Power and Water
Earthships by their nature are off-grid. This means they are self-sufficient in terms of electricity and traditional service utilities. Solar panels and/or wind turbines generate electric power. The home’s roof surface acts as a “collector” for rain and snow harvesting. Water consumption is further enhanced by re-use. An Earthship’s water stores are “processed” by filtration and purification means for initial use. Grey water from sinks and showers is processed through a biological/planter bed before being used to flush conventional toilets. These planter beds can also be used as gardens (some people grow food in grey water-irrigated gardens; some do not). The waste water from the toilets is then processed in an exterior system that can be used for exterior landscape needs. With this system the water is actually used four times… which is a great savings in its own right. Hot water for domestic use is produced using thermal solar power.
Recycled Building Materials
One of the greatest advantages of Earthship construction is the use of reclaimed materials. The fundamental “building blocks” of an Earthship include tires, bottles and cans. Earthship “foundations” begin with old tires that are filled with simple dirt. This local material is compressed into the “form” of the tire and provides a strong solid and dense “brick”. These tire walls are built on three sides of the structure and provide both thermal mass and support for the home roofing system. Interior and decorative walls are often built using bottles and cans as the “core” materials. This integrated “matrix” of concrete and containers reduces the total amount of mortar that is needed and can provide a great decorative element.
Earthships are gaining popularity and can be found in nearly every climate type. One of the best known examples of this type of architecture and sustainable building style can be found near Taos, New Mexico. Here an entire community of Earthships make up the “Greater World Community.” This “subdivision” has been in existence for nearly 20 years.
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