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Earthships: The Garbage Warrior

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Brokor, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I own a copy of this video, but this is the only full length version I can find on the tube --it's perfect quality, but has subtitles, yet it is all in English. This is a highly recommended video.

    Earthship designs have come a very long way since 40 years ago. You can learn more here: Earthship Biotecture Green Buildings - Earthship Biotecture
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
    tacmotusn and beast like this.
  2. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    My wife and I actually worked on some of the earthships while on an internship in New Mexico. They've got a lot going for them as a retreat; thick, massive walls (virtually impervious to anything short of a Bofors) which gives them great thermal performance, low construction cost from abundant waste materials (and earth). Virtually all to date have had their own unique problems, ranging from overheating in the summer (too much southern glazing) and poorly designed greywater systems to composting toilets catching fire.

    However, they also require a HUGE amount of labor to construct. Each tire takes no less than 20 minutes to fill & compact (that's 20 minutes of non-stop sledge hammer work). Multiply that by literally hundreds of tires. That's also not including the site prep work (digging the foundation and greywater trench), interior partitions, utilities, roofing, stucco, etc.

    I'm not advocating for or against, but beware that a large grain of salt and some critical thinking should be employed while considering your own earthship.

    FWIW, I'm in the process of making a move to Taos, NM (home of Mike Reynolds & most existing earthships) myself. I'm an architect by training and have some construction experience, and plan to build a house there myself. It will likely take some of the lessons from the earthships, but be constructed with a more labor efficient material, Faswall insulated concrete forms: Green & Sustainable Buildings | Faswall® by ShelterWorks
    jasonl6 likes this.
  3. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    That's all true, but after a little work, the earthship homes have provided great living arrangements for families over the years --those who aren't spoiled and used to all the comforts and demand the exact same for being self reliant and totally free, are more than happy.

    You are 100% correct, these earthships do require a lot of work to build. Much of the materials are very cheap or totally free, which makes it an even trade-off to some.

    What is the cost analysis for the Faswall forms? I can already see yuppies buying into that stuff and continuing to build massive gothic/colonial energy siphons tied into the same grid receiving the same benefits from the same borg collective and paying homage to the same oligarchy, working the same senseless job to try and pay off the same endless mountain of debt, only to reproduce more yuppie clones who do the same thing, repeating the same mistakes. *or* this stuff could be used to build sensible homes which are not tied into the grid and offer a self sustainable alternative.
  4. thebastidge

    thebastidge Monkey+

    There's no either/or. People will do what they want to do. Sneering at them because they don't want to live like a hippie or in the 17th century doesn't convince them.
  5. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Nobody is saying people should live like "hippies". I am saying we should at least consider changing the idiotic lifestyle we have fully adopted in the past 80 years based on a lack of understanding and ignorance. Dependency upon the corporate state for electricity, water, and the privilege to live in energy inefficient domiciles must come to an end, or at the very least it (earthships) shouldn't be condemned by snooty, cloned sycophants in suits who believe we should each be regulated and licensed at their every whim simply for the right to exist.

    If you call self sufficiency "17th century", I call your lack of knowledge, predictable. If you believe only "hippies" live in smaller, energy efficient homes and recycle --you need to take a little more time browsing this forum and spending some quality time with human beings who care about their impact on this planet instead of playing poker with the neighborhood yuppies.

    I find it insulting that, in this day and age we can abuse our gifts of insight and ignore the technological simplicity for producing sustainable, off grid housing in an age when corporations run all over us and oil cartels are raping the wealth of the people. I think it is shameful to see such talent wasted on pursuing a senseless career in policing and criminalizing people for breaking out of a mold which has born little more as a result than those with the characteristics of parasites on this planet. This is our home, it is a massive biosphere with limited resources, and each day dozens of species go extinct...what makes you think that human beings will never make that list?

