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Earthship House Design

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.


Read more: Home, Materials & Architecture, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse,

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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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

Go to the Source

The Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook

The Sourcebook remains the best introduction to energy-efficient technology for common folks.
-Whole Earth Review

From novices to pros, this book explains renewable energy and efficient building practices. Great reference to start design and cost estimation from each section. One of the best features of this book is the addition of the National Electric Code for RE systems. It's possible to pick a building material to build a house, design a solar electric system, decide on appliances, determine the use of a greywater system, and more from 562 pages. No more looking up pages on the net!buy now


+ add your own
9:40AM PST on Feb 6, 2012

Thanks Annie.

5:09AM PST on Dec 13, 2011

Thanks for the article.

7:45PM PDT on Jul 18, 2007 oops!

7:43PM PDT on Jul 18, 2007

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!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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