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Earthship Homes: Live off the Grid & Become Self Sufficient by Building a Home from Trash and Natural Materials

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Economic concerns and environmental issues are forcing many to take a new look at the way we live. Earthship Homes, built from recycled materials and earth and containing their own heating, cooling, power, food growth, and sewage and water treatment syste

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go off the grid and live completely autonomously? Earthship Homes founder Michael Reynolds created the prototype for a self-sufficient eco house that allows you to do just that.

Earthship homes are built according to a principle called biotecture, which incorporates plant life and recycled water into the design process. These homes' self-contained systems render utility companies practically obsolete. Earthship houses are also constructed from recycled materials and rammed earth, decreasing building costs and producing less waste.

Earthship homes are designed to work with local natural resources and recycled rubber, aluminum, wood, and other materials for maximum efficiency and minimal environmental impact. The ultimate in DIY practicality, they contain their own power generation and water treatment systems; even the water is recycled. 

Sewage Treatment

Toilet water (blackwater) is treated in a septic tank for use in outdoor landscaping. Sink and shower water (greywater) is filtered and recycled as plant hydration and for toilet flushing. Sewage exits the home with the used water to be treated outside in a botanical cell. A rooftop cistern captures rainwater and snow, which are then cleaned using a pump, panel, and filters that direct the water into a pressure tank.

Heating and Cooling

Earthship homes take advantage of the sun's heat to warm the interior. Winter sun charges the home's walls and floors, and the resulting heat is later released into the home when the interior temperature drops. Skylights, dormers and insulated windows help regulate the temperature, and an optional cooling tube can be used to draw cool air from the earth into the house when the weather is hot.

Electricity

Wind-harnessed power is stored in batteries for the homes' electrical needs, often in combination with solar panels and other systems. You will still need to have an electrician install a conventional circuit breaker box to use the converted electricity.  

Building a Home

Earthship homes are usually built at least partially into the side of an earth mound. Recycled vehicle tires form the structure of the sturdy 3-foot thick, well-insulated walls. Rammed earth is packed into the tires, and glass bottles or aluminum cans are inserted in the surrounding adobe or cement to reinforce the walls.

These recycled materials provide an alternative to costly conventional building materials. However, construction is not restricted to these materials, and many Earthships include additions like re-purposed metal from used appliances and other recycled supplies.

Construction Costs

According to Earthship Homes founder Michael Reynolds, it costs approximately the same amount to have an Earthship home built from dirt and recycled materials as a well-constructed conventional house, at about $200 per square foot. However, it's important to consider that conventional homes have the added expense of monthly utility bills, while the cost of a self-sufficient Earthship house includes the construction of its utility systems.

Utility Bills

Some Earthship owners pay no utility bills, while others have "minimal" utility costs, according to the company's website. Also, those who build their own Earthships cut construction expenses significantly; Earthship Homes' construction estimates attribute 40% of expenses to labor, and 20% to "systems and sub-contractors."

Grow Food Indoors

Plant life is yet another integral part of the Earthship concept of the self-sufficient eco house. Water is used four times in the home, with plant hydration as one of the steps in the cycle. Food can be grown in greenhouses in the home and outside, creating yet another opportunity for independence and sustainability.

Climate

Although first built in the American Southwest, these homes can be constructed in any climate, from deserts to cold, wet environments. Crews can build your Earthship for you, or you can build your own.

How to Build an Earthship Home

A plethora of training materials is available, as well as construction plans designed to conform to building codes. Workshop participants can learn to build an Earthship eco house from start to finish, and be ready to move in in eight weeks. Packaged, modular, and custom homes are available.

http://earthship.com/

http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/earthship.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9jdIm7grCY&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rlrhxqat_6A&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TbxhpG-Y4Q&feature=PlayList&p=3052DF01ADE5688E&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=42

9 comments

Stacy Calvert
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Posted on Jun 21, 2010
Mary Abraham
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Posted on Jun 21, 2010
Mary Abraham
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Posted on Jun 21, 2010
Stacy Calvert
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Posted on Jun 18, 2010
William J. Felchner
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Posted on Jun 16, 2010
Stacy Calvert
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Posted on May 31, 2010
Petal
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Stacy Calvert
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Posted on May 30, 2010
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