Off the grid and energy efficient

Remote cabin inspired by Forest Service

The cabin is sturdy and exceptionally energy efficient, because it uses Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) in the walls and roof. (The precut panels helped speed the construction of the cabin, which had a limited window of time in midsummer for the contractor to build it.) The SIPs make the house so well insulated that in five years, the Mitchells have used only 1½ cords of wood for heat. The precut panels for the walls and roof cost $24,875 from Better Building Systems (30/477-8017).

In winter months, the Mitchells use a refurbished 1955 Sno-Cat to haul them, their teenage son, their three black labs, and supplies. The family loves going to Grouse Ridge on midwinter nights during a full moon, since "it's bright as day and you can see for miles," Neal says.

Neal telecommutes to his office in the Silicon Valley, thanks to a laptop and cell phone. He also enjoys a projection DVD player. "On nice summer nights, we set up a screen on our porch and show outdoor movies," he says. That's roughing it the modern way.

Design: David Wright Associates, Grass Valley, CA (530/477-5057)

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