When Kim Bannister and Frances McClure decided to build their own “bach” (a Kiwi phrase that refers to a beach house of modest means), they wanted to live as off the grid as possible. For a location, they had settled on a ten-acre parcel of bush on Great Barrier Island, where they had vacationed on and off since 1972. Remoteness is both the challenge and defining feature of the house: There is no electricity, water, or sewage main on the island. Their home is essentially a high-functioning cabin.
Architect Paul Clarke of Auckland-based Crosson, Clarke, Carnachan Architects oriented the structure to the sun’s path. He constructed it with natural and recycled materials and plugged in several energy-efficient components, such as a rainwater-filtration system and two roof-mounted solar panels stored in a heavily insulated cylinder to trap heat.
Which isn’t to say the residents don’t enjoy some creature comforts: A Jetmaster fireplace is fed with trees that have fallen down on the property, and much of their time is spent on outdoor terraces with up-close views of native birdlife and a lush landscape lined with puriri trees. Such rigorous green systems have allowed McClure and Bannister luxuries they didn’t know were possible: “It is an astonishingly decadent feeling lying in a bath of water pumped by electrons charged with sunlight,” says Bannister. “It’s free bliss!”