Earthship abodes have six basic design principles that use existing natural phenomena:
1. They’re built with natural and repurposed materials – Tyres are the perfect form for a “rammed-earth brick” and can be seen as a globally available “natural” resource. Bottle brick walls are also a standout feature of many Earthships. Interior walls are packed out between the tyres and plastered with adobe mud. Mud is also used for floors, and reclaimed wood and metal are often used.
2. Thermal/solar heating and cooling – The main essence of Earthship structures is that they heat and cool themselves without electric heat, burning fossil fuels or wood.
Houses built with earth-rammed tyres are so strong that they don’t even need foundation
3. Solar and wind electricity – Every building has its own renewable “power plant” with photovoltaic panels, batteries, charge controller and inverter.
4. Water harvesting – Earthships collect all water needed from rain and snowmelt on the roof and stores it in cisterns.
5. Contained sewage treatment – Every drop of water that lands on an Earthship roof is used four times, so homes can subsist and even thrive without taking water from the ground or municipal sources.
6. Food production – Interior, in-home, organic food production is the most recent design principle added to the Earthship concept.
Michael Reynolds created the concept in 1969, and early buildings used discarded steel or tin beer cans, seen as “garbage” since it was before recycling existed. Interestingly, now houses built with earth-rammed tyres are so strong that they don’t even need foundations; and recently some modern comforts like TV, streaming Netflix and Wi-Fi have been added.
Hire a home at Earthship’s world headquarters in Taos (an hour-and-a-half or three-hour drive from the airport in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, respectively) from about R2 000-R5 880 per night, depending on the building size and occupancy.
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