Living for tomorrow, today...

Auckland Council committee supports Earthship concept

pic of willWill Ilolhia gave a presentation recently (9 July 2014) to the Auckland Council Environment, Climate Change and Natural Heritage Committee about Earthships where they moved to support the ‘Earthship Biotechture’ concept and forward the presentation to relevant Council committees and departments (e.g Housing Project Office), Local Boards and Independent Maori Statutory Board for their consideration.

A copy of Wills presentation has been placed on the official minutes and is available on the Auckland Council website as a minutes attachment.
Fantastic to see a team of people of Maori and Pacific descent heading off to Taos to attend the Earthship Academy and plans afoot to build prototype earthships in Tonga, Samoa and Cook Islands.

 

Up coming Earthship workshop

 

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This workshop will take place on a beautiful 10 acre property near Dunedin, New Zealand. Two 10sq m vaulted pods for food storage and a tool shed.

What we will be doing/learning - We will be taking this build from pounding tyres onwards. We will be working with the Earthship Biotecture principals, focusing on: thermal mass, building with recycled materials, water harvesting and power generation. There will be chances to get your hands dirty and ask all the questions you have to the experienced team.

More specifically you will get a chance to learn and build steel vaults, bond beams, do glass bottle work, tyre pounding, water catchment, laying cans for form work, insulation and drainage behind a tyre wall, mix concrete, cob work, natural plasters, lime render and more!

Shared learning - The intention is to create a place for the meeting of like minded people  - as well as learning building skills its a place to share knowledge and skills across all topics. Its about cooking,working, learning and celebrating together. Bring instruments, inspiring books and anything to add to a vibrant space.

Positions available: Earthships are a more recent building style, there are only a few kiwis who have been through the Earthship Academy training in Taos, USA and subsequent builds. As well as positions for 15 students, there are 3 places for experienced natural builders (or aspiring natural builders) to join the team, for the experience and food. This could very possibly lead to being hired for the next project, as the team is growing! Please state when you apply, if you’re applying for this position.

The other position avaliable is for a local Dunedin person to join the team as cook (sourcing local food, pick ups and organising breakfast and lunch) to keep everyone fed, watered and energised.

For an application form please flick me an email at rosa.scarlette@gmail.com 

 

This is a Sculpted Earth Project –

All info here at Sculptedearth.co.nz

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Mini docco of a Kiwi Earthship Builder

In the middle of last year, I received a phone call from an enthusiastic talented film maker named Lu Davidson from the Inspiring Stories Trust. I was, she said, her first choice pick for a film after I was nominated for BeCause – a site show casing talented young kiwis.

Massive thanks to Lu and her partner Mike, who came to Christchurch to film (and help out) on the finishing touches of the miniship that I started there earlier that year with Michael Reynolds on his Christchurch seminar tour. Also thanks to the Inspiring Stories Trust for believing in young kiwis and showing our work to the world.

 

 

Any questions or comments please email rosa.scarlette@gmail.com

 

 

Earthing the earthship – NZ style!

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Dana Darwin, Graeme North, Harriet Pilkington and Elvon Young discussing the design brief for NZ model earthship

Following on from the last update about the Waiheke Earthship and the positive responses we received for the crowdfunding idea, we are  now doing further ground work to scope out what “generic” earthship components such as  tyre wall structure, greywater recycling systems, water proofing and ventilation can be designed as a set of standard details and specifications that meet the relevant provisions of the NZ Building Code and can be tested for code compliance by way of an application to MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).  Having this framework in place, would dramatically reduce the input required of professional engineers and architects in the design and consenting process of any particular earthship building in NZ in the future.

We’ve drafting up a design brief for developing  a NZ standard  earthship design and details adapted for the NZ environment and planning context.  Our process would include modelling to optimise the thermal performance of a global model earthship in the NZ climate and “earth the earthship” by using less cans, less cement and incorporating  more earth building techniques.  Currently as there are no approved standards for tyre walls etc, everything is “out of the box” and each and every earthship requires design work by architects and engineers which costs a bomb!.  At least this way we could all pitch in and pay once for the work to be done which will benefit everyone who wants to build an earthship in the future.

Please note that the Waiheke earthship is a unique piece of design work altogether.  We have already realized that our earthship tyre wall design, along with other factors, is unique due to our site circumstances and house design and not neccessarily the easiest and most cost effective method for most sites.

Once we have ironed out some more of the details and the cost to engage architects and engineers to do this work, we’re looking to invite the NZ earthship community to come together to help finance the project though a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter or Pledgeme.  Our intention is to lay the foundations for an earthship uprising!.  Together we can be the change we want to see in the world (well at least in our small corner of it), and create a template for low cost sustainable building in Aotearoa. 

 

 

Finishing work on Earthship Ironban, Adelaide. Part 1

Martin Freney and his wife Zoe have embarked on the adventure of building an Earthship on their piece of land in the adelaide hills, to run as a B&B. This is to give people the experience of living in an Earthship, be it for a short time, and also for Martin to continue his Phd research on constant temperatures inside earth buildings.

