Earthships! If you haven’t heard of them, this will be a pleasant surprise. It all started the first time I was traveling across Canada. We were driving in a purple minivan with Collective Evolution decals on the side. We received an email from someone saying they saw us driving around Ottawa and wanted to invite us over for a chat at their earthship. I says to my travel buddy I says “What is an earthship?” He didn’t know either. Google ended up telling us that it’s a sustainable home built from tires and pounded dirt. The pictures were awesome to look at and immediately I was intrigued to find out more. We never ended up getting to go see the earthship as the timing didn’t work out and it wasn’t until a couple years later that I really began to look into what earthships were all about. (Don’t forget to browse pics below!)
“. . . the Earthship is the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building.” – Earthship Biotecture
As the creators Earthship Biotecture describe it “An earthship is a type of passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials.” They are a very unique way of creating a home that is completely off grid and self-sustainable. Imagine living in a house that collects and treats it’s own water. A house that heats and cools itself all without spending a penny on utilities! This is what earthships achieve for their owners and it is becoming a popular option for those looking to ‘live differently.’
Heating & Cooling
This is probably one of the most exciting things about earthships as they take care of some of the most expensive aspects of a home; heating and cooling. Not only does this take a load off natural resources but the way in which heating and cooling works is much more natural.
The design of the walls creates thermal mass which allows the home to collect heating during the day from the sun and store it in the walls. As night falls, the heat is released from the walls to keep things warm. Naturally with the night being colder, the walls will cool making it a naturally cooler place during the daytime. The swings in temperature are a lot more comfortable and natural than what we are used to today with heating and cooling systems.
Foundation and Walls
The basic construction of an earthship is not quite as complex as you might think. All external and load bearing walls are made of stacked tires that have been pounded with dirt. Interior walls are made of a honeycomb of recycled cans and bottles held together with concrete. It is actually quite a beautiful design as you can see. While this is the traditional design for interior walls, walls can be made using more conventional methods as well. It just won’t be as environmentally friendly as the original earthship design.
Since earthships tend to be built partially underground, windows are designed in such a way that allows maximum sun exposure. The sun comes in from the large windows and not only provides sunlight for the plants but is also the main heating source for the house in the winter and nightfall. Skylights also exist on roves to allow for air circulation and light.
Earthships collect all of their own water via the rain. Even in climates with very little rain like the dessert, an earthship can create enough water for a family to drink, wash clothes, shower, use toilets and water plants. The earthship treats all of its water systematically to clean it for safe drinking and clean showering. The earthship reuses water 4 different times through various filtering processes that happen both naturally and systematically.
While filming for CE3 earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to stay at an earthship for a night while in New Mexico. Here we were in the straight up summer heat of the desert thinking “This will be a great test for air conditioning I tell you.”
The experience staying inside an earthship was awesome. It felt like being in an extension of nature while you are inside. Inside the house itself was a garden that grew many different types of plants. I imagine if this earthship was for a family and not just rentals, much food could be grown right inside. The temperature was perfect. We were in shorts and a t-shirt and had no problems in regards to being too hot. The temperature was a great balance coming from outside and it was cool and comfortable without it being overly cold like air conditioning. Throughout the evening we enjoyed everything as we would in a regular home. We had full use of water, showers, toilets, cooking, a fridge, TV and internet.
The night was cooler outside and yet inside the temperature was warmer to compensate. I was quite fascinated with how it all played out to be honest. As the morning sun came up and things started to get warm, the earthship began releasing cool air the night lent to the walls. It was such a fascinating process to see happen.
Possibly one of the last things you would think about, yet was most noticeable being in the earthship was the fact that everything felt very calm and quiet. The very fact that there wasn’t huge surges of electricity running to the house via hydro lines made a very big difference on the overall feel of the earthship inside. The relaxation you feel in your physical body is something that cannot be ignored. You do not hear any buzzing of electricity and no fans spinning.
The best part is, these solutions can be built anywhere!
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