The Earthship design uses thermal mass, green energy, and recycled building materials to create a self-sustaining home. It may be the next big thing in eco-building.
Earthships are gaining popularity around the world as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional housing. These sustainable structures, also called garbage homes or tire houses, are constructed primarily from old tires, aluminium cans, and other recycled building materials.
Eco-Friendly Homes From Recycled Building Materials
A house made from tires and cans? The sustainable building design of an Earthship makes this type of construction perfect for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint. In the most common design, tires stacked like blocks and rammed full of earth make up the bulk of the structure. This provides an excellent thermal barrier and helps keep the temperature in the Earthship stable year-round. Empty aluminium cans cemented together form interior walls and other structures within the home, and everything is covered with mud, plaster, or adobe as a finish.
Other materials used in Earthship construction include metal from recycled appliances, old glass bottles, reclaimed wood, and other sustainable and recycled materials. In the Northern Hemisphere, Earthships are constructed to face south, as this allows the home to work as a passive solar unit and helps to heat the home in the winter and cool it in the summer.
Living Off The Grid In An Earthship
The Earthship design seems to be created for living off the grid. Earthships incorporate systems for producing their own electricity through a combination of solar and wind energy. Water collection systems are an integral part of the design, also. Water and snow melt are collected, used, reused and processed on site. Greywater from sinks and showers is recycled to flush toilets, and the resulting blackwater is processed through a special system and then used to irrigate gardens and even produce year-round fresh vegetables within the structure.
Sustainable Living, Sustainable Design
Michael Reynolds, creator of the Earthship design, has spent over 35 years researching and developing the idea of self-sufficient housing made from recycled materials. His organization, Earthship Biotecture, has built these structures in many different parts of the world, including Jamaica, Africa, The Netherlands, India, and Australia.
The self-sustaining design and potentially low cost of the Earthship makes it ideal for creating sustainable communities in developing countries. As many places in the world still lack the basic infrastructure needed to deliver basic resources such as power and water to the people who live there, Reynolds and others like him have committed themselves to bringing this type of architecture to those who need it most.
Learn More About Earthships
Earthship Brighton has a pilot community just outside Brighton in East Sussex for those interested in learning more about Earthships. There are several different Earthships available for nightly rentals; most for less than the cost of a good hotel room. The organization also offers workshop experiences, which allow people to take part in the construction of an Earthship and learn more about sustainable living. By returning to a self-sustaining way of life, humans can begin to undo the damage caused to the world by industrialization and modern life — one Earthship at a time.