The size of a house is often inversely proportional to its sustainability. As proof, the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program has a home size credit that's friendliest to abodes of a smaller footprint. The Shack at Hinkle Farm passes this litmus test with just its diminutive square footage, but there are more green strategies here than meet the eye.

Located on 27 acres in the mountains of Upper Tract, W.V. (about 160 miles from Washington, D.C.), the 196-square-foot retreat is the work of Jeffery Broadhurst, AIA, who wanted a simple weekend retreat for himself, his wife, and their daughter. “The question was, What is the cheapest, simplest thing I can do that is a step up from tent camping?” the principal of Rockville, Md.-based Broadhurst Architects explains.

His straightforward solution is a structure with a 10-foot-by-14-foot main room and two 4-foot closets. Simple in form, the house is clad in locally milled pine board-and-batten siding and topped with a utilitarian metal roof exposed to the interior. “I wanted to be respectful of the area's agricultural buildings—they're only what they need to be,” Broadhurst says of his choices. Indeed. The house is uninsulated and totally off the grid, relying on five oil lamps for light, a wood stove for heat, and rainwater collection for an outdoor shower. It sits elevated on wooden posts that allow breezes to circulate, and small windows on the northwest elevation promote cooling cross-ventilation inside. A garage door fronting the southeastern side means the homeowners can enjoy the wide-open meadow or use the large deck and its removable canvas shade for outdoor living.

The “Shack” is just enough steps up from camping to provide a great escape from civilization and the primitive world.