Urban Off-Grid: 12 Creative Solutions For Self-Sustainability in the City

Minim House

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While many a surreptitious urban mobile home (like these converted vans) or Tiny House village has already broken ground on this idea, the ‘Minim House’ micro-home makes it possible to live off-grid in slightly more comfort. Bigger than an average tiny house at 210 square feet, packed with windows, efficiently insulated and full of clever pull-out and fold-down systems, the Minim House can be placed in urban backyards, on rooftops and in other areas where a little bit of space is available. The home can be purchased as a completed unit, or as a set of plans to build it yourself.

Dervaes Urban Homestead, Pasadena, California

Just beyond a freeway in Pasadena, an ordinary-looking suburban home functions as an off-grid, fully-functioning urban farm supplying 6,000 pounds of organic produce annually, producing its own energy and even brewing its own biofuel. Operated by the Dervaes family, The Urban Homestead aims to be a model for sustainable agriculture in urban areas.

Tighthouse, Brooklyn, New York

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The first certified Passive House in New York City, ‘Tighthouse’ by Fabrica 718 retrofits a row home built in 1899 to use solar thermal for hot water and solar voltaic panels to supply the small amount of energy required by the structure’s highly efficient lights and appliances, using 75% less energy overall compared to standard homes. A continuous envelope of insulation cuts its heating energy usage by 90%. While it’s not 100% off-the-grid, it does stand as an example of ultra-high efficiency in a conventional, older structure in the middle of a city.