Earthship Biotecture is the construction and education company, headed by Michael Reynolds out in the New Mexico desert that designs & builds Earthship homes.
What is an Earthship?
Michael defines Earthships as buildings that incorporate the 6 following principals to creates a comfortable living space, and a house that looks after all your needs. These are:
Building using recycled material
Passive solar heating &cooling
Onsite contained sewage
This creates the perfect oasis in the desert: comfortable temperature in the extreme hot and cold (40 degrees in summer and -30 in winter), enough water to live on (even though rain fall is 8 inches a year), food inside your house (nothing grown outside), tons of power (300+ days of sunshine a year) and all off grid (no utilities offered on the masa!).
Having been to Toas to train and work with Michael Reynolds and his crew, I can testify their their beauty and comfort, and the incredible hard work and genius it took to design, build, redesign and perfect. Being a kiwi, I am keen to bring these ideas home and this year have been working on NZ’s first permitted modern ‘global model’ situated in the Coromandel.
Our climate in Aotearoa varies from top to bottom, from lush northland, to windy grey/blue wellington, to cold clear Otago and everything in between. What is the perfect design in our country for off-grid homes thats can give you a comfortable living space and still provide all your utilities? This is something Im passionate about working on.
I have discovered a few challenges, in transporting these desert homes, back to our beautiful shores. Some are related to the design of the building themselves, and some just to building practice/council requirements/legal details.
*Since we have a much higher rain fall, there are lot of challenges around water proofing; the front face is build with no eves which here all needs flashing, ground water is a huge problem especially behind the berm and hydraulic water under the floor.
*With water recycling, its illegal to put it through your house (even in a contained grey water planter) and also illegal to transport it back to flush your toilet.
*Food production is easy for us outside (mostly!), and we are not in need of the extra humidity inside.
*Sunshine is extremely important to these buildings; for power generation, to heat the huge amount of thermal mass, and to keep the back walls dry (some here experience mold on the back walls). Wellington, I would say, would struggle with the required sunshine hours.
*I am also really interested to see if we can create a cooling system thats work even when the house isn’t totally shut up, as here we generally live both inside and outside. The Earthship way is to create convection currents through opening the skylights at the top of the greenhouse, and drawing ‘earth-cooled’ air through the cooling tubes into the house – a great way as long as the house is closed up.
I’m passionate about Earthships, I fell the principals are excellent, sound and at the foundation of healthy, comfortable and sustainable homes. Looking forward to working with anyone who would like to explore more in this direction.