Earthships: a home from recycled and reclaimed materials

So, you might recycle everything you can, and use as little resources as possible, but what about building your house using rubbish?

Earthships are living green buildings, constructed using earth, waste car tyres and other recycled materials. They use the planets natural systems to provide utilities – using the sun’s energy, wind and rain to provide heat, power and water.

Earthship Brighton

Earthship Brighton

Earthship Brighton interior

Earthship Brighton interior

Water conservation and energy efficiency measures are at the heart of an earthship and ensure that rainwater and renewable energy harvested goes as far as possible. Built from reclaimed and recycled materials, Earthships combine many elements of sustainable construction, creating a building with outstanding credentials. There are now two earthships within the UK, and plans in place for several more.
Earthships embody many elements of sustainable construction and, in essence, are independent buildings that heat,cool and power themselves, harvest their own water and use plants on-site to treat their sewage. They are a style of architecture, or ‘biotecture’, a fusion of architecture and biology that has evolved from 35 years of work by the environmental pioneer Mike Reynolds. In New Mexico, Reynolds has built and helped others to build hundreds of earthships in three autonomous off-grid communities called Greater World, Star and Reach.
There are currently two earthships in the UK, one in Fife and the other in Brighton. Earthship Fife is a visitor centre set by Kingshorn Loch, and Earthship Brighton is a community centre in Stanmer Park, Brighton. Both projects can be visited and offer tours and courses. There are regular tours of Earthship Brighton on the first and third Sunday of every month.
Earthships are earth sheltered timber-framed buildings, built on any south-facing land, whether flat or hillside. On a hillside the site is excavated and the soil is piled in front of the building, being used to fill the tyres for the walls. Next the damp proof membrane and insulation for the thermal wrap are installed and the tyre work begins. Tyres are used to replace masonry, and are rammed full of earth a course at a time, up to 10 or 14 courses high.
After the tyre work, the timber frame goes up. Roof trusses and windows are fitted and interior decoration can begin. Power and water systems are installed as early as possible, so that the building site can begin running on renewable energy and rainwater.
In total an Earthship is likely to take between 4-6 months to complete for a team of 5-6 builders, volunteers and a few specialist sub-contractors.

Fife Visitors Centre

Fife Visitors Centre

There are also plans to develop an earthship community within Brighton, with the council granting planning permission for 16 1,2 and 3 bedroom earthships. The community will be called Lizard as there are lizards on the site and they work in the same way as earthships, orienting themselves to the sun for warmth.

On mainland Europe where land is cheaper, there are various residential earthship projects already underway, with two in France, one in Ger in Normandy and one in Brittany. There’s another project in Spain and one in Sweden (links to sites below)

Find out more:

The principal website is this one, a page on the European Network being especially interesting, with the Garbage Warriors site,the Fife Visitors Centre and LowCarbon Events sites also worth a look

The Earthship Toolkit
Earthship volumes 1,2 and 3 – M Reynolds
Earthships, building a zero carbon future for homes – M Hewitt and K Telfer
The Green Building Bible Vol 1 (if you get really enthusiastic, there’s Vol 2 also available)


5 thoughts on “Earthships: a home from recycled and reclaimed materials

  1. I have always been interested in earth homes and strawbale houses so where would I start and who would I call????

    • Perhaps start by contacting Mike Reynolds (details above) and find a copy of the Earthship Toolkit book. Otherwise your favourite search engine is your friend 🙂

      Happy researching!

      ~ Amalasuntha

  2. Pingback: Eco Homes opening around Derbyshire | Chesterfield Pagans

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