Nathaniel Berman is founder of Housely,a design and real estate blog tracking trends in domestic architecture. In this article, he discusses the environmentally friendly design and numerous benefits of the earthship, a 100-percent-sustainable housing form.
All architecture directly impacts the environment as a result of the construction process used to erect them, the design features and the types of materials used. In the past, the construction of traditional homes has negatively impacted the environment, and these continue to contribute to greenhouse gases through long-term energy usage. As society becomes more aware of these issues, sustainable design is increasing around the world, with more future homeowners seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Image via MNN
Earthship homes are 100-percent-sustainable homes that are inexpensive to construct and can be incredible to reside in. They boast numerous amenities not found in other sustainable building styles. Earthships started taking shape during the 1970s when Michael Reynolds was seeking a home that used sustainable architecture and indigenous materials, relied on natural energy and would be feasible for the average individual to construct. His vision culminated in a u-shaped home, which kicked off the entire Earthship movement.
As a result, most modern Earthship buildings are horseshoe-shaped to maximize the amount of natural light and solar gains during the colder months. Windows in the home always face the sun to admit light and heat. The walls are thick and dense, constructed from tires to provide thermal mass that regulates the interior temperature naturally.
Via Orange Smile
Earth-rammed tires are assembled by teams of two with one member shoveling dirt into the tire and the other using a sledgehammer to pack the dirt in. These tires can weigh up to 300 pounds, so they are commonly made at the construction location. Finished tires are large enough to surpass conventional structural load requirements, and because the tire is packed with soil, it will not burn when exposed to fire.
The top of the tire walls contain beams that are constructed from recycled cans and bonded by concrete. These are then connected to the tire walls utilizing concrete anchors. Non-load-bearing walls are constructed from a honeycombed shape of recycled cans, known as tin-can walls, which are also joined by concrete. The roof is made from trusses that rest on the outer walls. The roof and all other walls — except those containing south-facing windows — are heavily insulated to maintain the internal temperature.In addition to the lack of environmental impact, Earthships boast a variety of other benefits. Check these out and be inspired to build your own!
Image via Democracy Now
1. Comfortable temperatures
One of the greatest draws of the Earthship home is the ability to sustain comfortable temperatures all year round. From freezing-cold temperatures to blistering climates, Earthships hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round. This is due to the solar heat being absorbed and stored in thermal mass (tires filled with dirt), which is the basis of the Earthship structure. The thermal mass operates as a heat sink absorbing heat when the interior cools and insulating when the interior needs warmth. The greenhouse windows at the front of the home face south, allowing the sun to heat the thermal mass during the daytime.
2. Modern amenities
When most people hear the word sustainable, they think primitive housing that is removed from 21st-century comforts. Until the Earthship home model, the majority of sustainable solutions have fit this description. On the other hand, Earthships offer all of the comforts of modern homes, only the entire house is sustainable.
3. Recycled materials
Most of the materials used to construct an Earthship are recycled. The structure is first constructed using tires filled with dirt. With thousands of tire dumps around the world, there is no shortage of used tires. The walls above the tires are constructed with plastic and glass bottles set inside of concrete. In developing nations, these bottles can literally be gathered from the street to help clean up the neighborhood and build a house.
4. Renewable energy
With solar panels lining the roof and wind turbines in the backyard, the Earthship home allows you to collect electricity the natural way: from the sun and wind. This will ensure that you are never short of power and eliminate the cost of buying energy from the electric company.
5. Financial freedom
Because all basic needs are provided from the home, there are little to no utility bills each month. You do not need to work a dreaded job only to survive. This gives you financial freedom and the freedom to enjoy life. Imagine if the world had the ability to focus on improving their surrounding environment instead of trying to make enough just to get by. This would improve everything for you and your neighbors.
6. Free food
With one or two onsite greenhouses that can grow crops throughout the year, regardless of the climate, you can feed yourself with plants that grow inside your home. For a regular source of fresh meat or eggs, simply construct a fish pond or chicken coop on your property.
7. Inexpensive materials
In addition to the money saved on monthly utility bills, Earthships are significantly cheaper than traditional homes. If you have the capability to build the house yourself, then the most basic Earthship models start at around $20,000 with more glamorous models running from $70,000 or more depending on your decoration preferences. With these low costs, Earthships fit almost every person’s budget, from the least privileged to those who are worldly.
8. Simple construction
Using printed plans with no previous knowledge, you can construct a three-story Earthship in as little as three months. There is no need to hire professional assistance or purchase expensive tools to complete the job quicker. By simply following the printed plans with basic tools, you can have a sustainable home in as little as a quarter of a year.
9. Water recycling
Another incredible feat of engineering is in the water-recycling system. Even the most arid climates can deliver enough water for daily use utilizing a rain-harvesting system. The roof funnels rain water to the cistern, which pumps it into the sink and shower. The used water is then pumped into the greenhouse and thus watering the plants that clean the water by pumping it back into the bathroom for toilet use. After this water is flushed, it is now considered black water and pumped into the garden to provide nutrients to the non-edible landscape.
This article was first featured on Housely. All images are from Housely unless otherwise stated.