An earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires , pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds .

An Earthship addresses six principles or human needs [1] :

  1. Thermal / solar heating and cooling
  2. solar and wind electricity
  3. self-contained sewage treatment
  4. building with natural and recycled materials
  5. water harvesting and long term storage
  6. some internal food production capability

Earthship structures are intended to be ” off-the-grid- ready” homes, with minimal reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels . They are built on natural resources, especially from the sun and rain water.

  • They are designed with thermal mass construction and natural cross-ventilation to regulate indoor temperature.
  • The designs are intentionally uncomplicated and mainly single-story, so that people with little building knowledge can build them.


The Earthship archecture concept began to take shape in the 1970s.

The architect Michael Reynolds wanted to create a home that would do three things: first, it would utilize sustainable architecture , and indigenous material; second, the homes would rely on natural energy sources and be independent from the “grid”; Thirdly, it would be possible for a person with no specialized construction skills to build. Eventually, Reynolds’ vision has been transformed into the common U-shaped earth-filled tire homes today.

Construction and design

The buildings are often horseshoe-shaped due to the difficulty of creating sharp 90 degree angles with rammed tires. In Reynolds’ prototype at Taos, the opening of the horseshoe faces 10-15 degrees east of south to maximize natural light and solar-gain during the winter months, with windows on sun-facing walls.

The book, Earthship I , describes how to find the best angle on the building’s geospatial location. The thick and dense walls provide a natural balance of temperature and temperature. The outer walls in the majority of Earthships are made of earth-rammed tires, but any dense material with a potential to store heat, such as concrete , adobe , earth bags, or stone, could be used to create a building similar to an Earthship. The tire walls are staggered like traditional brick work, and often have “concrete half blocks” every other race, to equal the length of the staggered tire below. In addition, they also use “squishies” – or they are used to compensate for varying tire size.

The earth-rammed tires of an Earthship are assembled by teams of two people. One person shovels dirt and scoop at a time. The other person, who stands on the draw, uses a sledgehammer to pack the dirt in a moving circle.

Rammed earth tires can weigh up to 300 pounds, so they are typically filled in place. Because it is full of soil, it does not burn when exposed to fire. [2]In colder climates, extra insulation is added on the outside of the tire walls.

The walls are made of reinforced concrete beams and joined by concrete. These are attached to the walls using concrete anchors, poured blocks of concrete inside the top tires. Wooden shimmer blocks on a wooden beam. The wooden bond beam consists of two layers of lumber bolted on the concrete anchors. Rebar is used to “nail” the wooden shoes to the wooden bond beam.

Internal, non-load-bearing walls are often made of a honeycomb of recycled cans joined by concrete; these are nicknamed tin can walls . These walls are usually thickly plastered with adobe , and resemble traditional adobe walls when finished.

The roof is made using trusses, or wooden support beams called vigas , that rest on the wooden shoes or the The roof as well as the north, east and west facing walls are heavily insulated to reduce heat loss.


Earthships are designed to catch all the water they need from the local environment. Water used in an Earthship is harvested from rain, snow, and condensation. As water collects on the roof, it is channeled through a silt-catching device and into a cistern. The cisterns are a gravity-feed to a water organism module (WOM) that filters out bacteria and contaminants, making it suitable for drinking. The WOM consists of DC-pump. Water is then pushed into a conventional pressure to create a common household water pressure.

Water collected in this fashion is used for every household activity except flushing toilets. The toilets are flushed with gray which has been used at least once already. Typically it is filtered from sinks and showers.

Greywater , recycled water for drinking, is used within the Earthship primarily for flushing toilets. Before the greywater can be reused, it is channeled through a particle and grease filter / digester and into a 30-60 “deep rubber-lined botanical cell, [3] a miniature living Machine , dans le Earthship. Here the water is oxygenated and filteredusing bacteria and plants to Reduce the nutrient load. [4] Water from the low end of the botanical cell is directed through a peat moss filter and file Managed in a gold tank well. The reclaimed water is Passed once more through a greywater board and used to flush toilets.

