Living for tomorrow, today...

A winter session on the Coromandel Earthship

Things are moving along at Earthshipship Te Timatanga in the Coromandel Peninsula. Our 8 week workshop saw the build through to the roof going on, and since then a skeleton crew has been working on getting it toward a water tight shell with working systems. The greenhouse has been built, planter cell filled and infill interior walls started.

We have set a date for another push, and that will be 2 weeks; 22nd june – 3rd july. We have places for 12 interns, and we will work full weeks. learning will be on the job site, focusing on; earth renders, mud bricks, bottle walls construction and finish carpentry. Sleeping will be off-site (backpackers options or local accommodation), and food not included. $95 per week per person.

If you are keen to join us, please email Gus Anning – to register.

winter internship cormandel

The Coromandel Earthship workshop complete

 Its not easy to manifest an Earthship in New Zealand, but as you can see below, it is possible. Its been 10 months since I first went to see Gus Anning and Sarah Rowe’s property in the Coromandel. Now, with the help of 50 or so people, we have an ‘almost enclosed’ 4 bedroom 2 bathroom permitted Earthship. Nearly 8000 labour hours were put in, and a community of 30-40 (depending on the week) gathered; students, crew, chefs, wwoofers, architects, plumbers, electricians, roofers, machinery operators, families! All pitching in to the one goal; build Sarah, Gus and their family an Earthship.

Its been an amazing journey, and I look forward to the remaining finishing work over winter. 

In a general and quick run down, heres the focus of each of our weeks, from 1 to 10: WEEK 1 and 2 everyone was set to the tyre pounding task, getting 1100 or so in, over 10 courses (layers). Each was leveled, and geogrid was inserted between tyres every 3rd course into the earth berm. Drainage was filled behind, and the waterproofing layer (permathene) was laid under and behind the tyre wall, along with 2 layers of insulation.  Week 3 and 4 was after the tryre work was complete and working on getting the slab and bound beam poured. Prep consisted of polythene water proofing under the floor, mussel shell insulation, laying plumbing and ALOT of steel tying. Week 5 was the start of the mud work – both mudbricks for internal walls and cob in the back wall to pack out the tyres. The bond beam was plated, and the wing walls finished. Week 6 was the start of the interior greenhouse framing, bathroom wall framing and working on the front tyre stem wall to recieve the cantilevered greenhouse. Week 7 saw Vegas (roof beams) going on, they were birds mouthed (levelled), cut to size and the back of the building insulated and wrapped.  Week 8 saw the roof finally on! Also they grey water cell lined, plumbed, plus the electrical and plumbing inside the building.  Week 9 saw the greenhouse built, bottle walls go up in the east and west entry. Also the by-fold doors hung in the west living space. Week 10 the grey water planter cell was filled and the velux windows installed. Plus framing for the bedrooms, the breakfast bar window in. The crew taking a break now, just waiting for glazing and doors hung to be water tight. More workshops coming in April and June to finish the inside.











Updates were posted on Earthship New Zealand (on fb), if you’d like to see more pics please visit the site here

All other queries please email

Kicking off the project


 We are nearly 3 weeks into the Earthship build in the Coromandel now, of this 3 bedroom ‘Global model’ inspired home. A quick building site update: Progress is developing before our eyes daily – today finishing our last course of tyres (10 courses of about 75 per course). Cooling tubes are in and buried. Backfill, drainage, insulation are in behind the tyre walls, and water proofing of the east and south wall are done.


I am very excited to be part of a project taking serious steps towards off-grid green building. There are many advantages to Earthships, in its thermal mass qualities, water catchment and recycling, independent solar power supply and contained sewage. But seeing as these building were pioneered in the desert, we obviously need some changes for our climate and building code. Things to address include water proofing details (especially in the floor and behind the tire walls), reinforcement in case of tectonic movement, and design elements (such as vertical glass and eves). Its great to see changes in materials too, like the choice of mudbrick internal walls (rather than cans and cement), old sails used to protect the vapour barrier, and crushed mussel shell as insulation in the floor (with an R value of 2).

Its a privilege to be working with so many talented and qualified individuals on this project, which, in my opinion creates a wonderful petrie dish for creativity and forward thinking projects. Architects, Engineers, TCDC officials (Thames Coromandel District Council), building crew, a digger driver, electrician, plumber, students from 7 countries – all with skills and experiences to add.

