A Colorado company builds 'Smart Cabins' out of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) that can be set up in a matter of hours for a sweet off-grid house or weekend getaway. The company claims up to 30% to 70% energy savings for their octagonal yurts (built with R-28 walls and R-42 roof panels) and a temperature difference between inside and out of over 35° F with no internal heat source. That's a pretty substantial savings in both money and energy, and you'll probably be the only one in your neighborhood with an octagonal yurt, which gets extra points for style.
Using SIPs for the structure uses 20% less wall materials than for a rectangular house of comparable square footage, and the design is seven times stronger than conventional framing. The panels contain no formaldehyde or VOCs, no asbestos, glass or cellulose fibers, and make for fast assembly. SIPs are manufactured with electrical chases already in place, speeding up the wiring for the builder, and the panels will fit in the back of a standard ¾ ton pickup truck, letting you get your house to remote areas without renting a semi-trailer or a crane to unload it.
The open floor plan and operable skylight help with convective airflow for heating and cooling, and the air-tight, super-insulated walls will save you a bundle on your utilities. A 20 foot diameter model has about 300 square feet of interior space, and the company has options for joining two or more together. For a starter home, the 20 foot Solargon sounds like the perfect choice, especially with a price of only about $24,000. If you want to go bigger, they do make a 30 foot diameter model with about 695 square feet of space, and the extra space allows for a loft above.
Solargon's Smart Cabins are LEED certified, and the company claims that they require less than half the heating and cooling inputs of conventional buildings. The fact that these houses can fit on such a tiny footprint lets you pick the perfect spot for it without massive amounts of excavation and heavy equipment.
Solargon is also working toward affordable housing and is soliciting donations to sponsor homes for those in disaster recovery areas. Help them out if you can.