Self-sufficient homes are homes that can generate their own power, recycle their sewage and water, and even have space to grow food. Seems like quite the idealistic dream, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not, architect Michael Reynolds intended to make self-sufficient residences which would become a part of nature, instead of something leeching off it.
This ideal home was to be constructed using recycled materials and it could treat the sewage it generates, recycle potable water, have a comfortable internal temperature, and produce its own power. The first ‘Earthship’ he built was in 1972 and almost half-a-century later, he is an icon of sustainable living. Several hundred individuals in the US have relocated into Earthships based on or even inspired from his designs. Plenty of people are very happy with their residences while some people have been facing certain problems.
In New Mexico, at a 634-acre lot near Taos, which has been styled The Greater World Community is practically an Earthship station. There are a lot of them in the area which are constructed using rammed earth, used tires, plastic bottles, aluminium, and everyday trash. The houses get their electricity from solar panels and use recycled rainwater for their water needs. The internal climate of the house is maintained by the mud walls ensuring a pleasant temperature inside. An inbuilt greenhouse using domestic sewage water enables food growing.
Earthships also have another ace up their sleeves, that is, they can be erected almost anywhere. They take care of their own sewage and garbage, therefore there is no need for electrical lines, gas, or water. Places with steep inclines can also house Earthships due to the fact that they can be sliced into cliffs. The Earthships can certainly lend a feeling of living well without hurting nature and sans major complaints.
In the year 2011, Reynolds stabled Earthship Academy for teaching thus enabling people to make their own homes using repurposed things and sustainable materials. It has now garnered steady support from fellow Earthship enthusiasts from all across the planet. The things which they learn are of valuable use in areas struck by natural calamities or in underdeveloped countries. One such school built in Argentina is a beautiful example of this movement’s triumphs.
However, Earthships keep facing problems owing to bureaucratic hurdles as there can be plenty of problems due to Earthship’s use of unconventional materials. In fact, the New Mexico State recently declined to renew a five-year tenancy on an experimental site for Earthship Biotecture, EVE or Earthship Village Ecology. Yet another hurdle which presents itself to prospective takers is that Earthships cannot be insured or mortgaged as they are referred to in paperwork as ‘experimental’ housing. Furthermore, parts of Europe and the US have made self-sufficient housing construction legally difficult. For example, rainwater collection is illegal in places in Colorado, domestic solar energy is taxed in Spain, and the state of Florida bans grid-free housing.
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Earthships also tend to fall somewhat short of the promised idyllic living that they promise. Comfortable internal temperatures are difficult to attain in cloudier, wetter, or cold climates, and in hot climates, the interiors are too hot to be livable. Water storage and production are also extremely dependent on nature. Toxic gases can emanate from the tires in the pushed earth, which can leak inside the residences from the wall fissures which they tend to have. Insects also notoriously love the residences as much as the ground.
Regardless of the downside, the owners of Earthships love their houses and stand by the sustainable living lifestyle that they have embraced. The quest for developed and smarter Earthships have also contributed to their rising acceptance as a greener alternative to conventional housing.
Would you ever consider living in an Earthship?
IMAGE CREDIT: Earthship Global