Feb 192012
 February 19, 2012  Posted by at 12:23 am Earth

green building

Had lunch yesterday (Saturday) in Melbourne with Michael Reynolds, who’s also touring Australia. Michael’s the godfather of the earthship, and a man as interesting as he is intelligent. I plan to write much more on him and his projects in the near future. Just a matter of trying to find time in the somewhat hectic travel schedule we have here in Oz.

I did read quite a lot on earthships about 10 years ago, and sort of let it go because for me personally it wasn't immediately applicable. During these past 10 years Michael has continued his research and work and not to forget legal battles. An earthship is independent from normal supply lines, and authorities don't like that sort of thing, so a lot of time gets spent in courtrooms and the like. But that also means that the legal precedents have been battled for, and all people need to do is copy them.

Michael and his team have also built homes for stricken people in just about every global disaster zone, from the tsunami area to the Katrina one to Haiti. These zones are often full of waste and garbage, and that's what he uses to build his homes. Car tires, plastic bottles and tin cans are essential building materials.

He calls the earthship "a radically sustainable home made of recycled materials". The basic model, such as he built in Haiti, costs about $10,000. He said yesterday that every member of his team wanted one just like that, no extra frills whatsoever. You can get those frills though, there are many types of earthships.

Earthships are self-sufficient in electricity, water, heating and sewage treatment. Even in Canada, or up in the very cold mountains of New Mexico, where Michael resides, no additional heating is required. The same goes for cooling in desert climates. An earthship is also set up to produce its own food.

The earthship concept deserves far more attention in our times than it gets. And I intend to let The Automatic Earth play a solid role in increasing the attention level.

For now, first, here's a few links to more information.

• A trailer for a documentary on Michael and his work: Garbage Warrior.



• The website of the Earthship Biotecture project.


And a few more videos (there are many more available on the web):


• Simple Survival Model Earthship:



• Earthship Global Model: Radically Sustainable Buildings:



• Earthships 101 part 1:



• 54 Houses Earthships:



As I said, there are many more videos out there. But these should provide a good first impression for those of you who are not overly familair with the whole concept.

I'd like to see some Automatic Earthships be built; maybe we can play a coordinating role in that. Michael was talking about the 7 year legal battle he’s fought, and won, over buiding the first earthship community in the US. Seems like a great idea to me, that deserves being followed by many more in the world.

Anyone who's interested, let us know, and we'll see where we can go from there.


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    Had lunch yesterday (Saturday) in Melbourne with Michael Reynolds, who’s also touring Australia. Michael’s the godfather of the earthship,
    [See the full post at: Automatic Earthships]


    This is very interesting to me. I have mentioned before how much I like the idea of labour-for-knowledge exchanges. We’re in New Zealand, and planning a sustainable dwelling built from shipping containers as one option. It helps that my partner is a professional builder. But there is an awful lot to learn. I wonder if the Australian eartship will offer the labour-for-knowledge exchange that the original ones offer in New Mexico.


    I love the idea of the earthship, and that first picture is beautiful! Wondering about the feasibility of adding practical elements of the earthship to an existing conventional single story with good southern exposure (in the northern hemisphere). I only have 1/3 acre, so probably don’t have room (or $) for the full plan. Anybody have ideas or knowledge in that area?


    Susan, just read through the main earthship.com site and you’ll find the concept is enormously adaptable. I don’t think 1/3 acre is too small, but I’m sure you can find the details there.



    I’m told that they do labor-for-knowledge here. You’d need to find out yourself where and how to contact them though.

    I also think that you can figure out a lot of things by going through the docs and videos they have up.


    Now I have earthship envy.

    (currently living in one of those chipboard wonders that Kunstler loves to hate — it has brick veneer but I watched it being built, and know better)


    Full length documentary of Garbage Warrior (h/t Judith on FB)


    John Day

    This is very nice. I’m glad this exploration of new and useful directions is taking place. this presentation of earthships is more practical for someone considering such a home, than what I have seen before.
    Good work!
    I’m sending some of these links out to friends with today’s news-picks.


    I watched the documentary on the Garbage Warrior last night. It’s a must see, inspirational, especially what he and his team did for those people off the coast of India after the tsunami in 2004.


