Earthship, the real “Living Green” House
An Earthship is an important instrument in our quest for a living green environment. But what are they? And will they pay off?
What is an Earthship and how are they constructed?
An Earthship is a cutting-edge ‘ living green’ building, constructed from waste and earth. Car tires and other recycled materials are used as construction material, together with rammed earth. Each tire has firmly packed earth pounded into them. Once the tires are packed, they are very difficult to move and form a dense wall. The walls are load-bearing and provide thermal mass which is an important factor for the energy house holding. Thermal mass stores heat and releases it slowly. This keeps indoor temperature constant while outside temperatures fluctuate. Once the walls are ready, they are quite often plastered with natural adobe.
An Earthship make use of our planets’ natural energy sources for their energy needs. They are as living green and self-supporting as possible, harvesting their own water and using plants as a kind of septic tank-system for their sewage. As a private energy plant wind, the sun and running water are used to meet their needs. So the Carbon Footprint of an Earthship is almost down to zero! Really living green!
Earthships are suitable for all kinds of weather, regardless of the season. For their water-needs they catch rainwater. If it is windy, they generate power and if it is sunny they capture heat and electricity. And the best part of it: it is all for free! Apart from using all resources surrounding them they employ extensive energy efficiency and water conservation measures, maximizing the amount of rainwater and renewable energy.
Who invented the Earthship?
The first Earthship is believed to be built by Michael Reynolds, an American architect from New Mexico. The name Earthship was coined by his wife as the house is self-sustaining, requiring no outside source of water nor electricity. The house sort of sails around, hence the name Earthship.
What are the benefits of building your own Earthship?
Because of the way they are built, Earthships provide a large amount of thermal mass. This keeps the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Most homes of this type have been built in the southwest of the United States although I did visit a house under construction in Bancroft, Ontario. I don’t recall if the owners were going to insulate the outside at all, but it may not be a bad idea for northern climates.
The homes are designed to take advantage of natural resources. The homes are typically built in rectangular form and orientated to take advantage of passive solar radiation. Rainwater is also stored in cisterns and gray water is recycled.
It is fairly easy to build your own Earthships. There is obviously quite a bit of labor involved but if time is not a factor, a house of this type could be built with just a couple of workers. Be aware that you need some elementary skills, like carpentry, plumbing and electricity knowledge
Not only are used car tires easy to get, some places will pay you to take them away! As there are lots of cars, there are plenty of used tires, too! And besides the use of tires, also glass or plastic bottles and aluminum cans are used .
Are there any disadvantages of building an Earthship?
Like with any other alternative house building types, you might have a problem reselling a house that is different from standard architectural designs. In most cases, the people who like a living green lifestyle and build alternative homes are usually building them for a lifetime. But plans can change and when you need to sell, it may take longer to find a buyer.
As with all alternative building methods, you might run into some problems with local building codes. The walls are the biggest hurdle. The rest of the house is built using conventional building methods, but getting approval for the rammed tires might be a problem.
Earthships are a very new concept in living green building design, so you might experience difficulties with financing the house.
Based on the above information and considered you are interested in a living green lifestyle, an Earthship will be a very reliable and absolute environment-friendly investment. So it’s not only a financially interesting move, saving you lots of money on your energy costs. They will also, as the Carbon Footprint is reduced to almost zero, become an important part of your Living Green Lifestyle. So build one….
This article about living green in an earthship was written by Victor.