Earthship

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An Earthship house is made up of rammed earth and tires. The tires are stacked like bricks and earth is pounded firmly into each tire, making them firm enough to form a dense wall. The walls are load bearing and provide thermal mass which stores heat and releases the heat slowly. As a result indoor temperature is kept constant while outside temperatures fluctuate. The walls are quite often plastered over and appear very similar to an adobe style house. Michael Reynolds, a Southwestern US architect, is credited with building the first Earthship.

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Why should I be aware of this?

As Earthships provide a large amount of thermal mass, they help keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The homes are designed to make use of natural resources and oriented to take advantage of passive solar radiation. Rainwater is also stored in cisterns and greywater is recycled.

An Earthship can be owner-built as it requires only basic carpentry, plumbing and electric skills.

Earthship and environment

More and more of us are trying recycling and being more "green" in our day-to-day actions and choices. We are slowly realizing that each individual can make a difference in the effect we have on the environment. Reuse, reduce, and recycle is the way we can reduce our footprint on the planet. Footprints we leave behind in this world will have a definite impact on the environment.

Earthships are houses made of local unwanted materials, recycled materials such as tires packed with dirt, empty bottles and drinks cans. Its power comes from solar and wind energy. A catchment system on the roof collects rain and provides all the necessary water, which is recycled four times. It processes its own sewage, which is diverted into a reed bed and provides manure for the garden. And in its construction, it recycles the rubbish we create.

All about Earthship

Earthship homes are constructed of various materials that would normally go directly to landfills. Earthships are cheaper than conventional building, as they use recycled, or reclaimed materials like used tires, bottles, cans, fallen trees, adobe.

The objective of Earthship was to make it exist in harmony with its environment, free from the constraints of modern shelters which rely on centralized utilities. It is important for the Earthship to create its own utilities and be able to handle the three systems; Water, Electricity and Climate. While these systems are not exclusive to Earthships, a properly designed Earthship must have these systems.

  • Apart from the thermal mass that maintains a comfortable temperature within the house throughout the year, Earthships have systems for routing of rainwater off the roof into cisterns to provide a source of water. This is ideally suited for areas where drilling a well may be impossible or too costly.
  • Photovoltaic panels combined with a wind generator will provide electrical power for the home. There is a composting toilet to take care of the waste. Indoor gardening can be accomplished without wasting precious clean water because it contains a system to make use of the gray water
  • Earthships are "U" shaped with the open end of the U facing south to make maximum use of solar energy. Earthships can be built into the side of a hill, or backfilled on the outside to give the look of being built into a hill. The interior walls are finished with adobe, or cement providing a nice surface and leaving the tires hidden within the walls.
  • Interior non load baring walls are created with empty aluminum beverage cans are often used to create interior non load baring walls. Another option is to use cans that have both the top and bottom removed and create a honey-comb affect with your walls.
  • Earth coverings can be used on roofs and nice grass maintained on the cover.

Earthships are currently located in almost every state in the US and throughout Europe. With a simple modification to the original plans, using insulation on the outside walls, Earthships have been found to be suitable in any climate and have shown to maintain a level of durability that is comparable to more conventional structures.

Unlearn

There are some Earthships which have serious problems with heat loss, wherein heat appears to be leaking into the ground constantly during the heating season and being lost. This may be caused by the mistaken belief that ground-coupled structures (building in thermal contact with the ground) do not require insulation.

In very limited and specific situations, uncommon during the heating season, thermal mass can marginally increase the apparent R-value of a building assembly such as a wall. Generally speaking thermal mass and R-value are distinct thermodynamic properties and should not be equated. Thermal performance problems apparently seen in some Earthship designs may have occurred due to thermal mass being erroneously equated to R-value. Thermal mass, in the most general sense, is any mass that absorbs and holds heat. The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance.

References:

  • Earthship
  • Earthship: Sustainable Living at Its Best
  • How to Build Homemade Rubber Tire Gardens