Earthship Biotecture: Self-Sufficient, Off-the-Grid Communities

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Passive solar Earthships provide electricity, potable water, sustainable food production, with contained sewage treatment, and can be built anywhere in the world. Renegade eco-architect Michael Reynolds’ construction and design process called Earthship Biotecture creates beyond LEED Architecture, a sustainable green building design made of natural and recycled materials.

designed by Michael Reynolds, Earthship Biotecture, United Kingdom, eco-friendly design

Earthships catch water harvested from snow and rain fallen on tea-saucer-shaped roofs and drained into cisterns. Used greywater is reused for growing plants and flushing toilets. Photovoltaic panels and wind turbines generate DC power, stored in deep cycle batteries.

Recycled-Reused, Sustainable Homes and Communities

Renegade eco-architect Michael Reynolds’ construction and design process called Earthship Biotecture creates beyond LEED Architecture, a sustainable green building design made of natural and recycled materials. Earthships are generally made of U-shaped earth-filled tires, that meet standard building codes. Passive solar Earthships generate their own electricity, recycle rainfall for potable and non-potable uses, grow their own food, and process their own wastewater, and can be built anywhere in the world.

Though Michael Reynolds is often compared to Paolo Soleri, the visionary designer of Arcosanti in the Arizona desert, Reynolds is much less focused on the ills of sprawl and designing for futuristic cities. Reynolds is more about creating small, self-sufficient communities, which, ironically, arcosanti has become, despite the theories of its creator.

Reynolds, of Taos, New Mexico, has been producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing for the last 30 years. In thermal mass construction the building “mass” moderates indoor temperatures, with natural ventilation and a south-oriented horseshoe shape to maximize ambient light and solar gain during the winter months. Internal, non-load-bearing walls are often made of a honeycomb of recycled cans joined by concrete, usually plastered with stucco. A greenhouse on the southern exposure mitigates heat, adds moisture and purifies the air. The roofs are heavily insulated, often with two layers of four inch poly-iso insulation for energy efficiency.


Garbage Warrior, a documentary on renegade eco-architect Michael Reynolds.
Earthship Biotecture Visitor Center in Taos

Earthships catch and use water harvested from snow and rain fallen on tea-saucer-shaped roofs and drained into cisterns. Used greywater is processed and reused for growing plants and flushing toilets. Movable-mounted photovoltaic panels and wind turbines generate DC power, stored in several types of deep cycle batteries.

In Taos County, over seventy Earthships share hundreds of acres as the Greater World Earthship Community, growing their own food, creating an eco-living society while overcoming economic and institutional barriers to sustainable housing development.

GARBAGE WARRIOR is the story of radical Earthship eco architect Michael Reynolds, and his fight to build off-the-grid self-sufficient communities, by Oliver Hodge.

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Jack Eidt

About Jack Eidt

Writer, urban theorist, and environmental advocate, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion - Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com.