What is an earthship?

When I tell people our plans of building an earthship oftentimes I get a blank stare.  That’s ok!  I had one too when I first heard the term three weeks ago.  C however has been hearing about them since he was little.  His dad always wanted to build one.

So the premise of an earthship is to be completely self sustainable and using as many natural/ recycled materials as you can.  It’s also typically built underground to maintain a more constant temperature.  After you pass what’s called the “frost layer” of the earth the ground maintains a stable temperature.  It’s usually about 70 degrees but can vary depending on your location.  Thus reducing the need for any type of heating or cooling.  The outer walls, and inner load bearing support walls are built using tires.  Many places practically give used tires away because there are too many in used tire dumps.  it takes probably about 1500 tires to build a typical earthship.  The tires stacked and filled/pounded with dirt to create 300 pound bricks.  once the tire walls are complete the spaces in between the tires are filled with dirt and aluminum soda cans.  the walls are then completed with a thick layer of adobe the inner non support walls are built with concrete and aluminum cans, the cans are basically used as filler.  Then also completed with a layer of adobe.

(image from rucusroots.com)

Usually 3 sides of the house are below ground.  the fourth side is the south facing side that is where the greenhouse goes.  This side does not have a wall of tires.  It has greenhouse windows.  This is what helps keep the house warm, and also grows food indoors.  Our earthship will have a front door on the other end of the house as well, built into the ground.  we like the idea of our house looking like a hobbit hole.  We are also starting with a cement floor.

The most expensive parts of the build will be the cement floor and the solar panels which will provide all of the energy to run the house.  Off grid systems can be pretty expensive.  The final expensive part of the build will be the water system.

We will most likely be getting our water from a well, most earthships use cisterns.  We are choosing to do the well because our roof will be a living roof so we wont have rain water collection.  the water enters the house, is filtered, goes to a pump that pumps the water into sinks and showers.  At that point it is run into the greenhouse where an intricate filtering system called the botanical cell will filter out the stuff from the grey water, water the plants, and end up in the toilet.  From there it will be run into a septic tank that will filter the solids out, filter the liquids, and use that to water the landscaping outside (all underground)

.(image from http://www.collective_evolution.com)

The final exciting part will be the roof.  We are not doing a typical earthship roof.  We will be using a reciprocal roof (a circle of logs placed in such a way that they lock into each other forming a round skylight in the process).  We will place the roof, use pallet wood for the wood connecting the logs, plastic on top of that, then a living roof on that with a skylight.

(image from naturalbuildingblog.com)

The whole idea is so exciting to us.  We love the idea of not only living in a self sustaining house, but also to build it ourselves.  Once we get the land and the approval to build it we will probably see about doing some sort of thing for homeschoolers to come, learn about self sustainability, and have firsthand experience building a sustainable home.

The super cool part about these earthships is that they are building them, and cob houses, all over the world.  Especially in areas where there has been some sort of natural disaster.  Michael Reynolds, the creator of the earthship, has a crew out of Taos, New Mexico who not only build them for profit, they also have crew that they send to devastated areas to build sustainable houses for people in need.  The whole idea is really amazing to me.  If I didn’t have kids, or obligations, I would pack up tomorrow and move out there to help with the cause.  This to me is exciting.

Here are some fun sites to check out and learn more:



you can also look up earthship on youtube.  There are some really amazing videos on there too.

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One thought on “What is an earthship?

  1. Looks very cool & it is very interesting! I will be following along, can’t wait to see the project get started! Best of luck!!
    Your “distant” cousin

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