Earthships are a sustainable adaptation of a human dwelling which are completely self-sufficient and off the grid in all aspects. These eco-designs were researched and developed during the energy crisis of 1970 by Architect Michael Reynolds. He then started his company Earthship Biotecture. This company pioneers not only in the construction of these houses but also gives plans and tutorials online for people who wish to construct their Earthship. 

The term ‘Off-grid’ means that these dwellings are completely self-reliant, they do not conserve any form of public utilities like water, electricity, sewage instead have their local mechanism for everything. 

In recent times, people have started taking sustainable steps to be more environmentally conscious. Earthship is a perfect example of this human adaptation of co-existence with our environment. 

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Earthships_www.loveproperty.com

Ingredients to sustainability

The Earthship is made from various kinds of wastes like tires, glass bottles, cans, and tins. These retrieved wastes not only propagate ‘recycle and reuse’ but also provide insulating properties to the structure. They are usually filled with mud and packed in rammed earth. 

The insulation works in both climates, keeping it cool in the summers and warm in winters. The thermal lag concept is beautifully incorporated. The structure is positioned such that it receives an ample amount of natural light. The rear walls are directly built into hillsides or rammed with mud for passive energy generation. 

The walls which are lined with aluminum can have a double layer, with an air gap in between. The glazed walls are limited to only one portion of the house, that is south side in the northern hemisphere and the Northside in the Southern hemisphere. This glazing is upcycled glass fixtures. 

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Reused glazing for ample natural light_www.loveproperty.com
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Recycling glass bottles to create interesting patterns on walls_www.loveproperty.com

On-site energy generation

Wind turbines, Solar panels, and biodiesel generators are used to produce electricity and lighting. The heating and cooling system is mostly incorporated into the design but additional systems are provided using the above eco-friendly techniques. 

Rainwater harvesting is another important addition. This filtered water is used for all functions in the house. The run-offs are collected and used to water the indoor and outdoor plants. These plants are locally available and grow naturally.

Some examples

The Earthship community-dwelling in Taos, New Mexico consists of more than 70 houses which are all off-grid and self-sufficient. Some of them are rentals for Airbnb while others are prototypes from aspirants to come and learn the technique of building these eco-homes.

1. The Phoenix 

It is the biggest dwelling in the community consisting of two wings, the east wing consists of bedrooms, kitchen, and living and the smaller west wing consists of a suite with a terrace. It’s a 5,300 sq ft property with a tropical intervention of grapevines, banana plantations, and various other green pastures. 

Some of the spaces within are opened into the greens portion, to feel one with nature and create a microclimate. The bathrooms are semi-open to the indoor green pastures with glass bottle partitions. Though it’s culminated with a native sense of design yet it’s aesthetically and functional very modern and luxurious.

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The Phoenix, dining amidst the greens_www.loveproperty.com
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The Phoenix, semi-open kitchen space_www.loveproperty.com

2. The Vallecitos

It’s an interesting landmark in the Earthship community, as it’s an evolved design that depicts a conventional home but is characterized by rustic methods of construction. Like any other Earthship, this is also off-grid and doesn’t depend on public utilities. It consists of multiple windows to capture the scenic views of the desert community. 

The concept of thermal lag helps trap heat and create comfortable indoor spaces. The rain and snow harvest collects and filters the water for usage. It consists of 2 large bedrooms with bathrooms, a kitchen, living, and dining. The inhabitants can enjoy the fruits and vegetables grown within the site.

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Washroom at The Vallecitos_www.loveproperty.com
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The Vallecitos_www.loveproperty.com

3. The Waybee

As the community progressed, the design intervention also saw evolution. This Earthship is a pure sense of beauty. There is an incorporation of indoor gardens that grow organic fruits and veggies. There is also a massive indoor greenhouse. Like any other Earthship, 40% of the construction materials are salvage wastes that are recycled.

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An indoor greenhouse at The Waybee _www.loveproperty.com

These small steps to sustainability give us hope for the future. The world is deteriorating, we as humans need to take a stand to decide and propagate measures that help save our environment and build an eco-friendly system. Homes are vital and cannot be overlooked, the 

Earthships are a way in which one could solve the crisis and also provide luxury as an addition. The construction technique is a slow and undiversified process, but this could be a small step towards a more self-reliant future. The techniques used in the construction of Earthship could be practiced on a larger scale and make it viable to a diverse range of habitats. These dwellings have a limitation concerning context as they cannot penetrate the concrete jungle. This limitation could be pondered and researched to bring variants that could be viable in cities as well. 

Author

A recent Architectural graduate who believes that words are a virtual expression of form. Never been a book fanatic but developed a passion for writing through the course of architecture. She believes that a structure can be nurtured to perspective by the words that describe it.

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