Black water is water that has been used in a toilet. Earthships utilize anaerobic digestion in their septic tanks, which of course separate solid waste. The black water is used in concrete cells with plants, separate from the gray water plants in the greenhouse; it can also be used in exterior planters. Studies on the safety of growing food plants in a low water system show low levels of E. coli bacteria. It is not recommended to plant edible in black water; may be refused for plans for such use of black water.

Where it is not possible to use flush toilets operating on water, dry solar toilets are recommended.


Earthships are designed to collect and store their own energy. The majority of electrical energy is harvested from the sun and wind. Photovoltaic panels and windturbines on the earthship generate electricity that is stored in deep-cycle batteries . The batteries are housed in a purpose-built room on the roof. Additional energy can be obtained from gasoline-powered generators or by integrating with the city grid.

In an Earthship, a Power Organizing Module (POM) takes a proportion of stored energy batteries and inverts it for AC use. The Power Organizing Module is a prefabricated system provided by Earthship Biotecture that is simply attached to a wall of the Earthship and wired in a conventional manner. It includes the necessary equipment such as circuit breakers and converters . The energy run through the Power Organizing Module can be used to run appliances, computers, kitchen appliances, print machines, and vacuums. Ideally, none of the electrical energy in Earthship is used for heating or cooling.

Thermal performance

Earthships rely on a balance between the solar heat gain and the ability of the walls and subsoil to transport and store heat. They are designed to use the properties of thermal mass and with the intent que la exterior rammed-earth walls pulls Provide thermal mass That will soak up heat During the day and radiate heat During the night, keeping the interior climate Relatively comfortable all day. Earthships are sunk into the earth to take advantage of earth-sheltering to reduce temperature fluctuations.

Some earthship structures have fallen into the heat during the heating season. This may be due to climatic differences between New Mexico where earthships were first built and cloudier, cooler, and wetter climates. Thermal performance problems may also have occurred due to thermal mass being erroneously equated to R-value . The imperial R-value of soil is about 1 per foot. [5] Malcolm Wells , an architect and authority on earth-sheltered design, recommends an imperial R-value 10 insulation between deep soils and heated spaces. Wells’ insulation recommendations increases the depth of the soil decreases (a negative correlation).

In addition to thermal mass, Earthships uses passive solar heating and cooling . Large front windows with integrated shades , bang walls and other technologies Such As skylights or Steve BaerTrack Rack Solar trackers are used for heat regulation. Earthships are made of the main wall, which is nonstructural and made mostly of glass sheets, faces directly towards the equator. This location allows for optimal solar exposure. To allow the sun to heat the mass of the Earthship, the solar-oriented wall is angled so that it is perpendicular to light from the winter sun. This allows for maximum exposure in the winter, when heat is wanted, and lesser exposure in the summer, when heat is to be avoided. Some Earthships, especially those built in colder climates, use insulated shading on the solar-orientated wall to reduce heat loss during the night. [4]

Current Earthship designs like the global module have a “double greenhouse” where the outside glass is angled towards the equator, and an internal glass wall forms a walkway or step into the Earthship. This greenhouse is primarily used to grow food; it also creates a barrier for the ‘comfort zone’ inside the house.


Earthships structures have a natural ventilation system based on convection . A 30 ft. Pipe extends from the inside of the house under the berm, getting the comfort zone. As the hot air rises, the system creates a steady airflow – of cooler air coming in, and warmer air blowing out though a smaller winded window in the greenhouse.

Around the world


The first earthship in South Africa was built by Angel and Yvonne Kamp from 1996 to 1998. They rammed a total of 1,500 tires for the walls. The Earthship, near Hermanus , is located in a 60 hectare private nature reserve which is part of a 500 hectare area enclosed in a game fence and borders the Walker Bay Nature Reserve.

