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Living in an ecological, self-sufficient house is a dream shared by every person who loves nature. The Earthship is its fulfillment - it's a house, which is built with tires, bottles, earth and... creativity of its future residents. American architect Michael Reynolds has created an uncommon project of people and nature-friendly buildings.

The Earthship trip

Ecological house. When we hear that watchword, we think about hobbits' dugouts covered by grass from Tolkien's novel or clay cottages with thatched roofs. An eco-friendly house should be green, natural and made of fresh first-class materials. Who would have believed that Earthships, houses made of tires and waste, would be come a popular and fast-growing trend in green architecture? Their name connects with the English word "spaceship". An Earthship has one thing in common with spaceships: self-sufficiency. It is designed to provide food, water, electrical energy or roof over heads of its residents. The creator of those amazing houses is Michael Reynolds, an American architect and founder of Earthship Biotecture.

An architect, ecologist, dreamer

Michael Reynolds has graduated from University of Cincinnati in 1969. At that time, he was already interested in ecological architecture. In the '70s of the last century he started building houses with materials made of waste. Reynolds' idea was exceptionally innovative, because even traditional recycling he considered too harmful to nature. To skip that stage, Reynolds started building using the available waste, which didn't require energy-intensive processing: beer cans, empty bottles or used tires. Even though the idea seemed to be a solution to most of problems known to the mankind, its popularization took him many years. He complained that he had to fight with bureaucracy for most of his time and he often felt nearly dispirited. Today it's hard to believe, taking into consideration how quickly the popularity of Earthships is growing.

Uncommon self-sufficiency

What does make them so amazing? They can be built practically everywhere, because they don't need connections with external sources of water or electric power. Because of their self-sufficiency they are more environmentally friendly than any other green building. They are built with tires that are filled with sand, which makes them great heat insulators. Tires allow to obtain the thermal comfort inside an Earthship indepedently regardless of the climate of place where it has been built. Earthships use renewable solar and wind energy sources and they obtain water from the sky thanks to a special system which allows them to collect, purify and use rainwater. Isn't it tempting? What is more, we can grow edible plants inside the building, recover water from sludge and admire Earthship's amazing look, which largely depends on their owner's creativity.

House of sand and... tires

Earthship building is based on some rules, which decide about such thing as orientation of the building in relation to the sun and the shape of its construction. The front wall is built with windows inclined at an appropriate angle depending on the latitude which gives the building a look of the appearance of a greenhouse - something that we can find more or less attractive. However, it is necessary to maintain proper temperature inside the building. Other walls of an Earthship are made from already mentioned tires filled with strongly compacted sand. Gaps between the tires are filled with clay, cement, cans or empty bottles. Afterwards we have to plaster the Earthship's walls - this gives the building its typical smooth look.

The floor and interior finishing depend on building owner's imagination. We should remember that floors need to be isolated from the ground, so we don't lose heat and can avoid moisture inside our house. Only then can we finish our floor using concrete, wood or other material we want. Roof truss, window frames and other elements of the construction are made of wood. The roof can be covered with plywood and then isolated using sheep wool or other material. The basic rules of Earthship buliding are constant, but those ecological houses are very various. All you need to do is to browse the Internet to see many photos of different Earthships. It's hard to find two similar designs!

Earthship - do it yourself

For these reasons, the idea of those ecological houses has spread from North America to Europe. The first European Earthship was built in 2007 in France in a small village named Ger. It is available to those who would like to see whatis it like to live in such an unusual building. A stay in French Earthship costs at least 300 Euros for three off-season nights. Earthships have come into existence in other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Belgium or the UK. There is be one in our country, too. it has already been built in Mierzeszyn, a small town near the city of Gdańsk. The construction of that earthship is different from a typical design by Reynolds due to the restrictions of the Polish building law, which doesn't allow to make use of the solutions invented by the American architect. But it doesn't discourage Mr. and Mrs. Egiert, the couple building the first Polish Earthship. They would like to try living independently and "earth boat" can make their dreams come true. They aren't the only enthusiasts of ecological architecture. On the Ekocentrycy.pl website, we can find many offers of workshops, during which we can learn how to plaster houses using clay, build using ecological technologies or  special, environmentally friendly materials. Some of those workshops even take place in the Czech Republic. The number of people who are interested in that kind of architecture is still increasing -- so is the number of books and online manuals on the subject. Everyone who wants to learn more about it, can find something for themselves.

The idea becomes a reality

At the beginning of the '70s of the last century, Michael Reynolds' idea seemed to be nothing more but an idealist's dream detached from reality. More than forty years later, the first Earthship in Poland is being built. It seems to be a matter of time until more and more American and European residents start considering ecological building as the only solution, not some weird concept used by "green people". If we can use ecological heating, water recovering systems, and waste to build convenient and beautiful houses and thus stop worrying about credits an bills, then why not? I think everyone would like to wake up in a warm, sunlit room, and after awakening, go into their own greenhouse to collect fresh and tasty vegetables they had planted themselves to prepare a breakfast.

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Karolina Ziaja

A huge fan of dogs, good coffee and literature. Biology student on the University of Opole. Interested in combination of technology, design and care for the environment.


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