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An Earthship


If you have ever wanted to live in a house that was mostly or even fully independent of the grid, then the good news is that there is a type of home that has this capability. One such type of house is called an earthship, and is the brainchild of Michael Reynolds. As the name implies, earthships are not tethered to the grid and they allow their residents to live comfortably with little or no utility bills. Earthships do this by collecting or converting the needed resources from the environment while using efficiency to minimize the waste of these resources.

Construction and Materials
Load bearing walls and outer walls of earthships are made primarily from old tires that are rammed with dirt, thus forming huge bricks that are steel reinforced and rubber encased. Not only do these make extremely strong walls, but they also have a great deal of heat mass which helps to regulate the temperature inside of the earthship throughout the changing seasons. Interior non–structural walls can consist of a matrix of bottles or aluminium cans encased in cement. For aesthetic reasons, most or all of the walls are usually covered in stucco. The use of discarded materials such as tires, bottles, and cans means that earthships actually help to recycle waste materials.

Temperature Control
In addition to having outer walls with a great deal of heat mass, earthships are built to be partially underground. This partially subterranean feature benefits from the constantly moderate temperature below the surface of the ground. In temperate or cooler climates, earthships are built with most of their windows facing toward the Equator (south in the Northern Hemisphere and north in the Southern Hemisphere) so that more sunlight enter during the winter. In cold climates, the earthship is usually insulated to reduce heat loss during the winter. These features combined with proper ventilation allow earthships to maintain internal temperatures in the range of about 70°F (21°C) regardless of season or climate.

Water and Sewage Management
Rain water is gathered and channeled into a cistern. The water is then pumped through at least 4 stages of filtration including a filter that renders it to be potable. After the potable water is used, it goes through a grease and particle filter, and then through a grey water treatment system that uses plants to further filter the water. These plants which are irrigated by the water, can be food producing plants. This filtered grey water is odorless at this point and is used to flush toilets. After it is used to flush toilets, it is sent to a septic tank that is solar heated to enhance the anaerobic breakdown process. There is the option of sending the water from the septic tank to an exterior botanical cell that will reduce the nitrate levels below measurable amounts.

Electricity and Energy Management
For electricity, an earthship uses a pre–packaged photovoltaic and wind power system that generates DC current and sends it to an array of batteries. A self contained Power Organizing Module (POM) takes power from the battery and converts some of it to AC power so that both AC and DC powered appliances can be operated as needed. The earthship also uses energy efficient appliances in order to get the most out of harvested solar and wind power.

Earthship Design Principles by Biotecture

With all of these features, there is little or no doubt that earthships set the gold standard in ecologically friendly and economical housing. Not only do they reduce or eliminate utility bills, but they can also drastically reduce grocery bills by allowing the growing of food. It is also worth noting that the earthship design can be modified to fit a vast range of climates. In fact, a modified earthship design is being used in Haiti to provide disaster relief with completely self sufficient low cost housing. The ability to solve so many ecological and economical problems clearly makes the earthship design a work of genius.

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