Earthships

Earthships are houses that are virtually self-sufficient in terms of energy, water usage and food production.

The whole concept has been pioneered, developed and refined by architect Michael Reynolds in Taos, New Mexico. Reynolds prefers to call his work 'Biotecture', as it involves a lot more than traditional architecture. He has battled a great deal of resistance from those who write building codes and the establishment in general. After a long fight he has convinced the powers that be that this type of experimental housing offers a lot, including fighting global warming.


The houses utilize a lot of tires, bottles and cans in their construction; using up materials that fill landfills in many parts of the world. The walls are very massive, being constructed of rammed-earth filled tires, which are plastered to make them attractive in appearance. The thermal mass of the walls and berming of the north-facing side of the house minimizes temperature swings and effectively insulates the houses. The whole of the south side of each house is covered with windows. The huge area of windows is sufficient to keep a house warm in the winter even when the temperature drops well below 0ºC; hard to believe but apparently true!

Behind the windows are large areas where fruit and vegetables are grown in abundance, supplying as much as eighty percent of the food for the people living in the house.

All water landing on the roof of the house is collected in two 5000 gallon tanks and is used four times over. The water is used for drinking and all other normal uses for water. Wash water from baths, showers and sinks passes on to the vegetable growing area where it is partially cleaned by the plants. Water leaving that area is used to flush toilets. The 'black water' leaving the toilets goes to a conventional septic tank. The water exiting the tank is used to water landscape plants, but not anything that might be eaten directly.

Electricity is produced from photovoltaic cells that generate enough electricity to power the house.

The whole house is insulated, apart from under the house, where the earth helps with heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.

Garbage Warrior which documents the world of earthships and Michael Reynolds development of the concept may be viewed on Youtube.