There is no need to leave our orbit to experience the essence of a spaceship. Keep your feet on the ground and live in an Earthship instead.
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What is an Earthship?
Earthships are a building design focused on efficient use of natural resources. There are some trademarked features that classify Earthships, including the ability to passively heat and cool effectively, collect and recycle water, and use renewable energy for power. Another shared feature is the use of recycled and natural materials in the construction process. This results in a very energy efficient, environmentally friendly and off-grid living option.
Related: Phoenix Earthship has a food garden and jungle in an off-grid way
However, the design is not for everyone. First, these are some strange looking structures. Second, as a minimalist form of architecture, it may not suit your needs. However, if sustainable building and the thought of off-grid living is your vibe, an Earthship might be just what you’re looking for.
How do you build an Earthship?
Traditionally, people built houses from adobe, many of which are still standing. Over the years, people have also built earthbag houses. Earthships are kind of an extension of both ideas associated with sustainable building practices.
While there are Earthships in every state and around the world, the vast majority of them are located in or around Taos, New Mexico. The Earthship design is most effective in arid, desert-like environments. In addition, the local regulations accommodate the less-than-mainstream structures.
Most Earthships are built without any kind of traditional foundation. Walls are made of tires full of dirt and dirt, stacked and then covered in adobe mud. They also sometimes include concrete and wall frames for support. Alternatively, the walls can be insulated with straw bales.
While some Earthships definitely have an alien feel to them, there’s nothing alien about the design concept. In fact, the whole purpose of Earthships is to ground. They are built with recycled materials as much as possible. It’s a great use for tires that are otherwise difficult to recycle or dispose of properly. Likewise, most Earthships contain large amounts of post-consumer glass.
Interior walls are built using filled aluminum cans, glass bottles or plastic bottles. Shower walls, fireplaces, and countertop supports are usually built the same way.
Passive Design Elements from Earthships
Despite there being no standardization for Earthships, there is a leading design program offered by builders Earthship Biotecture that teaches people the basics of building their own Earthship. With this foundation, many DIYers use similar processes to achieve maximum passive design benefits.
It starts with the right orientation for effective use of natural light for heating and cooling. Passive heating and cooling is achieved with airflow, heat-trapping building materials, placement of windows and similar design elements.
Since these homes are off-grid, it means there is no reliance on fossil fuels for heating, cooling, cooking and other electrical needs. Some structures contain fireplaces or stoves to counteract the cold draft.
In addition to helping to warm the house, strategically placed glass windows create a greenhouse effect that is perfect for growing an indoor garden. Since sustainability is a major goal of the Earthship community, being able to grow food fresh from greenhouse to table, just steps away from each other, is a welcome element of the home and is often used.
While heating and cooling do not require energy, other modern energy needs are met by solar energy systems with photovoltaic panels, batteries, charge controllers and inverters.
Water conservation is also at the forefront of the Earthship’s design, starting with collecting rain and melted snow from the roof. The water is stored and pumped into the house for use in bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens. Gray water flows into internal greenhouses to water plants and is naturally filtered. Outside, the water is used to irrigate the landscape. Overall, water is typically used four times in Earthship design for maximum resource conservation and little to no water bill. In addition to water conservation, water extraction is common.
Rent or do-it-yourself?
Some companies specialize in building Earthships and the initial cost is about the same as traditional building. As with standard stick-built houses, you can save money by building your own Earthship. However, it is a time consuming and energy consuming process. Many Earthships are half finished because costs are rising and owners are throwing in the towel.
It’s important to remember that while an earthship can cost as much or more to build than a traditional house, the total water and energy savings are about a quarter of the number of regular designs, so you’ll recoup those initial costs.
Note that some local building codes do not allow Earthship construction. It’s fair to say they don’t conform to most regional building codes. Insuring your structure is also a challenge due to its non-standard nature. Financing your Earthship probably isn’t a viable plan either, as lenders aren’t too hip with the idea of owning such a structure.
As with any big decision, take your time and consider all the pros and cons. For Earthships, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs of being in the DIY mood for a home that’s all yours.
Via Freethink, Inverse
Images via Adobe Stock