Earthship Project: The Encuentro

Have you ever wondered what an Earthship exactly is? 

Think about a building that lives in harmony and synchronicity with the sun and Earth. It gives you food, recycles your water, and provides you with energy. 

The definition of an Earthship is any building that fulfills these six basic needs: shelter, water, electricity, food production, grey water recycling and contained sewage, and a redefinition of “trash” by building with re-purposed/recycled materials. 

Earthship Biotecture in Taos, NM has been creating these living buildings for years now. At Family Haven, we are using their designs to build our mother a home where she can retire and enjoy life as a part of the greater community.

The building is essentially a thermos bottle, like Mike Reynolds says. A tire wall about 10' high runs all down the West, North, and East sides of the house, providing the structure on which the roof sits. Behind it, there is a 4-5' section of compacted Earth. Then, a layer of insulation wraps around the walls, held in place within a berm that covers the tirewall from top to bottom. (Fig. 1)

All the windows of the building face south, collecting solar energy for an interior greenhouse, which takes up about a third of the total square footage of the house. Between the greenhouse and the living space/bedrooms, there is another wall of glass.

Metal tubes that go through the berm on the North wall bring in fresh cool air. With the suction effect of the hot air from the greenhouse exiting from the vents as the temperature rises and the air moves around, the building cools itself with no fan or other appliance. 

In cooler weather, the mass of the tirewall and the 4-5' of compacted earth around the walls store solar energy in the form of heat during the day. At night, this heat slowly gets released into the interior of the building, keeping the house warm with no need for wood stoves, propane heaters, or any other forms of consumables. 

The water in this building starts as catchment from the roof. It is first stored in the cistern, placed within the berm next to the tirewall. From there, it goes into the building through gravity. A small solar powered pump pushes the water through various sediment filters for sinks, showers and laundry room. For kitchen sink and drinking water, a carbon filter purifies the rain-water even further. 

Once the water is used that first time, it travels to the rest of the Earthship. In the greenhouse, there are botanical cells, or planters, that are designed as filters for all water from sinks, washing machines and showers. This nutrient rich water feeds the plants, which is filtered out to be used again in toilets and watering outside plants.

All black water from toilets goes into a contained septic system on site. This the third time the water gets utilized in the Earthship, starting as a raindrop on the roof, filtered, used to wash your hands, then to water plants then to flush your toilet.

Our particular Earthship will replace concrete wherever possible with adobe mud from the site it's being built on. At Haven, we have lots of adobe, and sometimes LOTS of mud. With adobe floors and walls, it will be an extension of Earth, giving us the shelter and comfort of being contained within it.

If you would like to come learn how to build one, volunteer at the worksite, or get hired, contact us!