
    Thank You Amni for your comments today regarding your shipping container project. I would be interested in keeping in touch with you as your project grows, my daughter is an RN @ Floyd County Memorial Hospital and I visit the Louisville, KY area often. Would love to check in with you and see how your project grows. So glad to hear that zoning and building codes are more relaxed there….I live in Tennessee.

    • Anni
      February 10, 2015, 10:46 pm

      Hi Bambi,

      I just drove by Floyd Memorial a half hour ago! Would be happy to stay in touch. On Facebook? Find me – Anni Bricca – friend and message me and I’ll connect. I have a lot of people who are interested in the project connect with me. I’m hoping things are about to heat up with this and I’ll probably start a blog once we can break ground. The new subdivision it’s going into is being cut in now and we were expecting to start building this spring. It won’t take long. The project will be on the east side. There may also be another project in the Portland (Louisville) area, but that’s not my project, but same builder. Anyway, happy to connect!

  • February 11, 2015, 12:26 am

    Uh… Id love to see one built. Renderings are cheap…. And unproven.

  • Mary J
    February 11, 2015, 6:28 am

    2 containers, and creating cover for the car, plus a loo on the living level and it would be perfect. Otherwise, has a great simplicity.

  • Denise
    February 11, 2015, 4:54 pm

    The concept for this is great. It seems really spacious for a low amount of space due to the layout. Interesting design that keeps folks together but also allows them private places.

  • May 6, 2015, 3:51 pm

    Well…. This one is not my cup o’tea. I’m not really a fan of the ultra contemporary/modern. It has nice amenities and I’d like to see the actual product. Kevlar, humh. Why? If you need Kevlar, you shouldn’t build such a stand-out kind of structure! Give it a cloaking device and you won’t need the kevlar… except for fun.

    It is a nice work of art, and may be built and enjoyed by the 1%, but I’ll take a rain check on this one.

  • Kat
    May 6, 2015, 10:53 pm

    Whether affordable or not, I like the design, BUT! I would not want to get caught in a windy storm or tornado. Big concerns in the Midwest.

    Just my practical mind working, here. 🙂

  • James
    May 7, 2015, 1:53 am

    At that price I can see why there are no photos of an actual building, just shots from the design software…!
    Looks like they can’t afford to build one themselves…?

  • John
    May 7, 2015, 9:46 am

    According to their website there is 4 550 gallon water tanks in the top of the unit. That would mean that you have over 17,000 lbs of water up there not including the tanks. I do not think that the screw anchors would have a chance in a good wind storm. No thanks.

  • Jaix Brooks
    May 9, 2015, 5:14 pm

    You could buy TEN Old Hickory Cabins, fully completed, with PV array, wind generator, propane back up generator, compost toilet, rain water catchment/treatment, grey water recycle, wood heat, tankless water heater/solar combo, insulated with green soy foam insulation….for this ONE house. Thumbs down….for me I’m afraid.

  • Stephen
    May 12, 2015, 2:36 pm

    $350K is way too much. $30K as a *Maximum* is what should be sought for the tiny house movement.

    Kevlar? Plastic? A lot of people want natural (read: wood) materials to free up their living environment from chemicals seeping into the air.

    This Is A Great House :-)! I Love The Design and Materials! I’d one wants to live modern.

    $350,000.00, however, is just a bit much. Compared to a new luxury RV, however, I suppose the coast is comparable.

  • Michael L
    August 29, 2017, 2:15 am

    The exterior photo looks like it’s a transformer… bird type!

  • Ben Schrimsher
    September 29, 2017, 11:35 pm

    Y’all just madw me laugh my a## off with the traphouse comment. Housw needs a few mods depending on location… But, really a great foundation.

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