“Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills;
“Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.”
Designed as fully self sustainable dwellings with independent electrical, food and water systems, Earthships become one with the landscape, creating an environment of warmth, health, provision and independence. This is not your typical cabin in the woods.
These “radical sustainable buildings” have been formulating in the mind of Michael Reynolds, a New Mexico eco architect, for nearly forty years. His innovative use of cans, used tires and water bottles as building materials was the focus of the 2011 documentary Garbage Warrior.
A key benefit to those who dwell in an Earthship is structure’s ability to maintain a constant temperature regardless of outside weather events:
“Earthships constantly hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheight (22 degrees Celsius). This phenomenon results from the solar heat being absorbed and stored by ‘thermal mass’— or tires filled with dirt, which make up the structure of the Earthship. The thermal mass acts as a heat sink, releasing or absorbing heat when the interior cools and heats up, respectively.”
In an Earthship, city water is used as a backup system:
“The entire roof of the Earthship funnels rain water to a cistern, which then pumps it to sinks and showers when required. That used ‘grey water’ is then pumped into the greenhouse to water the plants. after being cleaned by the plants, the water is pumped back into the bathrooms for use in toilets. After being flushed, the now ‘black water’ is pumped to the exterior garden to give nutrients to non-edible plants.”
Commenting on the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water supply, Michael Reynolds suggested that creating a harvesting rain water system, as in the Earthships, would be of great benefit to it’s citizens.
On a global level, the originators of Earthship Biotecture have a mission to help rebuild completely sustainable, food producing, water producing structures worldwide in any location that has experienced a natural or man made disaster.
For those interested in discovering more about these magnificent Earthships, there is ample opportunity. Intensive hands on training sessions replete with classroom instruction and construction lab work are available through an Earthship Academy held throughout the year in Taos, New Mexico.
(Photo credit: Earthship Biotecture)