Category: Sustainable Construction

What is an Earthship Home and What Are the Advantages

What is an Earthship Home and What Are the Advantages

If your looking for housing that falls outside of the traditional options, and lets you live off the grid, an Earthship house might be appealing. These sustainable designs use renewable resources, recycled materials, and alternative energy approaches, including technologies to address your electricity and potable water needs. If you are wondering what an Earthship home is and what advantages it provides, here’s what you need to know.

What is an Earthship Home?

An Earthship house is a sustainable dwelling design. But, it’s important to understand that Earthship is actually a brand name (the company name is Earthship Biotecture), not a building approach.

Earthship creates houses using a combination of recycled and natural materials, many of which are meant to support off the grid living. However, other manufacturers use similar approaches. As a result, competitor designs may mistakenly be referred to as Earthship houses, even though they aren’t part of the brand.

earthship home

What Materials Are Used to Build an Earthship House?

Usually, recycled automobile tires make up the bulk of an Earthship house’s structure. The holes in the center of the tires are filled with earth, which is then compressed to fill the void. For the foundation, tires are stacked in a brick pattern and then covered in adobe.

However, other recycled materials also go into building many Earthship houses. This includes cardboard, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles.

What Are the Advantages of an Earthship Home?

Earthship houses provide a range of advantages. First, since they are largely made from tires, they are incredibly durable. Many of the designs would qualify as earthquake-resistant thanks to the high degree of stability.

Second, Earthship homes are incredibly energy efficient. The designs essentially heat and cool themselves, making other heat sources – like electric heat or wood-burning stoves – unnecessary or, at least, less necessary.

As sunlight comes in through the glass, the walls and floors heat up. Then, when the temperature falls at night, the walls and floors radiate heat into the interior. For hot days, cooling tubes and vent boxes lower the inside temperature. Now, that doesn’t mean the inside is always at your ideal temperature, just that the design plays a role in temperature regulation.

Third, the designs reduce the need for utilities. When power is required, an Earthship home creates its own. Solar panels and storage batteries provide a reliable source of electricity. Similarly, the house makes water accessible by collecting rain and snowmelt in cisterns attached to a pump and filter system.

Ultimately, the advantage of an Earthship home is that it reduces or eliminates your dependence on outside utilities. They can even be entirely self-sustaining, depending on your water and power needs.

sustainable construction

Where Can You Build an Earthship House?

If you want to build an Earthship home, you’ll need to choose an area that allows that kind of structure. Not all municipalities offer permits for these kinds of houses. If you can’t meet local building codes with an Earthship house, then you can’t build one in that region. As a result, it’s best to check with your preferred municipality before even buying the land.

Otherwise, you can build an Earthship home in any area that will give you permits. However, they are more commonly found in desert climates, and many are found across New Mexico and Colorado.

With an Earthship house, humidity is the enemy. The walls might collect moisture, increasing the odds of mold and mildew. But arid climates might not have a lot of rainfall. As a result, you might not be able to collect enough rainwater to adequately handle your needs without hooking up to a water utility or bringing in water from another source.

How Much is an Earthship House?

If you want a home built by Earthship Biotecture and are open to living in their New Mexico community, it could run you between about $200,000 and $1.5 million, depending on the model.

However, you can also attend the company’s academy in person or online and learn how to build one yourself. A one-month program can run $2,500.

It’s important to note that Earthship houses aren’t necessarily cheaper to build than a traditional home. Usually, the savings is in the reduced utility costs or the ability to build on land that might not have easy access to existing utilities (or any at all).

Getting a mortgage for an Earthship home is already difficult. It’s hard for a lender to accurately estimate the property’s value since there are so few comparable properties. With a construction loan, you might run into similar difficulties since the materials aren’t always on approved materials lists.

earthship house

Should You Buy or Build an Earthship House?

Whether an Earthship home is right for you is a personal decision. Additionally, you need to consider whether your location is appropriate for one or will allow it. For those interested in sustainable designs and a reduced need for utilities, it might be worth exploring what Earthship has to offer. Just make sure you understand the pros and cons and review your local building codes before you start the process.