Cottage Rock

WORDS Gina Dionisio PHOTOS Marsel Roothman      


Completely ‘off the grid’ and self-sustaining, this functional family home on the outskirts of Pretoria lets the outdoors take centre stage.

Located on the outskirts of Pretoria’s Tierpoort, Cottage Rock fully embodies the idea of sustainable living. Designed by award-winning architect Nadine Engelbrecht, the client’s brief asked for a ‘100% off-grid house that embraced nature’ making use of material on-site and weaving it into the fabric of the house.

The unique site, initially only accessible via hiking up a few rocky hills, had to be excavated to create an access road before construction could commence. “Accessibility remained a challenge throughout the build due to the steep and winding road,” says Nadine. “The trucks supplying the building material couldn’t exceed 8m in length and a 15m length steel H-column had to be cut into three lengths before it could be assembled on-site”.

In order to preserve the large boulders of sedimentary sandstone dominating the terrain the footprint of the house was kept to a minimum of 86m2 with bedrooms allocated in loft spaces.

Budget constraints and a sensitivity to nature enforced material choices including a selection of reclaimed steel windows, raw concrete floors and walls, stone, raw stock bricks and cement washed walls. “As avid rock climbers the clients wanted stone side walls, intended to be used as rock-climbing walls. The natural stones collected on site was therefore incorporated into Cottage Rock,” says Nadine.

Cottage Rock
Cottage Rock

Due to health concerns, the client wanted to live free of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, so a 15 kl water storage tank (located underneath the patio) was installed to harvests rainwater for a permaculture garden. Windows were also specifically designed to ensure a circadian rhythm which promotes a natural sleep-wake cycle.

Passive thermal design principals were incorporated to ensure thermal comfort throughout the various seasons including orientation, thermal mass, calculated roof overhang and natural cross ventilation.

See more projects by Nadine Engelbrecht at nadineengelbrecht.co.za.

Looking for more architectural inspiration? Take a look at these off-grid cabins.