This building has reached lock up stage, and finishing touches will happen in spring. Resently I was there for a month to help run a crew and interns on renders, bottle walls, hemp work and building the planter.

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Martin and Zoe chose to have natural renders inside their Earthship, which which are both earth and lime renders.

Earth renders are a mix of clay, sand and straw (final layers can use wheat paste or casein instead of straw). To prepeare, this, we soaked onsite clay (which was very rich, orange beautiful subsoil, we were extremely lucky there!) in barrels mixed with an electric mixer (left).

For cob work (pack out of tires or bottle walls) this is mixed 1:3 with sand and 1 part straw. It is then foot stomped on a tarp as its heavy and sticky, pulling the ends of the tarp into the centre to help roll the mix over and over. Cob can be left in this form until needed, it doesnt harden or go off, but may need a little added water to suit.

Layers on the wall: The tires need to be packed out in stages, to bring the walls flat. Between each layer we wet the wall, and also brushed on a clay slip (very watered down clay slurry) for best adhesion. The next layer is only applied when the previous is dry. Then we started using trawls to apply the render, wood or steel, and we used a rough float or scratcher to keep the surface textured for the next coat. For the render  we added clay 1:3 with fine blond plasterers sand, and half part fine chopped straw (run over with a lawn mower). Coats get thinner as you get toward your final layer, usually 3 coats are needed.

 

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Niches can also be made with cob (right). 

 

 

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DSC_1831Lime render is a mixture of slaked lime (powered hydrated lime, soaked in water for 3 months or more), sand, and option of straw.

Mixing render: we used 1:2.5 lime to fine plasters sand. It needs to be mixed well, with an electric mixer and needs to be thick enough it sticks to your trowel if turned upside down. Skin and eyes need to be protected well at all times!

Application: We did one layer of render, on top of cement plaster (underside of vault, arch beam and bottle walls). We sprayed lime water on the wall first – this is the water sitting ontop of the slaking lime, or lime putty mixed 1:60 with water. We applied the render with steel trowls and floated with a sponge to blend the lines as it was setting fast. Strait lime plaster gave us a beautiful light shade, which we used on the ceiling and we will use sandstone colored oxide in other interior finishes where humidity will be a factor.

Lime can easily colored by oxides – Test patches on the buttress (above)

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 Thanks to everyone involved in this project, a wonderful example of a permitted ‘simple survival’ model Earthship in Australasia, and showing the possibility of an ‘owner builder’ designing and running the project on their own land. Pioneering work is very important, though often more time consuming and expensive, where we are all learning what to do and what not to, smoothing out design complications, testing materials and seeing just how many man hours go into the building. Thanks Martin and Zoe for hosting the community of builders and interns and sharing your project with us!

Part two, three and four will be on bottle wall construction, working with hemp as insulation, and building a grey water cell.

Words and images by Rosa Henderson. All questions and comments email rosa.scarlette@gmail.com

 

 


 

Earthship wastewater system vs composting toilets

One of the questions that often comes up in relation to Earthships is why do they use flush toilets instead of composting toilets.  The design for the Waiheke earthship intends to follow the Earthship approach to sewage treatment and recycle used water (grey water) through interior plant filters/ botanical cells which is then used for flushing toilets and then treated using  a  Simple Wastewater Solutions vermi-composting wastewater system.  This wastewater system is an advancement over a standard septic tank as all the toilet wastewater goes into an exterior solid waste digestor where the worms turn it to compost.  Instead of having to pump out a septic tank every few years (and send the sludge to landfill), the end result is nutrient rich compost which can be used in the orchard.  The Simple Wastewater Solutions system also involves a series of exterior plant filters which further treats the wastewater  by filtering it and transforming it to an aerobic state by using natural processes instead of electric air pumps which most conventional onsite waste water treatment systems require.  

Simple Wastwater Solutions digestor and plant filters at Ivan Kitson's, Waiheke Island

Simple Wastwater Solutions digestor and plant filters at Ivan Kitson’s, Waiheke Island

The Simple Wastewater Solution system has been approved within the resource consent for the Waiheke earthship as its an approved wastewater system in Auckland as long as you have sufficient land area to absorb the wastewater.  The internal workings of recycling the greywater to flush the toilets falls under the building consent process rather than resource consent so this still has yet to be approved. 

So why not just have a composting toilet?  Composting toilets require a well ventilated chamber under the toilet that you can access to extract the compost and for maintenance purposes.  Given that earthships are built on the ground/ concrete pad,  into a slope and/or surrounded by earth this is not usually practical, unless your composting toilet is in a separate out-house or you  have your toilet raised high off the ground above the chamber and get the compost out from the top in which case you have to carry it though your house to remove it.

Waiheke Earthship gains Resource Consent

Resource Consent Granted – Building Consent next to come!

This is an update as to where the Waiheke ES project is currently at along with a proposal to which we invite your thoughts and comment.

