Earthships are eco-homes that strive to be as self-sufficient as possible. Usually they are built in rural areas, and may be built as part of a homestead. Many people who chose to live in earthships are living at least partially off-the-grid and equip their homes with things such as solar power, compost toilets, and on-site sanitation facilities. Nevertheless, many are also built to be back-up homes or emergency shelters. It’s possible to have both a traditional home and an earthship on the same property.
They are great for people who would like to retire, because you vastly reduce your monthly expenses and it is quite easy to live off of social security or a pension. If you aren’t quite ready to live there full time, it makes a great weekend or summer home to enjoy the great outdoors and not have to pay the outrageous hotel or resort fees.
Construction – One of the many reasons why so many people are building earthships these days is the extremely low cost of construction. Organic and recyclable materials are used whenever possible, such as old tires, glass bottles, and aluminum cans. The interesting thing is that though these materials are cheap, they actually make a sturdier house than the traditional wooden frame and drywall that most homes in the United States are built with today. If you look at any picture taken after a natural disaster, you will see these wooden homes scattered everywhere, but earthships are far more solid, often being built partially into the ground as well.
Old tires are used as the framework for the house. The tires are packed full of soil, and simply laid out wherever you would like your walls to be. In the spaces where you cannot place a tire, you can instead place a concrete block. These are only used for the external, structural walls. For the internal, non-structural walls, aluminum cans or glass bottles are usually used instead, since these do not need to be as strong or insulating.
The use of such small materials gives you great design flexibility, and you can choose how round or square, wavy or flat your walls will be, or whatever other design feature your heart desires. On top of the cans you put a layer of concrete, and on top of the concrete goes a layer of either adobe or stucco.
Design – You might think because some of the materials I mentioned aren’t very aesthetically pleasing that it’s not possible to have a beautiful home, but that’s not the case. All of these materials can be covered with stucco and painted whatever color you like. Your home can look as modern or as “earthy” as you want. Here are a few examples of some beautifully done earthships:
Greenhouse – Many earthships also have greenhouses which stay extremely warm in the winter. It’s important that the greenhouse face to the south, because in the south the sun will hit it the hardest, keeping it as warm as possible, yet in the summer the sun will not hit as hard so that it doesn’t overheat.
The panels of the greenhouse should be solar panels, which will provide the electricity for the house. This means you do not have to give up modern technology such as computers, light bulbs, or microwaves if you don’t want to. The more electricity you plan on using, the more solar panels you should plan on integrating into your building plans.
You can put plans in your green house to continue to provide fruits and vegetables for the winter months, flowers for decoration, and put a table and chairs in the remaining space to enjoy the natural warmth.
Kitchens – You can build a kitchen with either a wood-burning, a gas stove, or an electric stove. Naturally, one of the latter two are more eco-friendly and convenient, but you will need to ensure that your earthship will be generating enough solar-power if you would like your food preparation to depend on it. Many other kitchen appliances can also run off of DC power, meaning that they can run directly off of power generated by solar panels.
More on plumbing, rainwater collection, and sewage coming soon!