Small Sustainable Cabin – Ragged Island, Maine

This small, off-grid, sustainable cabin on Ragged Island twenty miles from the coast of Maine was the brainchild of the owner’s architectural designer daughter, Alex Scott Porter, who designed the structure for her retired father, Bruce Porter, former professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The exterior is clad in corrugated steel, with rolling storm shutters to cover the windows for when the blustery squalls so common to this region strike.

Thanks to the extremely remote location of the site, 90% of the materials and all of the work crew had to be shipped in, at significant expense, from the mainland 20 miles away.

The 480 square foot building (with an additional balcony bedroom) has water supplied by a rainwater catchment system which incorporates a mechanical roof washer feature: the first five gallons of rainwater during a downpour are discarded before any is allowed into the water storage tank. Then the water is drawn from the center of the tank to avoid any sediment that may have settled to the bottom or is floating on top.

Electricity is provided by four roof-mounted solar panels, that top up enough battery power to last a week. These batteries in turn supply most of the power to the cabin, including the DC operated Sunfrost fridge. Two appliances run off propane (the on demand water heater and the stove), which obviously have to rely on regular refilling trips to the two mile distant Matinicus Island.

Bathroom facilities include the aforementioned shower and a composting toilet.

Bruce said: “There was a general feeling that this house wasn’t going to work, but everything works great, just like a normal house!”

Alex estimates the cost of the five month project at around $175,000. Plans are available directly from her company at A significant portion of the cost was of course the transportation; she estimates a saving of $25,000 to $50,000 could be applied to more accessible locations.

Images by Eirick Johnson
Via Dwell and Inhabitat


Add yours
  1. 2

    Wow! What a cool house, and in such a beautiful location. Doesnt look like there is any insulation, so I imagine this is only a summer/spring home? I wonder if it would be possible to generate electricity with some sort of micro-tidal generator.

  2. 3
    JoAnne Loftus

    That’s quite a step up from the usual wooden cabin! The technology behind it is very impressive. When you are that far from the mainland you have to create your own sustainable environment. This house does that without sacrificing comfort.

+ Leave a Comment