What the heck is an Earthship? … maybe an idea whose time has come!

earthship brighton
figure 1: Earthship Brighton (Photo credit: ivanpope)

Have you ever heard of the concept of an “Earthship“?  I was introduced to the concept by my brother-in-law about 14 years ago and was blown away.  What is an Earthship then?  In a nutshell, an Earthship is an Eco-friendly home, made predominantly from recycled materials, designed to be as close to “off-grid” as possible.

The concept of Earthships arose in the halcyon flower-power days of the 1970s in various states in the southern USA.  The concept seems to have developed by Michael Reynolds, an architect from New Mexico.  As you can see in the linked Wikipedia article, his idea was not without problems, but it was, none-the-less revolutionary.  Michael has a website where he educates about, demonstrates and promotes the Earthship technology.  The site has designs for a number of systems that an Earthship needs if it is to meet code (see figure 2, below).

The concept has been adopted by lots of people in warmer climates, but there are very few such Earthships in Canada.  CTV did a piece in September of 2013 on a Manitoba couple that built an Earthship in the middle of a Manitoba field.  I can’t imagine very many climates that would be a bigger test of the viability of an Earthship than you would experience on a Manitoba farm field.  The CTV piece includes a video clip (3 minutes) that takes you through some of the stages of building for the Earthship where you can see the used tires that are used to build the back wall of the Earthship and demonstrates many of the features that will help it stay off-grid (such as solar-voltaic collectors, huge south-facing windows for passive solar heating, and some of the other off-grid features like cisterns for collecting rain water.

Much of the popularity of this type of home is that it uses recycled materials when it is built (removing the need for land-fill), and its costs are front-end loaded.  Once it is built, the cost of maintenance is radically reduced and the resilience of the home’s design means that the risks due to extreme weather and due to energy shortages are lowered drastically.

English: A picture of the workings of natural ...
Figure 2: A picture of the workings of natural ventilation in an Earthship. Schematic was based on a picture found in the book “Earthship Vol 2:Systems and Components by Michael Reynolds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Earthship is definitely on my bucket list.  It may not be for you…yet, but your kids may not have the choice so think about it.  It looks to me like an idea whose time is come and if it works in Manitoba…



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