Living responsibly and sustainably...

If you cannot answer the question "What is an earthship" without thinking about space ships then you have some learning to do. Earthships are passive solar homes which are built using natural and recycled materials. They are designed to be autonomous and largely self-sufficient, and are a very popular design among those who want to live off the grid. 

The idea behind earthships

What is an earthshipCredit: Permaculture Media

Earthships are a type of home which was originally designed and marketed by a company called Earthship Biotecture - however the term is increasingly used to describe the general idea of the home and really no longer refers to specific set plans but more of a style and philosophy of building. Most earthships are designed to make full use of the surrounding natural environment, incorporating elements such as the climate, trajectory of the sun, and the terrain into configuring the ideal site and design of the home.

The construction begins with a lot of tyres - old car tyres usually which are otherwise going to be dumped in ladfill as they are notoriously difficult to recycle. These tyres are filled with earth - which is packed in tight using sledgehammers. A staggered layer of these tyres provides the beginning of the construction. The reason tyres are used is as the central part of thermal mass construction. The home is designed to heat and cool itself and these tyres provide an excellent insulating material.

brighton earthshipCredit: Wikipedia

While the walls of the home are made of tyres and other recycled materials, the roof and ceiling are also heavily insulated. Often the roof is covered in soil and planted out with grasses (where climatically appropriate). Interior walls are also generally lined with adobe or other sustainable plastering material to both add to the energy efficiency of the construction but also to keep the natural look and feel of the home.

The central design of the home revolves around the sun and its passage during the day relative to the site of the building. Accordingly, the windows are sloped nd fitted with shades so as to regulate the amount of sunlight entering the home. Earthships work well in both hot and cold climates, provided the design and construction makes allowances for the local climatic conditions.

See the video below for an excellent walkthrough of the detailed construction and operation of an Earthsip and you will soon see how the design can suit many people from all walks of life anywhere in the world.

Earthships 101 video

What we can learn from Earthships

Earthships provide the opportunity for all of us to learn more about ourselves, our planet and how we work either in conjunction with it or in opposition to it. It is high time that more of us paid closer attention to how we live on a daily basis, especially around the materials we use, the things we eat and the general impact we have on the world we live in. We can do so much better, and it's time more of us made an effort to do so.