I’d like to give special credit to our national and international crew (Ben Garrett, Justin Dudley, Sean Bozkewycz, Brenton Stockman, Peter Larson and myself) who are working to create both a productive work site AND an educational environment. This means the weeks are busy! Quite apart from work hours, we also include guest speakers, Earthship lectures & docco movie nights into our week. Its an energetic site, and a great place to be. Our community wouldn’t be complete without all the extras we enjoy – the Dj’s coming to play, our delicious meals headed by our wonderful chef Loli in the container kitchen and our morning yoga classes from Siests and Mary.

 Lastly, a huge thank you to Gus & Sarah and their family for all their work, hosting us on their land and providing such a wonderful base of operations. The work hours put in are enormous, with everything from organizing sponsored clothing (thanks Cactus and Earth, Sea, Sky) to getting the coffee flown in by helicopter (true story). You’re the best guys!  





Stage 1 consented Plans for Earthship Te Timatanga

Gus Anning, Sarah Rowe and their family are celebrating extra this festive season, with the timely release of their Resource consent and stage 1 building permit for their proposed Earthship home. Architects Richard & Young from Auckland, Graham North from Warkworth and his associated Engineer Grant Stevens worked to get plans ready for the TCDC (Themes Coromandel District Council) to sign off.

There are still a few last minute places for students on this build, but be in quick, our start date for this build is confirmed at January 12th. Link HERE for all info. Any questions email









Coromandel Earthship build Update

Coromandel Earthship Update – preparing site and taking registrations!


Just a quick update on the progress of the Coromandel build and Workshops, starting January 12th!

Site preparations are going well with the resent installment of a 7m tipi which will be a chill space for everyone, along with a talking space for some of our speakers (more on that below!). Another 10m tipi will be installed at Christmas, so we have shelter (if it ever gets cold there!) and beautiful places to eat, make music and relax in.


So far we have confirmed:

*Kay Baxter Kay is a heritage seed saver and has been an organic gardener for fifty years. She is a co-founder of the Koanga Institute in New Zealand and is an educator in the fields of Nutrient Dense Food Production, Regenerative Garden Design and Management. She is a researcher in the field of human health in relation to our environment and has authored many books including:

  • Change of Heart (the Ecology of Nourishing Food), The Koanga Garden Guide, Design your Own Orchard, The Koanga Garden Planner, Save Your Own Seeds, How To Grow Nutrient Dense Food, Design Your own Forest Garden


Graeme North is our head architect, will be helping navigate our build. Graeme is particularly interested in the integrated relationship between plants and buildings, a concept that incorporates permaculture principles, a concept he calls “livingscapes”. Graeme helped write the mudbrick code and would love to share his knowledge of building with cob and lime plastering with us all.
David Jordon from The Hemp Farm will be talking about the effectiveness and sustainability of using Hempcrete in the building process. If you dont know much about building with hemp, watch this video…
Ngapaki Moetara will present “Engagement Through Tikanga Marae – The sharing of our practice in Rongoā Panipani (Māori Medicinal Plant Balm) as a vehicle for engagement” –  Ngapaki and her husband are a whānau from Manutuke, Gisborne with a passion for community, taiao, the arts and Rongoā Māori. They have been exploring what it takes to engage their communities in all aspects of our well-being. 
Brian Gubb paved the way for us all in Aotaearoa by building the first consented earthship, finished in 2009. He will be onsite to lend a hand as he has probably has tyre pounding withdrawels. He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Alternative solutions and has written material and stories from his own experiences.
So! If you still need a reason to come and join us in the Coromandel this summer, check out our swimming hole 50m from our campsite.
swimming hole
More Info HERE at the web page
Questions  - email:  rosa.scarlette@gmail
Online registrations here – $350 a week includes full catering, camping amenities, workshops and build site



graphics 2


We invite you to join us on our 8 week intensive Earthship workshop, starting Mid January. The workshop will cover all facits of Earthship design and construction. We have 40 special places to learn from our core crew. The dream team of experienced Earthship builders from around the globe are passing on their knowledge to build a fully approved and functioning Earthship. We will be covering many topics such as Thermal, & Solar Heating & Cooling, Building with Natural & Recycled Materials, Water Harvesting, Storage and Filtration, Natural Flow Sewage Treatment, Finishing Options and techniques including cob & hempcrete, Permiculture design and food production. Solar Electric Systems, as well as the plans and the permitting process and much much more. During this time we invite you to camp on our land and become part of a community. With two tipi on site providing a classroom and communal dining. We have two vibrant chefs destined to prepare the high energy and nutritious meals required to sustain us. Topped off with a deep crystal clear river for daily renewal and a mountain hut climb finale, we hope you will join us on this amazing construction adventure.