    Wake up, pal. It has long been "either/or".
  6. tacmotusn

    tacmotusn Mosquito Sailor

    Building your own house almost completely on your own from design to completion can be a major head ache. Trying to keep the progress going without conventional lending even more so. It's bad enough dealing with the changing of the guard within the local building department as well. I am attempting to construct my dream home. It is a total of 5400 square feet under roof. Most of that roof is there only to provide shade, as in passive cooling. Ceilings are all at 10 feet. Every major room has no less than two ceiling fans. Porches are 10 feet wide and surround 3 sides. There are lots of windows. The windows are a combination of retro and modern high efficiency. In these rooms with 10 foot ceilings, all but two of the windows start at 2 foot off the floor and stop at 2 foot from the ceiling. The windows are double pane, low-e, with inert gas, double hung, meaning I can open them fully at the bottom singlely, or fully open at the top singlely, or crack open the top 1/3 to allow hot air to escape, while opening the bottom 2/3 to allow cooler air to enter. All of this; 10 ft ceiling, window type and placement, large porches for shading, ceiling fans, is all pre AC passive cooling technology. AC and summer comfort could easily be my largest expenditure if I were not building this way. I will have AC and gas heat, but don't intend to use them to a great degree year round. My main house entrance hallway will actually have a double french door set half way down it creating an airlock entrance. That small area will have no heat or air supplied to it. I have used exterior sealing doors thoughout the interior of the house isolating and dividing areas so I can efficiently heat or cool only those areas I choose to. Major area divisions are as follows; greatroom and dining area. master suite #1. master suite #2. kitchen and pantry (if the door to the pantry is closed no heat or ac will enter). In total then 4 areas that may or may not be provided with heat or ac at my discretion. My high efficiency air handler for supplimental heat or ac or fan only as an air circulator and air purifier (hepa), has six speeds and always starts on the lowest speed. There is a time delay before it starts to scroll up in speed between each speed. It doesn't come on like a jet engine kicking in when it starts or stops thus waking those in the house. It comes on gently and shuts down the same way. Each zone has its own thermostat and duct closure switches. Primary winter heat is a 85,000 btu high efficiency wood stove. It will burn 8 to 12 hours on a full load of hardwood. Daytime heat here in winter is seldom necessary. My house also has tons of thermal mass. Don't ask how much I spent on concrete blocks and concrete. I never totalled it up and don't want to know. I know the money was flowing out like Niagra falls and coming in like water thru a berkley water filter. I have a steel roof. My porches and roof are built to south florida hurricane specs. Radiant barrier paint is used on the underside of sheathing, ceilings and inside of exterior walls. This provides an equivalant of R-26 insulation. The whole damn house is overbuilt on purpose. The original building inspector at one point said I spent too much time in the Navy, because I was building this house like a Battleship! Sprinkler heads on peak of roof and misters on eaves for wild fire threat reduction. Lightning rods and roof grounding. I could go on and on. It is a passion. I wish it were complete. LOL, will it ever be complete. I do own 2 properties. This one is mortgage free. The other is rented and was mortgaged. It will be mortgage free in one year at my present rate. At the same time I will be elligible to draw SSI at 62 if it still exists. I hope to have the new house complete in a little over 2 years from now at a maximum.
    bgner likes this.
  7. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    Consider adding a whole house attic fan to your construction.... we used to live in an old 1913 victorian with 12 ft celings and windows that you could stand in (litterally) also double hung but the best investment was the attic fan it pulls air into the house through any open window and exhausts it through the attic forcing hot normally stagnat air our and colls the structure well...
  8. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member


    I lived in mid lower Michigan for a time, and put in a whole house fan. Worked very well. A/C really wasn't needed, tho' a lot of neighbors had it. We had a variable speed drive on the fan; at slow it was quiet enough to run overnight without waking the kids or my ex. Run overnight on low, close the windows in the morning, the house stayed goose bump cool all day. Insulation works in both directions --
  9. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    Like I said, I'm not advocating for or against. Any building method will have its tradeoffs. Building your own earthship is not a task to be taken lightly. You must be in very good physical condition and have quite a bit of time, not to mention some know-how. I was merely offering a hands-on perspective. Take it as you will.

    AFAIK, it's quite good. I have used other ICF systems (made with EPS foam, not the fiber/cement mixture) before, and they cost about as much as a traditionally framed house, but perform MUCH better in the long run.

    I'm sure that this is true of most any building system out there. You can use it responsibly, or you can use it wastefully.

    The Faswall makes sense for me for a few reasons.
    1. I can assemble it by myself, with the tools I have.
    2. I can assemble it in my spare time (I will be working full time, so building a house will be in my off hours), and leaving it exposed to the elements won't hurt it.
    3. It is not as backbreaking as filling & compacting tires.
    4. It has excellent thermal and structural performance.
    5. It's a breathable wall system, which helps to balance moisture levels and prevent condensation.
    6. Forgive my bias, but it is a more 'architectural' material than tires, so walls are straighter and truer, making doors, windows, cabinets, utilities, etc. easier to install.

