From the perfectly situated destination of Taos, New Mexico, it’s home to off-grid green home owners, who thanks to Michael Reynolds (an architectural mastermind) also known as Mr. Earthship, has sparked a utopia for these people to live out their dreams of wasting less and being satisfied with enough.
Join me on this adventure and get to know these beautiful, environmentally friendly and Star-Wars-like houses.
In the beginning Earthships were exlusively built under the earth, hence the name. The reason was to allow better control over the house’s temperature, since the main objective of any green home is to use as little energy as possible and reduce one’s carbon footprint. James Fry, a former Earthship Academy student, sums it up elegantly, “My mission is to empower people to provide for themselves.”
The walls are made up of tyres filled with dirt and then concrete is compressed around them. Often these tyres can be seen, but a lot of people prefer them to be hidden. For decorative purposes and to use less concrete, tin cans and bottles are also used.
Earthship builder, Michael Reynolds, upcycles all the materials needed for his houses. These are materials that are no longer wanted and would otherwise end up as litter or in landfill.
When asked how these houses work and whether it would be feasible for everyone to adapt to this lifestyle, architect Michael Reynolds says that these Earthships bring together architecture, biology and physics. By using the natural phenomenon of air, water and sunlight and taking tyres, bottles and tins away from potentially polluting the environment he creates truly eco-friendly homes with zero emissions.
Earthships make use of passive solar principles and earth-sheltered design with the result that they aren’t reliant on the local utility grid. With the brilliant concept of having a greenhouse attached to the house to grow food as well as provide temperature control, the green home is placed at the right angle to absorb sunlight rays and keep the house warm. The walls with incorporated tyres also help to keep the house warm by acting like heat absorbing battery packs.
Rainwater is harvested for use in the home and shower water is reused three times as it is filtered through the plants in the greenhouse, then through the toilet, which is referred to as ‘grey water’, and then moves through a containment cell outside used for exterior landscaping.
Earthships have already made their mark in Africa. South Africa has taken initiative on this green home concept by building an Earthship called Project Aardskip in Orania, Northern Cape.
“If you give a poor, homeless, unemployed person a home. Then you will have a poor unemployed person with a home that he cannot afford,” says Thabo Olivier, a Bloemfontein councillor deemed the “greenest” councillor in South Africa. Instead of simply giving the homeless houses they can’t afford once all the builders have left, with the Earthship concept people will have access to free water and energy.
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