How to live in off-the-grid luxury in under $100k

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What is sure to be our flagship off-the-grid showcase for 2019, G-pod Americas has been preparing this Hill Country deployment for months in our spare time. In our last blog we took you through the G-pod blueprint of planning for, buying and placing your very own G-pod dream. This story will share our very own off-the-grid G-pod experience. Because its on private property we aren’t making the location public, but we can give some details and insight into our journey to date, so you can do some more planning for your own projects.

Here are the stats:

What: G-pod Texas Hill Country Remote Site Showcase
Model: Standard Dwell 20 (that means its 20 feet long, 9.5 feet tall and 8 feet wide in shipping mode)
Cost: $76,750 + taxes $7500 (additional taxes, your scope of work, available optional extras and installation support from G-pod Americas can increase the price)
Transport: $3500 + $1200
Placement & Prep: $2700 + $4800
Power & Water: These costs can vary radically depending on the site, your needs and your budget, but in this specific case it will cost about $12,500 for power (including 2800 watts of solar PV, an inverter system, various special tech, a battery bank plus a small auto start generator) and $2700 for both water storage solutions (a 1500 gallon pillow tank and the 2500 gallon rigid potable water tank you see in the photos).
Timeline: 4-6 months to manufacture and travel via cargo ship from factory to the nearest port, then by truck to our local site; + 2 days deployment (one day for pod deployment, one day for utilities connections)

Choosing the site

We chose the site for its beauty and privacy. We wanted a Texas location close to the central Texas cities of Austin and San Antonio and we wanted to showcase an off-the-grid solution, so we chose a private Hill Country site.

We also wanted the deployment to be as simple and as DIY as possible. We didn't spend tons of money hiring a contractor or take on managing a crew of laborers. We tried to plan a scope of work that could be done solo, by hand, part time with very limited skills and investment.

The site included what was once a ranch road some 30 years ago, which gave us some access deeper into the property and helped avoid cutting oaks to make work space. Site preparation included clearing small cedars from the very overgrown road and around the build site by hand to ensure the building pad clearing and orientation was carefully considered. 

Natural grades were followed which lead to a bluff on the site. This became the perfect spot for the pod to be placed, oriented mostly south.

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Preparing the building pad

Without any soil or fill challenges to worry about, we built forms and placed concrete mixed on site for the 4 footings ($200) in one day. First a few inches of topsoil and loose material had to be removed from the top of the existing bedrock. Then, after the footings were placed crushed limestone was brought in and compacted to create the pad. In this case, although we made concrete footings for the four main pod legs, similar footings were not required for the deck legs.

 

We did want to create a retaining wall. This was assembled using large modular stones brought in from a limestone quarry and positioned with a skid loader. The retaining wall build took two two days with two courses of 4’x2’x2’ cut local limestone, each block weighing around 2000 lbs. A foundation for the wall was prepared with a bubble-level and hand tools, placing and compacting a shallow layer of 1” crushed limestone on top of bedrock. The blocks were placed along a narrow section we had leveled in front of the pad so we had to place the blocks from west to east in order to have adequate space for the skid loader to work. After the first course of blocks was laid we added crushed stone behind them, to make the grade level with the top of the bottom course, so the skid loader could safely place the second course of limestone blocks. 

 

The materials used were sourced locally. We wanted to keep the build as natural to the region as possible and modular so that if desired all of it can be moved later. Some large stones gathered from the site itself were added to the east end of the retaining wall by the creative and skilled skid-loader operator.

 

Hard costs for the pad and wall came to about $1900 which included delivery of the crushed stone, skid loader with operator, and two days of work.

 

Placing the pod

Installation day started with much anticipation. After tracking our G-pod shipment across the ocean, the day of arrival has finally come. Early on a rainy Friday morning the tractor trailer hauls the pod from Houston’s port in about 3 hours, completing its 10,000 mile journey to the site. Because we didn’t add an optional custom trailer to this pod, and a swinglift truck seems tricky to maneuver on the pad next to the retaining wall, we decide to use a crane. But we need to boom out 57 feet to reach the pad, so a (larger than otherwise needed) 110 ton crane is used to move the pod from the trailer into place on the bluff. While the crane suspends the pod just above the footings we take out the pod legs and connect them, and the crane lowers the pod into position. All of this only takes about 30 minutes with one person on the ground and no special tools are required.