The second earthship in South Africa is a recycling center in Khayelitsha run as a swop shop concept. The center was finished in December 2010. [6] Another low cost house is built in Bloemfontein . [7] [8]

A project nearing completion in South Africa is a combined living room for 4 to 5 people, a bed and breakfast, and an information / training center in Orania . [9] This earthship is based on a global earthship model and is built with a foundation of tires, built with earthbags , and built with cob, cans and plastic bottles. This earthship joins all six principles of an earthship. This is the largest earthbag earthship in the world. [10]

A residential house was in the planning phase for Swaziland in 2013. [11]

In 2011, construction began on the Goderich Waldorf School of Sierra Leone . The school was the first educational institution to use earthship architecture. Although Mike Reynolds and a team of interns helped complete the first two classrooms, the majority of the building had been trained in Reynolds’ building techniques. [12] [13]

A new project was scheduled to begin in Malawi in October 2013. [14]


In 2000, Michael Reynolds and his team traveled to Boingt (Belgium). While water, power module, solar panels and the team were on their way to Europe, the mayor of Boingt put his veto on the building permit. Josephine Overeem, the woman who wanted to build the earthship, and Michael Reynolds decided to do a demonstration in her back yard at her residence in Strombeek (Belgium). CLEVEL [15] invited Reynolds from Belgium to Brighton in the UK, and orchestrated plans for the earthship in Brighton, started in 2003. This was the beginning of a series of trips made by Reynolds and the construction of earthships in the UK, France and the Netherlands.

In 2004, the very first Earthship in the UK was opened at Kinghorn Loch in Fife, Scotland. It was built by volunteers of the SCI charity. In 2005, the first earthship in England was established in Stanmer Park , Brighton with the Low Carbon Trust . In 2007, CLEVEL and Earthship Biotecture obtained planning permission to build a site overlooking the Brighton Marinain the UK. The application followed a six-month feasibility study, orchestrated by Daren Howarth, Kevan Trott and Michael Reynolds and funded by the UK Environment Agency and the Energy Savings Trust. The successful application was for sixteen one, two, and three-bedroom earthquakes on this site, expected to have a sale price of 250 – 400,000 pounds. [16] The United States is adapted to the United States and adapted to the United Kingdom. 15,000 tires will be recycled to build these homes (the UK burns approximately 40 million tires each year). The plans include the enhancement of habitats on the site for lizardsthat already live there, which is the reasoning behind entitling the project “The Lizard”. This would have been the first development of its kind in Europe. [17]

The first official Earthship home in mainland. The home, which was owned by Kevan and Gillian Trott, was built in April 2007 by Kevan, Mike Reynolds and an Earthship Crew from Taos, it was sold to a family in 2014. The design was modified for a European climate and is seen as the first of many for the European arena. It is currently used as a holiday home for eco-tourists. [18]

Further adaptation to the European context by Daren Howarth and Adrianne Nortje in Brittany , France. They obtained full planning permission in 2007 and finished the Brittany Groundhouse as their own home during 2009. The build experience and learning is documented in the UK Grand Designs series and in their book. [19]

Earthships-have-been built or are being white built in Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, [20] United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Czech Republic.

The first official earthship district (23 earthships) in Europe was developed in Olst (the Netherlands). Building started in Spring 2012 [21] and completed in December, 2014. [22] In Belgium, 1 earthship hybrid is also being built, intended as demonstration buildings. Since it is illegal to use in Belgium (for risk of leaking toxic metals lead and zinc), [23] the project uses earthbags instead.

The Earthships built in Europe by Michael Reynolds do not always perform as promised. Some show problems with moisture and mold. [24] Some research into thermal performance was done by the University of Brighton on the Brighton Earthship. [25] [26]

Central America

An earthship was constructed in 2015 by the Aitkinson family in southern Belize . It featured on the June 2015 UK TV Channel 4 Kevin McCloud’s program Escape to the Wild , Season 1, Episode 3.

Guatemala also hosts two earthships. [27]

South America

The first Earthship in South America was built in January 2015 in the town of Ushuaia , Patagonia ( Argentina ). Today this building functions as a visitor center and example of self-sustainable living.

