First look at Billings fully sustainable, off-the-grid home - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

First look at Billings fully sustainable, off-the-grid home

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The home is located on the corner of North 23rd Street and 7th Avenue North. (MTN News Photo) The home is located on the corner of North 23rd Street and 7th Avenue North. (MTN News Photo)
(MTN News Photo) (MTN News Photo)

It's a fully sustainable house 40 years in the making.

A new Billings Urban Frontier Home completed by High Plains Architect can now be "off-the-grid" and completely sustainable.

On Wednesday, droves of people walked into a home that has no mechanical heating or cooling system.

It's without gas utility, city water or sewer service, well or septic systems, and has an impending divorce from the electrical grid.

It's built, ready to be lived in, but the journey isn't over.

"I really feel like this is just the beginning," said Randy Hafer, High Plains Architect President, Co-Owner. "It's been a really long process to get here but this is the goal of trying to get to self-contained, self-sustaining residence is really step one. We haven't live in it yet. So what does that mean, how is it going to work? And those are the things we're now going to get to find out."

The 3,900 square foot home (2,400 sq. ft. living space) in a dense residential Billings neighborhood was built to inspire.

For Randy and Janna Hafer, owners of High Plains Architect and the home itself, the strategy was to keep it simple which proved to be a more difficult venture when put into motion.

"He'd come up with things and I'd say, 'Hmmmm, I'm not really sure I can go there.' So then I'll have to do my own research picture that I'm comfortable with," said Janna Hafer.

A garden room, collected rain water, flooring from torn down barns, wood from old Cobb Field and fire and beetle-killed wood are just some of the items worth noting. The home is DC powered as well. It has a lot to live up to in order to obtain a Living Building Challenge certification.

In fact, this Red List of building materials, which spans 29 documents that includes 815 chemicals harmful to living creatures, was the constitution to finding the necessary items to build this home.

"There are times where I thought, there is no answer," Janna Hafer said. "There is no answer to what we can do."

Randy Hafer found the list also incredibly challenging "but then it dawned on it the fact it was so difficult only is an indication of how messed up things are that there is just toxic stuff just everywhere."

Pieces of the project needed to be imported from surrounding states, but the Treasure State is seeing a shift since the home began construction a few years ago.

"Slowly, I think the biggest success we have in Montana is finding locally sourced and local businesses that are doing the right thing," Anya Fiechtl, a High Plains architect.

The cost is an estimated 400,000 dollars. 

"Don't forget that sweat equity," Janna Hafer laughed.

In a presentation earlier, Randy Hafer joked "the movie 'The Martian' is really a documentary about our house."

The Hafers still have work ahead of them including landscaping.

They hope one day to expand the model to multi-unit apartment buildings.

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