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What’s an Earthship?

Earthships are beautiful, sustainable, and earth-friendly dwellings.They are mainly built out of recycled and indigenous natural materials. Earthships are the innovative creation from Michael Reynolds, a sustainability expert and licensed architect/builder of Earthships for more than 40 years. Michael is recognized as the “father” of the Earthship.

The work he has been doing for the past 40 years at Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, has moved the idea of a self-sustaining home that cares for its inhabitants, rather than vice-versa, from the purview of the incredibly dedicated (those willing to give up the traditional comforts of home) into the realm of the reasonable (those who want to live lightly on the earth, but also want Wi-Fi and granite countertops.)

Earthships are designed to be independent and self-sufficient. This means an Earthship has little or no connection to the grid. The construction and design concepts use thermal mass, solar panels, rainwater collection, composting, and other natural approaches for minimizing the use of external resources.

One of the most-utilized energy sources in an Earthship home is the sun. Earthships are designed to have most of their windows on the side of the home facing the sun to increase light and heat. In the planning phase, each one is designed to face south, with overhanging eaves to allow the maximum amount of sun in during the winter and the minimum amount in during the summer. Here in Colorado, where there are over 300 days of sun per year, solar panels provide an enormously successful way to generate power.

The dense outer walls of an Earthship – often made of tires filled with earth – provide sufficient thermal mass to keep the interior of the home warm in winter and cool in summer as the earth itself regulates the home’s temperature.

The thinner, non-load-bearing walls can be created by honeycombing recycled bottles and cans into a beautiful but strong structure that is then covered with adobe made from local dirt, sand, and clay.

Some Earthships are dug into the ground deep enough that their roofs are made of sod. Others use more traditional, truss-based construction methods, employing wood or concrete supports.

Earthships are designed to be self-sustaining. They can provide their own electricity and potable water, treat their own sewage and grow their own food.

Owning an Earthship allows you to reduce or eliminate your utility bills completely by:

  • Getting all your electricity from the sun and the wind.
  • Catching water from the sky for all your drinking, bathing/showering, cleaning, laundering, flushing, etc.
  • Containing and treating all sewage produced in a healthier way.
  • Maintaining comfortable temperatures all year long. Earthships provide 70* temperatures year-round with no utility bills whatsoever.