    Nice to see this on here – I used to live next door to Oli Hodge in Brighton, back when we built this:


    and he started filming what became Garbage Warrior

    Personally, I love the overall concept and particularly the systems packages…but the actual basic construction technique is not actually that efficient. Mixed cob/strawbale is a much faster, easier way to go, and requires less environmental disruption than a standard earthship build (there is still a relatively large concrete component in an earthship – we used an “eco-crete” in Brighton, but I haven’t followed developments in that area, as I am more interested in cob these days).

    Mike R is awesome though.

    For more on the lowest-environmental-impact version of cob, see http://www.cobcottage.com and their book, The Hand-Sculpted House.

    There are other ways to do cob (“tractor cob”) – but this involves more damage to the surrounding land. Ianto at Cob Cottage makes the point it takes many years for the soil to recover after the compaction involved by the use of heavy machinery, and so they espouse only human-powered builds.


    I really enjoyed this documentary on Earthships as I’ve built and now live in a large solar passive mud brick farmhouse, specially designed for the Women’s Communal Living Project which is running as a ‘social experiment’ for women on their own over 50 who need to create affordable and sustainable communal housing http://www.womenscommunallivingproject.com

    Another earth building system worth investigating is from Cal Earth, in California. They gave a one week workshop on making Superadobe buildings at CERES in Melbourne, Australia, in February 2011. We spent the week filling continuous sandbags with earth mixed with a small amount of cement and water to create a dome for the children’s adventure play area.

    Liveable, sustainable (even elegant) buildings that withstand earthquakes can be made using sandbags, earth and barbed wire. Images of some of their buildings are at https://calearth.org/galleries/earth-one.html

    They seem simpler, quicker and easier to construct perhaps than earth rammed rubber tyres which are very labour intensive. But I admired the way Michael built and designed his Earthships to provide almost everything within them that people might need to live.

    Viscount St. Albans

    Scrapper Heaven by the Sea

    Scrapper heaven — Cambria, California — from Xanadu to Nitt-Witt Ridge to gem collecting by the waves.

    I just spent a relaxing President’s weekend getaway in Cambria on the central coast of California.
    Cambria is a scrapper haven, covering all ends of the spectrum. At one pole you’ve got the high end scrapping of Italian Palazzos and Spanish Villas to cobble together William Randolph Hearst’s playland Xanadu — Hearst Castle.
    (it’s an annoying video, but the pics of the castle are pretty good)

    On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got my favourite– Nitt Witt Ridge:

    A stunning cliff house built entirely from garbage and Abalone shells from 1930’s – 60’s by counter-culture guru Arthur Beal — a man truly ahead of his time. It’s a state landmark for Folk Art — but with no funds appropriated for it’s upkeep, it’s been slowly collapsing since Arthur died in the late 1980s. Arthur was part of a small city of craftsmen who helped to build Hearst Castle during the 1920s, and it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t influenced by that experience to build his own little Xanadu by the Ocean — one that incorporated his reverence for nature and mother earth. As the garbage man for this resort town by the sea, surrounded by multi-million dollar estates and made from glass, steel, and mahogoney, Arthur was the town eccentric and soothsayer visited by emerging counter culture explorers who plied coastal highway 1 during the late 60s.

    And since scrapping is essentially a form of Treasure hunting, one can’t visit Cambria without a stroll on moonstone beach. Covered with surf-tumbled and super smooth semi-precious stones, you can find everything from moonstone agates to polished bits of jasper and jade. And the views of the waves sooth the soul too.


    Years ago I happened on this website, just recalled the name, and found it again:

    It’s a couple eccentric guys who live in Kentucky somewhere, I think. They are fond of their mostly underground house, built of stone and concrete.


    Some interesting alternatives; I’m still wading through commenters contributions. I have viewed several of the earthship video’s and wondered what a Manual J load calculation would look like.

    For example I’ve read comfort zone complications arise when lots of plants are in the living space zone. A similar matter is an indoor pool.

    Thanks for the post; alternatives are welcome in my world.


    It’s yet another example of Stoneleigh’s principle of centralized, authoritarian political power.

    As the empire declines, the political machinery at its core will reach for more and more power, even as its legitimacy declines to insignificance.

    They waited twenty-someodd years to attack Michael’s community out there in the boonies of NM, and they did so almost as arbitrarily as Los Angeles attacked the “Phonehenge West” guy. ( by which I mean to say, he didn’t matter to New Mexico in 1980, but all of a sudden, he’s a dirty hippy messing up their desert landscape with unorthodox buildings, now that the “mainstream” builders are all going titsup )

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