The first hurdle of the consent process has been overcome with the granting of resource consent for the Waiheke Earthship by Auckland Council.  The resource consent covers such things as the size, bulk  and look of the building, earthworks, impacts on native trees, and wastewater treatment and disposal,  and was accepted as the building is low impact design and rain water collection and on-site sewage treatment as is the norm on Waiheke. 

 The Building Consent application process is yet to come and we are about 75% of the way to having a set of plans to present to Auckland Council. No construction start date has been rescheduled as yet.

To date the Earthship design process overall has been laborious, slow and costly as a result from the dynamics and complications of trying to work with Earthship Biotecture (EB) in the USA and attempting to bring Mike Reynolds design into a format which meets NZ engineering and consent requirements.  To date it just not turned out to be a workable pathway to create a cost-effective outcome so with the agreement of EB, we are now adopting a different approach which we think will be easier to manage and be more cost effective. Having got the plans and engineering to an advanced concept design stage we will now take charge of the design and compliance process from EB and finish off the detailed design of the Waiheke Earthship with our local NZ team under the guidance of architect Graeme North and present the finished product to EB for review (rather than have Mike Reynolds of EB lead the project as head architect).  We are in conversation with the Coromandel Earthship folks (Gus & Sarah) who are embarking on designing an earthship near Tariua, Coromandel and we’re both looking at working with the same team of design professionals.

We have had conversations with many individuals and groups nationwide who are keen to see a consentable NZ approved version of the generic EB Global Model Earthship accessible to their communities. We envision this could be made possible  in conjunction with the earthship design process that we are going through.  In addition to our own custom earthship design we are looking at  providing a set of earthship system NZ  generic “specifications” which could be applied to any site in NZ including an NZ approved tyre code, wastewater systems design, water proofing, ventilation and other key components of earthship design. It is important to note that these would not be a a set of building plans which could be presented for rubber stamping by councils as NZ law requires that site specific drawings are created for every building consent.  It would however save anyone embarking on their own earthship design considerable cost and time as all the key NZ code compliant details could just be lifted and applied.  By pooling resources with any others of you out there that are looking to build earthships in the future, or just want to support the movement, we have an opportunity to really empower the expansion of earthship  building in NZ.

 In order to gauge and confirm interest and also have a transparent mechanism to manage the process, we are looking into a crowd funding method called Kickstarter to raise the money to provide the generic set of code compliant NZ earthship specifications.  As we have already resolved many of the core aspects of the compliance requirements with our considerable investment to date with Earthship Biotecture and NZ architect and engineers,  we envision that it will be quite cost effective for others to chip in to achieve a full set of generic earthship specifications for themselves.

At the end of the day, whether or not there is sufficient interest, we will carry on and complete our site specific plans for the Waiheke ES project (as we imagine will others) however we feel it is much more efficient and better for all stakeholders to work collaboratively to achieve an outcome with much greater and wider benefits for the NZ Earthship community.

So what do you say – does the idea sound attractive and would you contribute to making it work?  If not why and how could this idea be improved?

Thanks and we look forward to your comments.

Liz and Dana

 

 

 

windship storm shelter – Batug, Phillipines

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Batug is beautiful. Barug is green and tropical. Batug needs help. When the typhoon Yulanda ripped through the Phillipines  late last year everything changed. Hearing the stories from those sheltering in the school rooms (the largest building in the village) when the roof was torn off is heart wrenching. I joined the Earthship Biotecture build there earlier this month, aiming to make a difference to the lives of severely effected.

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 Earthship Biotecture is just one of the many organisations trying to bring much needed aid to rural typhoon destroyed Philippines. We worked with an organisation the ground, called Earth Village, to create a structure that is typhoon proof. A design was made for a simple dwelling, with the intention on easy replication, but then the request came for a storm shelter that could also be used as school rooms.  So that was our mission. The 10 day build took place Feb 23rd to 4th March with 7 EB crew including Michael Reynolds, 50 interns and about 15 dedicated locals who trained with us.

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We built a new structure designed by Mike Reynolds termed the ‘windship’, which is one U of tyres (with steel vault), facing the same structure, accross a courtyard which is partly covered. This includes 4  smaller vaults that were made for the showers and toilets in the courtyard, and which will be installed along with the grey water cells and the solar panels on the next phase of the building. The structure catches water off the roof, is burmed for thermal mass but also to direct the wind up and over the building. Tyres, cans, glass and plastic bottles were all used in this building, along with steel and cement, 2 water cistern, 2 concrete cooling tubes, bamboo, local coco lumber and corrugated plastic. 

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It was hot and humid, living in tent city but we were spoiled with delicious food and fresh coconuts. The locals thanked us so many times for our help, but in truth I think the changed they made in the lives of us who ventured there was more of a gift. I feel humbled and inspired by the way they can pick up and carry on, with hope and a smile and more generosity than you can imagine. And having so little and working so hard. Thank you Batug, Earthship Biotecture, Earth Village and all those participating this is amazing project.

Here is the link to a great 5 min docco out already about the build, done by Mark Jaramillo (for Earthship Biotecture) and here is the link to the facebook group with posts and photos of the build.

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ros5 Any questions or comments please email rosa.scarlette@gmail.com