Earthship House Design

Depending upon where we live on the earth, we will find different climates, as well as different resources and methods for building construction. Working with the tools, materials, and techniques most appropriate to the local area when we build our houses can save both money and energy.

Earthships employ opportunistic resources (used tires, aluminum cans) in a clever passive-solar strategy, often sunk into a hillside, or “earth-integrated.” This innovative refuse-disposal and home-building concept was created by Michael Reynolds, a Taos architect.

  • Earthships are made when a hole is excavated into a slope, then tires are laid in a brick-like pattern and filled with compacted soil. The tires swell and interlock under the pressure of manually rammed earth, becoming very thick and resilient. Chinks between tiers are stuffed with partially crushed, used aluminum cans.
  • Like an adobe wall, integrity is further secured by a bond-beam atop the wall.
  • Roofing consists of the classic vegas (large wooden girders) and latillas, or modern laminated beams, along with plywood and foam sheathing.
  • A sloping glass wall along the front, oriented generally to the south, exposes the thermal mass of the tire-and-earth frame to direct solar gain. Exterior walls and rounded, sculpted interior surfaces are plastered and painted to look like adobe and rammed earth homes.
  • Earthships are often designed to be completely self-sufficient: water from roof catchments, photovoltaic electricity, and innovative indoor waste disposal are all common features.
  • Effective passive solar design can keep a well-balanced earthship hovering around 65F with no expenditure of energy, winter and summer.


Excerpted from the Real Goods Solar Living Source Book,edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.Copyright (c) 1999, Real Goods. Reprinted by permsision of Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Real Goods.

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Robert O.
Robert O.3 years ago

Thanks Annie.

K s Goh
KS Goh3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Rebecca Welch
Past Member 8 years ago oops!

Rebecca Welch
Past Member 8 years ago

These Homes are so awesome! Check out their website at to see the awesome pictures. I will be building one of these when I decided to buy a house!