Earthship Homes use approximately 45 per cent recycled materials. Old tyres, glass bottles and drinks cans are all essential construction materials. Michael Reynolds the inventor and owner of Earthships Biotecture describes the buildings as vessels. “These vessels encounter the phenomena of the earth, to provide sustenance for people.” These vessels do everything for themselves, producing all the electricity, collecting all its drinking water and taking care of all wastewater.
Construction prices may vary from $110 per square foot to $1.5 million bunkers. An Earthship vessel requires a lot of labour and dedication to the Earthship ethos. Everything from collecting all the necessary materials available locally to pounding the tyres for the vessel frame. Typically, a tyre used in an Earthship home is packed with 136kg (300lb) of earth.
Earthship vessels are self-sustaining homes constructed from reclaimed materials.
Earthship homes are unique because they do not require utility grids, water and sewage pipelines. Therefore, giving the vessel owner physically independence. Each vessel gets everything its inhabitants need from nature. Sun, rain, gravity, wind, condensation, convection all come together to create a living breathing habitat that takes care of its occupants.
Michael Reynolds says the six essential things that humanity needs are water, electricity, comfortable shelter, sewage treatment, garbage and food. The Earthship proposes to provide all these things at no additional cost to its inhabitants.
Over the past 30 years, the design of the Earthship Homes varied considerably. From Mexico to Malawi, India, Canada and the Philippines. It appears the Earthships homes work best in warm climates. Colder climates require additional heating sources to keep the home temperature regulated during the winter months.
Before the construction phase, it is recommended you consider energy modelling to predict the particular energy performance of your vessel. Modelling software look at a variety of things including insulation thicknesses, they can account for sun angles and micro climates. Thus, informing you whether your interior climate and temperatures are appropriate for an Earthship Home.
Adaptations to Consider
Critics of these homes argue about the door and window design, room placement, lack of separation of the house from the greenhouse. As well as, the abundance of underground insects in the home and leaking roofs are design problems. Furthermore, another major concern is the off-gassing of the tyres, which could potentially expose vessel occupants to volatile chemicals and heavy metal. The thermal mass is attributed to the thick earth berm and packed earth walls, not the tyres.
Alternative adaptations include an aquaponics household system for water purification and greywater harvesting. Hydroponics is ideal in the greenhouse for leaf vegetables. Solar panels and solar water heaters are recommended. Biogas would be ideal for food waste, other organic non-food waste should be composted. Additionally, vermiculture would work well for toilets.
Presently, there are various ways to upgrade the Earthship design with modern sustainable technologies. However, the installation and improvements mentioned do not necessarily save money but they do reduce grid dependency.
Above is a video of fabulous Taso, New Mexico Earthship.
Below is a video of the Groundhouse an Earthship vessel constructed in Brittany, France.