In March 2016, an earthship school was built in Jaureguiberry , Uruguay . [28]

In popular culture

The film Garbage Warrior is about Earthships and Reynolds’ struggle with and unconventional material and off the grid.

See also

  • Hurricane-proof building
  • permaculture
  • Peter Vetsch
  • repurposing
  • Solar thermal energy


  1. Jump up^ “Earthship Design Principles” . . Earthship Biotecture . Retrieved 15 July 2016 .
  2. Jump up^ “An Earthship goes through the Hondo Fire!” . . Earthship Biotecture, LLC. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2015 .
  3. Jump up^ “The Earthship Academy Experience” . The Earthship Academy experience . Retrieved 23 August 2015 .
  4. ^ Jump up to:b Reynolds, Mike (2000). Comfort In Any Climate . Taos, New Mexico: Solar Survival Press. ISBN  0-9626767-4-8 .
  5. Jump up^ “Energy Extension Service: BUILDING ENVELOPE: Basement” . . KSU Engineering Extension. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012 . Retrieved 5 February 2015 .
  6. Jump up^ E, Michael (November 11, 2010). “khayelitsha earthship: help set sail for a new destination destination” . UrbanSprout . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  7. Jump up^ Everson, Ludwig (December 22, 2012). “ supports Qala Tala to create earthship RDP housing” . . . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  8. Jump up^ “Qala Tala Project” . Growing Tomorrow (AgriTV) . The Weekly. January 18, 2013 . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  9. Jump up^ “Where in the world is Project Aardskip?” . . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  10. Jump up^ “Top Travel in Orania” .
  11. Jump up^ Harding, Stewart. “Archive for the ‘Swaziland Project’ Category” . . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  12. Jump up^ Elliot, Sam (March 21, 2012). “Ten Days in Africa” . . Earthship Biotecture . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  13. Jump up^ Hughes, Amanda. “University of Cincinnati builds homes with recycled materials” . UC Magazine (May 2009) . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  14. Jump up^ Nardone, Jeane (April 5, 2013). “Earthship Malawi, Africa – Join Us!” . . Earthship Biotecture . Retrieved 14 May 2013 .
  15. Jump up^ “Carbon Offsets – Carbon Offsetting – Carbon Neutrality – CLevel” . C LEVEL . Retrieved 23 August 2015 .
  16. Jump up^ “Docking into mother earthship” . Eco Home News . Retrieved 23 August 2015 .
  17. Jump up^ Earthship Homes Development(archived fromthe originalon 2007-12-13).
  18. Jump up^ Kevin Telfer,Super green European breaks(26 April 2008), The Guardian.
  19. Jump up^ “Groundhouse – Earthship in Brittany” . Groundhouse . Retrieved 23 August 2015 .
  20. Jump up^ Annette Toonen. “Duurzaam theedrinken in aardehuis,” in NRC Handelsblad ,20 November 2008; In 2008 an Earthship teahouse was built in Zwolle, initiated byTheo Lallemanand the OWAZE Foundation.
  21. Jump up^ “The project” . . 2012-06-18. Archived from the originalon 2013-04-10.
  22. Jump up^ Gorter, Karin’s. “Vereniging Aardehuis Oost-Nederland – Last hulls Earth houses completed!” . . Retrieved 2017-04-14 .
  23. Jump up^ EOS magazine, March 2012
  24. Jump up^ Article -Performance
  25. Jump up^ Source: Brighton Earthship, Dr. Kenneth Ip and Prof. Andrew Miller, Center for Sustainability of the Built Environment – University of Brighton – United Kingdom
  26. Jump up^ Hewitt, M. and Telfer, K. (2007). Earthships: a zero carbon future for homes. ISBN 978-1-86081-972-8
  27. Jump up^ Super User. “Earthship – Guatemala” . Earthship Biotecture . Retrieved 23 August 2015 .
  28. Jump up^ López, Carlos Cipriani (16 March 2016). “Escuela de llantas y botellas: Jaureguiberry presented the primera escuela pública sustentable of Latinoamérica” (in Spanish). EL PAIS .

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