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what is strategic design?

Strategic Design integrates multiple systems working together to protect your family and way of life. 

design elements

1. Shelter

2. Temperature 

3. Water

4. Food

5. Waste

6. Power

Regardless of your current situation, you can take action to better your chances of survival and learn how to prepare for a grid down event.

1. shelter / location

Living in a city or suburb is vulnerable to civil unrest and makes off-grid living and self-reliance, difficult. The best option is to relocate outside of a city or suburb, by finding a location that fits your priorities. These include climate, land/home prices, accessibility, etc.


If relocation now is not an option, look for solutions to fortify your current residence.

Shelter Key Points

  • Protection from the elements

  • Safety from intruders. What security features can you implement?

  • Ability to stockpile and/or produce water & food.

First and foremost, evaluate your current residence. If there was a natural disaster or civil unrest, in a grid down scenario, would you be protected? If not, what can you do to change your situation?

2. temperature control

How to heat your home when the grid is down.

The ability to regulate core temperature is a key survival component. If you live in an area that experiences temperature extremes (especially cold), this is an area of importance.

Building structure including passive solar, ICF, and earth sheltered homes are great options for your off-grid house design. Wood stoves, fireplaces, propane heaters and solar hot water heaters are also excellent solutions. 

A whole house fan is an energy efficient way of cooling the home in hot weather. Ceiling fans can also be effective. The simplest solution for regulating your temperature in hot weather may be a spray bottle full of water and a fan.

Temperature Control Key Points

  • Make sure you have the ability to regulate core temperature.

  • Redundancy is recommended. For example, have both a propane heater and wood stove in your off-grid house. 

  • Fuel availability is an important consideration.

3. water

Do you have an independent water source? Examples would be a well, year round creek or spring fed pond. Rain water collection can be an option, but works better as a secondary water source as weather can be unreliable. Make sure you have the tools needed to access water if the grid is down be it a hand pump, gravity fed water tank, or bucket. 

If you are dependent on city water, how much water can you stockpile? Individuals vary, but in our experience, it's 10 gallons per person per day minimum, and stockpiled food often requires added water. Designated water tanks, a swimming pool, even a bath tub can be used in a pinch to store water. Just be aware of how much water you can keep, as that may determine how long you can survive in your current location.

Water Key Points

  • Have the ability to access water, even if you plan on having alternative energy systems.

  • Redundancy is recommended. For example, have a well that feeds your water tank and/or a rain water collection system.

  • Prepare your water filtration system ahead of time.

4. food

Food storage is often the first thing that comes to mind in discussions of preparedness or self-reliance, however it ranks fourth in our list. You can survive weeks without food, days without water, but perhaps only a few hours in unsafe conditions. That being said, food is an important element for survival of any length of time, especially during a disaster scenario when you want to function at your best. 

There are two methods to address the issue of food. The first is to stockpile, the second is to produce your own. Optimally, you want both, using your stockpile as a buffer to segue into complete food independence. 

Food production is difficult to achieve within city limits. Fortunately, there are prepackaged food storage options, which can be a quick and easy way to stockpile food while addressing other Strategic Design Elements. Give yourself goals to accomplish. Start with one month, then six months of stockpiled food, then one year, three years etc.

Note: Many foods degrade over time, make sure you have appropriate food stored correctly when you are planning storage for any real length of time. 

Living outside of a city or suburb begins to open up more options for food production. Gardening, hunting and animal husbandry, along with proper food preservation can supplement and extend your stockpile and eventually, replace it.  These activities should be started immediately, while resources and information are abundant. Each food producing activity requires learned skills and additional resources. 

Food Key Points

  • Stockpile. And if you have the ability, begin to produce and preserve your own food. 

  • Be able to prepare food without power. 

  • Gardening and raising animals requires additional water, food and space. Plan accordingly.

  • Proper nutrition is important. 

Grow your own food. It's great for the whole family and  a wonderful skill to teach your children.

5. waste

When the sewer backs up, have a back up plan.


Next on our list is the ability to flush a toilet.  Sanitation is critical to maintaining health. After weather events such as hurricanes and floods, city and suburbs sewers may become overwhelmed and back-up.  Septic tanks and septic lagoons may also fail without proper maintenance

Living in certain areas of the country (such as California) may lead to a greater potential for electricity outages. If you have a well with an electric pump, that means that not only will you be without water, you will not be able to flush the toilet without a bucket brigade.

No matter what your sanitation system is, it is a good idea to have a back-up in place; whether an out-house, a biogas toilet, composting toilet or a five gallon bucket with a seat cover.  And for bathing purposes, if not sponge bathing inside, then consider an outdoor shower outside.

Waste Key Points

  • Have a backup plan 

6. power

How to go off-grid strategically? Match the correct system to the situation. 


It may be surprising, but power is prioritized last in our Strategic Design Elements. It's not that we don't enjoy the convenience of electric power, we most certainly do. However, it is undeniable that human civilization has survived and thrived for a long time without electricity. There are still segments of society and indigenous populations that have no electricty. With the threat of EMP, cyber attack, weather manipulation, unconventional warfare and energy shortages, we should either have a back-up power plan or prepare to live like the Amish. 

While the Amish lifestyle is a great example of complete energy independence, it might not be fore everyone. This is where we turn to alternative energy sources. Geothermal, hydro power, wind, solar and biofuel are all successful options with the correct application in the appropriate situation. 

Power Key Points

  • While designing your off grid-house, do your homework. Develop the most energy efficient alternative for the situation(s) at hand.

  • Alternative energy systems have varying maintenance requirements. Your alternative energy system won't work if components need to be replaced, and they are unavailable. 

  • Redundancy is recommended.

  • When in doubt, prepare to do without.

The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.


-President Abraham Lincoln

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