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Sustainable Homes: The Earthship

Homes and other buildings have a direct impact on the environment due to the construction process utilized to build them, the materials used, and the design features. Traditional homes have typically had a negative impact on the environment, contributing greenhouse gases into the air with heating, cooling, and other types of energy usage. Sustainable building is gaining traction as more people seek to reduce the negative impact of their homes on the environment. Earthships are one sustainable home option, created by architect Michael Reynolds. These structures are designed for independent operation off of the grid, minimizing their negative impact on the environment. Some municipalities are developing special sustainable communities with Earthship homes for sale.

History of Earthships

Sustainable Homes


Earthships have been evolving for more than 40 years with home designs that can exist in harmony with the environment. Reynolds receives credit as the mastermind behind the concept of Earthships. Reynolds's vision has involved redefining architecture to build homes that need no energy or very little energy, both during the construction process and after. The name "Earthship" was created for these homes because they are self-sustaining structures. This means that they use renewable sources of energy such as the sun, wind, and water to power the home.

Construction and Design

Earthships contain both recycled and natural materials, earning them the label of "carbon-zero" homes. Contractors scour landfills to find suitable building materials for constructing Earthships. Materials such as discarded tires, aluminum cans, and glass and plastic beverage bottles have been collected for use in building Earthships. Mixing old tires with compacted soil creates an exceptionally strong material suitable for outer walls and load-bearing interior walls. Aluminum cans may be the main material used to construct other interior walls. These homes even utilize discarded panels from appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators in their construction. In addition, Earthships are built to coexist with and integrate into their surrounding natural environment. These homes have a soil thermal wrap around them, which helps regulate the interior temperature of the homes. Earthships often have at least two sides that are built into the earth. The roof design of Earthships enables harvesting of rainwater to divert into the home. After filtering the rainwater, homeowners can use it for laundry or cleaning.

Generation and Use of Power and Water

Earthships are independent structures, producing the power needed for their heating, cooling, water generation, water heating, sewage, lighting, and general electricity. With the installation of special organizing modules that collect energy from the sun and wind, Earthships save this energy for use in the home. Special batteries will hold the energy until the home needs it for heating or cooling, for example. The batteries will also use the energy for other processes in the home, such as operating a washing machine, kitchen appliances, and electrical devices. After collection of rainwater in cisterns, a special water organizing module filters and pumps the water into a pressurized tank for use in the home.

Examples of Earthships

A number of different Earthship designs are in active use around the world. As research and technology continues to expand, Earthships evolve with new designs and features. Some people opt for a custom Earthship with features that are built to exact specifications. This type of Earthship is the most expensive type of home. Other models are more economical because they have standardized features. Earthships can be designed and built for virtually any geographical location, including tropical parts of the world.

How to Acquire an Earthship

Sustainable Homes


Acquiring an Earthship involves learning about this type of home and then planning the location of it. Choosing the location of the Earthship is an important part of the planning process, due in part to the permit process that is typically involved. It's possible to build an Earthship in any climate, so geographic location need not be limited based on this factor. But some locations may be less expensive for building due to varying prices in sustainable building materials. Anyone wishing to build an Earthship should research possible locations, including the terrain and geographical features, as well as permits required.