Ecological Earthship houses are built from recycled materials and are self-sufficient. They combine exceptional design with sustainability, because they gain their heat passively through renewable energy from solar or wind power.
What are Earthship houses? Explanation, meaning, definition
The core of the concept is the closed supply and energy cycle. Therefore, rainwater is collected and sent back into the cycle several times; in addition, Earthship houses used renewable sources of electricity (primarily solar, but also wind power).
Earthship translates as earth ship and accurately describes the first impression of houses of this type – because they are elongated in shape, appear as if dug into the ground and are reminiscent of ships. The half-height earthen wall made of car tires, filled with earth, provides the heat supply.
Earthship houses are self-heating and do not require costly technologies to achieve their ecological effect. Buildings are constructed using only locally available materials. The sheer mass of the building is responsible for storing heat, and cooling is provided solely by air circulation. Visually, Earthship houses offer a great deal of design freedom. Therefore, they always appear unusual, sometimes futuristic. At the same time, they blend harmoniously with nature.
Earthship House: inventor, origin, history
The Earthship building concept was developed by American architect Michael Reynolds in 1971. Reynolds had long been concerned with the question of what to do with the vast amounts of waste that man produces on earth. Is there a way to put it to good use? Based on this question, he designed a prototype building that earned him admiration on the one hand, but also rejection on the other. Many dismissed his idea as that of an idealistic „crackpot“. The ecological idea had not yet reached the general public.
Today, however, environmental pollution and climate change made more decisive steps necessary. What could still be suppressed in the 1970s was, by the 2020s at the latest, an issue burning under the nails of environmental associations, scientists and politicians. Reynolds himself called his oncology recycling houses Earthship houses. He uses the term like a metaphor: For him, the houses embody ships that will not sink even in stormy times at sea.
Since the presentation of his first Earthship house, the building concept has gained a great deal of popularity. To date, the once ridiculed Reynolds has been able to realize or has participated in the construction of 2,000 Earthship house projects worldwide. Another 1,000 houses have been built based on his model. The construction method does not require highly specialized knowledge. Even laymen with manual skills can build Earthship houses. Michael Reynolds construction plans are publicly available and can be used at any time to build a self-sufficient eco-house.
The most important building material: garbage of an affluent society
Earthship houses consistently implement the ecological idea. For the walls, old car tires are filled with earth and plastered with clay. Glass fronts are located in the south so that as much sun as possible can be absorbed. Behind it, for example, a greenhouse can be realized. In the massive outer walls, the heat can be stored for several weeks, which makes heating unnecessary. All other supply systems should also be self-sufficient. Rainwater from the roof will be collected and stored to provide hot water. A flower bed built specifically for this purpose is used to filter the water. Most Earthship houses are supplied with electricity via photovoltaics.
Earthship houses offer enormous advantages, but are not intended as single-family homes. As completely self-sufficient homes, they require a relatively large amount of land. However, since they are largely realized as a community project and not just one family lives in them later, the space requirement is put into perspective.
The first Earthship house in Germany
Since 2016, there has also been an Earthship house in Germany, in the Schwäbisch Hall district of Baden-Württemberg. This house is almost completely self-sufficient and is made of recycled materials. Old car tires were used, which, filled with soil, waste glass and ceramic tiles from demolished houses, form the insulating earth wall. Due to the prevailing building laws, such construction projects were doomed to failure in Germany until 2015. In 2016, it was revised in favor of the Earthship house.