Earthship Biotecture

Earthship Biotecture, the term conjures up some form of futuristic housing but what does it actually incorporate? Earthship’s are off-the-grid homes that are built with recycled products and intend to minimize the reliance of utilities and fossil fuels,created by Mike Reynolds in the 1970’s, there were 3 goals in mind. First, it would be sustainable architecture, using recycled materials wherever possible. Second, the homes would rely on natural energy sources and be independent from the ‘grid’, therefore being less susceptible to natural disasters and free from the electrical and water lines that Reynolds considered unsightly and wasteful. Finally, it would be economically feasible for the average person with no specialized construction skills to be able to create.

The Original Earthship

Touted as the ‘Garbage Warrior’, Reynolds went to work on creating his Earthships in New Mexico trying to devise a method of living that allowed people to look after themselves. Using bottles, cans and tires rammed full of dirt, the Earthships resembled crude domes standing proud in the desert of Taos, New Mexico. He realized that the tires were incredibly resistant once filled with mud and that they held thermal mass which helped for natural insulation.

U-shaped rooms and windows facing the sun made sure that it made the most use of thermal mass as the sun penetrated the earth filled tires. With no power, gas or water lines coming into the house and no sewage going out, going off the grid by combining wind, solar and greenhouse and sewerage technologies could potentially diminish living expenses to a minimum. Through this revelation, Reynolds made many enemies in local government and the United States legal system.

Earthships are designed to collect and store their own energy from a variety of sources. The majority of electrical energy is harvested from the sun and wind. Photovoltaic panels and wind turbines located on or near the Earthship generate DC energy that is then stored in several types of deep-cycle batteries. The space in which the batteries are kept is usually a special, purpose-built room placed on the roof. Stored energy needs to be inverted for AC use and there are power organising modules to do so which includes the equipment such as circuit breakers and converters.

Earthships have to be built according to climate so heating and cooling devices and implemented as per the location and natural ventilation systems are also a necessary part of the design. Grey water can be used for a plethora of purposes and before the greywater can be reused, it is channeled through a grease and particle filter/digester and into a 30″-60″ deep rubber-lined botanical cell, a miniature living machine, within the Earthship. With embedded plants, this filter also potentially can be used to produce food. Oxygenationfiltrationtranspiration and bacteria-encounter all take place within the cell and help to cleanse the water and then the water can feed your greenhouse.

Full Efficiency

Earthships are designed to catch and use water from the local environment without bringing in water like a typical household. Water used in an Earthship is collected from rain, snow and condensation. As water collects on the roof, it is channeled through a silt-catching device and into a cistern. The cisterns are positioned so they gravity-feed a water organization module that filters out bacteria and contaminants and makes it suitable for drinking.

It is not a surprise to think that these sort of technologies could be used in disadvantaged parts of the world. Using plastic bottles to build homes also begins to deal with the amount of seemingly useless debris that we continuously create. Using tires for load bearing walls also makes the houses very resistant to fire, wind and earthquakes. Right now in the Philippines they are building the “Windship”. It is a building that doubles as a school and also a shelter for typhoons. The Windship has evolved from the Simple Survival Earthship design and is situated outside of Tacloban in Leyte Island. Mike Reynolds and his crew have also helped out with disaster relief after the fallout of the 2005 tsunami in the Andaman Islands. In 2007, after 2 previous attempts, Mike’s ‘Test Site’ law for Earthship Biotecture was finally approved by the state legislature so he could experiment with design for the future.

Problem waste or Building material?

This sort of technology has a gold mine of uses, from being ‘off the grid’ to disaster relief and protection to recycling the mountains of tires that can be seen from space. With the unpredictability of nature and the price of utilities sky rocketing, why not have your own little fortress on a piece of land with are menagerie of animals to call your own?

Always questioning – C.Reynolds




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