REGISTRATIONS ARE OPEN! please click here for an online form. 

For more info contact Rosa at

Sloped versus vertical glazing

Ironbank ESWe’ve been taking note of some of the modifications Martin Freney has made to the global model earthship design for the Ironbank earthship project in Adelaide Australia.  Martin is doing PhD research on earthships and has done computer modelling of their thermal performance so we think must be good reasons behind the design changes he has made.

A few departures from the Mike Reynolds earthship design of note are:
1) Vertical glazing instead of sloped glazing on the north face.   Vertical glazing more easily allows the installation of blinds or shades if required, to exclude the worst of the mid-summer sun.  Vertical glazing is also cheaper and simpler to install.
2) Use of skylights which double as vents, in the sloping area of north facing roof, along with fanlights over the interior doors.  These are considered essential to get light to the back of the rooms which would otherwise be quite dark, even with a light/white ceiling.  
3) Use of solar fans to vent the greenhouse area, and circulate air between the greenhouse and room behind. 
 Any comments on these design aspects welcomed.

Bottles for underfloor insulation

bottle floor

glass bottles as underfloor insulation

One of the key features of earthship is their use of waste materials in construction such as tires, bottles, cans etc. In the Waiheke earthship we are going to use bottles as underfloor insulation.  We haven’t heard of any other earthships doing this, however it fits into the whole earthship ethos so I’m surprised that its not part of Mike Reynolds approach.  The bottles will be laid on their side in a bed of sand over the  damp proof membrane.  Another layer of sand will cover the bottles and the spaces between them, and then a concrete pad poured over the top.  On top of this we are going to have an earth floor for a more giving and comfortable feeling underfoot than a hard concrete finish.

According to our architect Graeme North, preliminary calculated R values for 100mm thick concrete floors insulated underneath with bottles laid in dense sand is approx. 1.65 m2oC/W  and with bottles laid in pumice sand is approx. 2.06 m2oC/W.

This ignores the R value of the earth underneath the slab which varies according to floor perimeter length and with any edge insulation.

These figures have not been fully checked, and are calculated first order assumptions only, with considerable margin for error.  The  actual insulation values can only be proved by testing.


Waiheke earthship update

w elevationMany of you may be wondering if the Waiheke earthship is still going ahead. We’re pleased to say that after a period of regrouping we’re now moving ahead with the detailed design and hope to have building plans ready to submit to Council in the new year. We looked into the Kickstarter project for a NZ version of the global model earthship however after review and assessment of interest from the ES community we realised this would cost more than we’d be likely to raise through crowdfunding and not worth the effort. So we are going ahead with our own custom design which is a split level 3 bedroom earthship. The lower level is a standard global model with greenhouse on front but the top level is more open with a rear tyre wall but no greenhouse on the front. That’s because we want the living area to have large sliding doors opening straight out into a deck. This will reduce the thermal performance of the building in some ways however with Waiheke’s mild climate we’re willing to make that compromise. And if additional heating or cooling is required we also have some very innovative and first of it’s kind alternative technologies to draw upon from Dana’s energy company, Energy Alternatives. We’ll be posting more regular updates from now on as we make key design decisions and look to having a building schedule posted early in the new year.

Natural Building Conference and Tour

The Earth Building Association of NZ (EBANZ) invites you to their annual

“Natural Building Conference”.

 Labour weekend: Saturday 25th October and Sunday 26th October 2014 on the Kapiti Coast

(Optional: Monday 27 October 2014 in Wellington)

 Come along to meet fellow natural building enthusiasts and share a wonderful weekend.


             Visit at least eight spectacular homes that are constructed using a range of building techniques.
Listen to the owners/ designers talk about their building experiences.

             See practical demonstrations on:

o   rammed earth construction

o   light earth infill panels

o   homemade natural paints

o   and adobe brick testing

             Listen to our keynote speakers Professors Robert and Brenda Vale from the School of Architecture at Victoria University and authors of “Time To Eat The Dog” and “The Autonomous House”.

             Be shown around a permaculture garden by Emily Williams one of New Zealand’s permaculture experts

             Hear presentations on a range of sustainable building practices.

             Join a “show and tell” session, where participants can share their natural building stories in a short, punchy format

             Question the “ask the experts” panel, led by some of New Zealand’s most experienced natural builders and eco designers

             Get an update on the “New Zealand Earth Building Standards” revision

             Network with experienced owner builders and building professionals

             Share meals, accommodation and socialise with like-minded people during this information packed weekend


To find out more, register and book your accommodation today




Or call Verena on ph: 03 5450240