    I'm sure there's more, but that's what I can think of off the top of my head. I will eventually add a PV system, on-site wastewater, water catchment & storage, all those great self-sufficiency items that earthships have, as time & budget allow.
  10. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    I find this subject extremely interesting. Brokor, I agree with you 100% that we as people need to stop depending on the Nanny state to supply us with the things we need. My house is an older 1970's built Ranch home with walkout basement and as far as being efficient goes its not. I had to return to the 17th century to find a heat source that would keep it warm without breaking the bank. The good old wood burning stove. My heating fuel cost me 20.00 for a permit and about 40.00 in gas for my saws. Thats down from 560.00 a month for electric heat or about 450.00 for Propane. Here in Michigan I have thousands of acres of federal forests with millions of trees. We go in and take the standing dead and down trees out allowing new growth to take its place. We harvest the lake, the garden, grow chickens and Rabbits and both my wife and I hunt deer and water fowl.

    I am using some aspects of these Earthships in that I dont waste things. We reuse our cans and bottles and recycle many things. I have not found a use for old tires yet but will eventually find something to use them for.

    You could say I am a mixture of yesterday and today. I have solar planned and will combine solar,wind and wood fired power to become self reliant. I am on the grid now but desire freedom from it. This website has helped us to move forward in huge leaps so I thank AL OF YOU[beer]
  11. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    I've seen old tires used for everything from planters to retaining walls to boat bumpers. More and more, companies are grinding them up and making rubber flooring, asphalt fillers, even shingles.

    Check out Tirecrafting is Fun Home Page for some DIY ideas.
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Probably the best use I've seen so far is adding shredded tires to asphalt for road surfaces. According to the test results published, the surface is more durable and "sticky" than straight asphalt, and saves some first use petro products in the mix. Might well be that the shredders use up more fuel than if it went into the mix, dunno.
  13. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    It's possible, but I doubt it. Modern tires contain both synthetic (read: petroleum-derived) and natural rubbers, as well as many other chemical components (carbon black, zinc, cadmium, and others). Producing these from scratch (because who knows which of the components gives the desired results) and transporting them would likely be hugely more resource-intensive.
  14. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    The Video brings lots of renewable Ideas forward. Here in Michigan we recycle cans at .10 each so we dont have millions of cans laying around. Bottles both glass and plastic as well. Recycling is good,no question in my mind. The less we use up of everything the better. Wood is renewable as well. It cool to see the new trees growing in areas where we took out the standing dead. W e also follow loggers and clean up the tops they leave behind. Again new growth springs up where the mature trees are removed.

    I am firm believer in proper insulation for both cooling and heating. My house has a long way to go to be efficient in either department. Its way cheaper for us to heat it then to cool it.

    One of my next projects is a water tank filled from the lake with a solar powered pump which waters my garden(gravity fed). It shouldnt be too terribly difficult to design it and build it. Kingfish
  15. beast

    beast backwoodsman

    used tires are great for building with, albeit slow
    they do have a downside tho in use for building
    once they start burning they are nearly impossible to extinguish
    so if you build from them, your best and safest bet is to do so deep below ground
    no air for combustion
    then the problem is reinforcement so they dont collapse inward....lol
  16. wags_01

    wags_01 Monkey+

    Tire walls must be reinforced, yes. The fire isse in nil as far as the earthship construction goes. The multiple layers of interior & exterior stucco, as well as the earth fill, leave no oxygen available for the tires to combust.
  17. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Really good in Aridzonia desert, NOT so good in an Alaska Coastal Rain Forest...... Just an observation......
  18. beast

    beast backwoodsman

    the tires do make one hell of an earth mass bt, once heated,or cooled, they stay that temp a long time
    i built a shed out of some as an experiment
    wound up using it for cool storage
    it never warmed up in there no matter how hot it got outside
    would still be using it but kid rammed it with a truck and caved part of it in
  19. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Thanks Wags ;) This does make it more clear. I have to agree with you, but if one doesn't have the capital to purchase this stuff, used tires is a most acceptable alternative.
  20. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Actually, these earthships have been tested in environments -35 and below for over twenty years. Little to no heating required. [beer] But --NOT good in flood zones. LOL.
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