Earthships look like homes from another planet. They peer out of the ground with an organic quality that is warm and exciting. These unique and surprising buildings share the character of the people who build them. They exemplify sustainable architecture that grounds humanity in its natural environment by using recycled materials, directional building, and water in creative and harmonious ways. All of this, made out of "garbage" that can be abundantly found on all continents on Earth.
It all begins with how the home is situated. Earthships are designed to align to the cycles of day and night, season by season. This is done by having an angled bank of windows facing south at the front of the home and an earth berm at the back wall. This berm is lined with tires packed tightly with dirt.
This is plastered over and provides a thermal mass that keeps the home at a moderate temperature all year long without artificial heating or cooling. As the sun shines into the home during the day it charges the back wall, as temperatures fall in the evening that heat is emitted as warmth into the home.
This design means earthships are passive solar homes.
In the winter, the angle of the sun is low and can penetrate to the back wall allowing maximum heat absorption. In the summer the sun is higher in the sky and only penetrates the front slanted windows, leaving the home cooled by the natural temperature of the Earth. Solar power can also be harnessed using photovoltaic modules to generate electricity. Earthships can be fully, or partially, off grid.
Earthships are called ships because like a spaceship, they aim to take care of all human needs in this one space. The goal is to minimize external inputs.
Lining the front windows are thriving edible plants that provide oxygen and sustenance. Positioned to receive the day's sunlight, the plants are healthy and productive. The are watered with treated grey water from the facets and shower, which is also used to flush the toilets.
Water is harvested from rainwater on the roof and held in cisterns. On demand, the water is gravity fed into a system that filters and pumps it into the home.
The floors can be often earthen and may only be sealed with a protectant that allows inhabitants to ground into the Earth herself without barrier.
A symbiosis exists between all organisms living in the home.
Earthships are specifically designed for arid areas as their birthplace is Taos, New Mexico. This is where Mike Reynolds established the Earthship Biotecture Academy. His academy teaches people in the United States and abroad how to build these homes by harnessing the phenomena of the Earth to meet the basic needs of human beings.
Earthships stand in many states, synchronizing their inhabitants with the flow of nature. Yet, the easiest places to build these homes are international areas following natural disasters. The materials and tools for building are readily available as are people willing to help. No building codes stand in the way and shelters can be built quickly and efficiently to last a lifetime.
The country of Indonesia has recently given Reynolds the use of an island. He can use one-third of it to freely explore aspects of the biotecture himself with the agreement that he teaches the citizens how to build these earthships on the rest of it. The project is born of the desire to support the beauty of the natural ecology while creating a new vision of ecotoursim.