Earthships are really quite something.
The concept grew from the desert of New Mexico, where then-architect (now “biotect”) Michael Reynolds began experimenting with “radically sustainable” architecture. It’s radical in that it is entirely self-sustaining, including grey and black water reuse, which nourishes plant life of sufficient quantity to feed the household.
Without going to deeply into the technology behind it, these beautiful buildings – which are created largely from recycled materials, including tyres and bottles, and powered by the sun and wind – are now well established.
Earthship Biotecture has taken the concept to disaster zones, including through the Earthship Haiti project, where local populations learn to build the Earthships and are given blueprints for adopting techniques locally.
A Global Model Earthship has been developed: concept plans are readily available online and adaptable for almost any climate. And there are wonderful concept plans of a large-scale Earthship community – a self-sustaining mini-city.
These are now being built worldwide, including in China (a multi-storey model), Brighton in England, and there’s even a tower model ready to roll in New York City. They are notably passing local building codes in every country.
Michael Reynolds has recently been on a speaking tour of Australia and he’s bringing the concept to fertile ground. The Sydney event, hosted by Milkwood Permaculture, was a sell-out. The potential for these to be built in Australia’s remote, climatically-challenged communities is wonderfully apparent.
Reynolds’ inspirational message is far more than environmental sustainability – although it is exceptionally, impressively, that.
These buildings are intended to be affordable for everyone. Homes can be built from $10K upwards. And for those who cannot afford the land on which to build, there is the EVE initiative – a self-sustaining community where people can lease earthships for $100 per week.
Reynolds’ message, the earthship message, is environmental, social, political.
What would it mean, he asks, for people to be able to live in entirely self-sustaining houses, which do not rely on connections to the infrastructure grid, and can be affordable enough that people don’t require a lifelong mortgage?
Earthships effectively enable people to become largely independent of prevailing political and economic conditions.
These creations have been fine tuned for the last 40 years, and it certainly feels as though their time has come.