Off-Grid Prefab Home on Cusabo Island

This sturdy steel cabin is off-grid, off-pipe, and self-sufficient, making it an interesting case study of sustainability and coastal design.  The home was completed just over a year ago on Cusabo Island in South Carolina — an impressive feat given the remote site accessible only by boat.  The owner was able to take advantage of prefab construction and had the parts flown in by helicopter (see below).

Cusabo Island Cabin was designed by architect Carter Woollen and built by EcoSteel. The 3,888 square-foot project has a steel, pre-cut frame made with 76% recycled content and steel insulated panels for the walls (3″, R24) and roof (4″, R32).

Built like a fortress, the cabin meets FEMA flood zone requirements and can withstand hurricane winds of up to 140 mph.

Large, insulated, sliding metal doors protect the cabin during harsh weather.  These were mounted using Barn Door Hardware.  At the same time, when the weather is nice and the sea is breezy, these doors and windows open up to take advantage of natural cooling.

The roof is slanted with a standing seam roof just right for harvesting solar energy.  A solar photovoltaic array charges a battery bank in the home and evacuated solar thermal tubes heat water used domestically and in the hydronic radiant floors.

Cusabo Island Cabin has a water catchment system that filters rainwater for domestic use, while composting toilets process waste and the leach field takes gray water.

I first learned about this project from EcoSteel via our new green home submission form.  If you have a fantastic project and photography, make sure to let us know.

Credits: EcoSteel.


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  • Anonymous

    precut steel now means prefab? that’s news to me, which means apparently now even Casino’s in Vegas can be concidered prefab… sad day for the prefab industry!

    with that said, this project is really nice, wish there were some interior shots.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      It’s borderline I guess. Due to the site, there could be no construction waste. So the design required 3D modeling and precision cutting of all parts off-site. Then the beams and steel wall panels were shipped and installed. More of a kit/panel setup, but not like some of the modular or other prefab you may have seen.

    • RyleeJayBird

      What do you define as prefab? If all components were fabricated off-site and delivered, that’s prefab to me.

  • Pingback: Off-Grid, Disaster Proof, Prefab Steel Home in South Carolina | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World

  • http://www.weehouse.com Betsy

    Super great to see a beginning to end process illustrated. And with helicopters! We’re often asked about using helicopters for bringing our weeHouses onto rooftops in Manhattan, or other dense areas but (to-date) no one has taken us up on it which makes this even more interesting to me. Love the use of the sliding doors on those tracks, and also the vented sun shades. Thanks for posting this. Will check out the EcoSteel site for other partner details.

  • Jim Coyle

    Nice house, with off-grid capability. However, it seems the modular/pre-fab enabled construction of a large house, in an area that otherwise may not be developed. Will the owner’s helicopter in as well? More ‘cool’ then green.

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