 

The pod is leveled using fine adjustments on threaded rods in the pod legs. We lower and level the G-pod deck, open the expansive bi-fold 5-panel doors, unpack the parts inside the pod, install the 7 piece steps to the deck and begin to install the fly-roof. It’s a simple process. Four posts, two beams, five rafters, four fabric panels, two gutters and the gorgeous perforated aluminum bench -- then it’s done. 

 

143 square feet of deck space with G-pod's unique and beautiful fly-roof and bench seat is now added to the 220 square feet of indoor conditioned space. Next, we deploy the slide out beams, and give a pull to the slide out containing the bedroom and bathroom spaces and suddenly the 20’ G-pod seems rather large! We finish by securing everything in its deployed position.

 

Adding the comforts of home

Every G-pod is designed to work either on or off-the-grid. In this case, we wanted the off-grid option so there are a few things we have done now, and some items we have yet to check off our list.

 

Power:

For electricity we plan on using solar PV ($10,000+) for most of our power but will also install an-auto start gasoline generator ($2300) for charging batteries during extended cloudy periods and HVAC loads required at night or in the hours before sunup. Generators are not absolutely required however, because the pumps, fans, lights and 12 v DC refrigeration/freezer can operate on a small amount of battery power. 

 

Water will be heated instantaneously with a propane unit ($1800). Electricity will mostly come from a solar PV system with auto start gasoline generator and will cost about $12,500 for what we want to showcase there. You could do the same thing for much less, but then again depending on what you want and need and the characteristics of your site you could spend as much as $30,000 for a turn-key power solution. Our solution for this site will take 1 day to install and will power everything in the pod.

Water:

Rainwater is collected from the four downpipes built into G-pod fly-roof and the main pod roof structure and stored in a 1500-gallon fabric pillow tank located under the pod. There is also a rigid 2500-gallon potable water tank that we can get filled locally anytime with treated tap water for $250.

 

The standard Dwell model comes with a flush toilet, so we'll use a holding tank ($600) and get the waste pumped out from time-to-time. We’ve also reduced the load on the flush toilet by adding an excellent waterless, urine diverting toilet in the common facilities area for guests visiting the site. 

 

Amenities:

The G-pod Dwell 20 comes from the factory conveniently outfitted with finished kitchen, dining, bedroom with bed/mattress, bathroom, and living spaces but we added our own styling touches and a table and three chairs, plus an induction cooktop, microwave, and refrigerator and a projector for AV entertainment. Like any move-in day, this took a few hours of fluffing and "zhuzhing" to make it feel just right.

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G-pod experience is hard to describe

G-pod feels unique in the market and what makes it a favorite is hard to describe in just one word. That's one of the reasons we've worked so hard to prepare this flagship site. We want visitors to experience the space for themselves. Delightfully- but not really surprising to us- the feedback is always very positive.

Everyone who has been to the site and experienced the pod for the first time has been impressed. There is a grandeur and luxury to its simplicity. One thing we hear a lot is “I thought it would feel small, but its not. It’s so…substantial!”. Another is “Wow!”.

The beautiful, yet minimalist design by award-winning architect Dan Sparks, embraces the beauty of the outdoor environment supporting it. This G-pod is nestled into the limestone on a small bluff, cradled by the native trees and the sky, and welcomes an expansive view of the Texas Hill Country. We’ve been planning this project and and preparing this site for several months but the installation transformed the site from potential to potent in a matter of hours without detracting from the natural setting. It’s airy, solid beauty still charms us and visitors each time we enjoy the natural lighting in the morning, the cool breeze through its ample shade on a hot afternoon- or, honestly, any other time we see it.

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