Tuesday, June 5, 2012

May 23, 2012. The Hawthornes Visit Earthship In Taos, New Mexico.

Remember the underground houses
we saw coming in to Taos, New Mexico?
We drove back out the next day to get a closer look.
Welcome to Earthship sustainable subdivision.
is the world's largest self-sufficient residential development.
It is comprised of 650 acres of rolling mesa,
featuring expansive views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

The major objectives
 of the Greater World Earthship Community:
  • Reduce the economic and institutional barriers between people and sustainable housing.
  • Reverse the overall negative effect that conventional housing has on the planet.
  • Create a less stressful existence for people in an effort to reduce the stress that they in turn place on the planet and each other.
  • Interface economics and ecology in a way that immediately and tangibly affects current pressing problems with existing life styles.
  • Provide a direction for those who want to live in harmony with their environment.
  • Empower  individuals with the inarguable forces of nature.
  • Find and distribute knowledge about sustainable lifestyles.
  • Produce our own energy.
  • Harvest our own water.
  • Contain and treat our own sewage.
  • Manufacture our own bio-diesel fuel.
  • Grow much of our own food.
  • Have our buildings heat and cool themselves.
  • Utilize discarded materials of modern society in making our buildings.

The Greater World project is designed to create
an ideal condition from which a sustainable community 
can grow and flourish.
About 200 people will live in independent homes
built using mostly recycled materials.
These solar homes will be capable
of growing food year round
and will require little or no
supplementary utilities.
This sets the stage for a non-destructive existence
that removes stress from the lives of people and the planet.
Forced to become a legal subdivision in 1998,
the Greater World Community is now phasing its development,
so that building can continue in certain sections,
while fulfilling the county's requirements in others.

Greater World is committed to exploring and demonstrating ways to design our homes and modify our lifestyles in order to live without polluting and without depleting our resources; to use no more of our natural resources than is sustainable.  Our proposed lifestyle will be based on how much is available, not how much we customarily consume.

This project reflects the experience gained from over 30 years of designing, testing, and improving independent homes.  These homes are built using recycled materials from Taos County; they make their own electricity from solar panels; catch their own water from rain and snow melt; contain and reuse their own waste water; and provide their own heating and cooling without the use of  fossil fuels via passive solar and thermal mass architecture.  We continue to evolve basic mechanical components 
and to simplify structural details toward this goal.

We found ourselves at
Biotecture and Biodiesel
Visitors Center.

This building, built in 2010,
 is not set up as an
Earthship home would be.
It's designed as a museum
with information about Earthships.

The floors are poured concrete
with an iron sulfate stain.
The walls are plastered with adobe mud
and the exterior is plastered with cement.

Sustainable living.
Earthship Biotecture
provides design services for 
self-sufficient, low-impact buildings
locally and around the world.

Bottles and cans
provide no structural or insulative purposes.
They act simply as a filler,
as a cheap way to build a wall,
and as a way to use resources that are otherwise piling up.

Michael Reynolds, a 1969 graduate
of the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture,
built his first house here in Taos, NM,
in 1972, out of can bricks.
Reynolds went on to build the first Earthship in 1988.

This community, founded in 1994,
 consists of about 70 Earthships.
The homes were built by both community members
and by Earthship Biotecture.

"Spy Hopping"
By Willie Ray Parish

You know?
I'm really liking this place.

Inside the Earthship "museum."

Earthships have no auxiliary heating.
The earth berm stabilizes the temperature
of the building.
The tires are tightly compacted with dirt
providing thermal mass for the building.
The south facing greenhouse windows allow 
the low winter sun to charge the back tire walls.
The summer sun is high in the sky
and passes overhead.
The building is cooled with operable skylights.
The living space of an Earthship
stays an average 70 degrees all year long.

Water is harvested off of the roof.
It is directed towards four 1400 gallon cisterns
buried in the berm.
Fresh water is filtered for drinking
and used in the sink and shower.
With only 7-8 inches of average rainfall,
water usage is cut in half by using gray water
to flush the toilets.

And Earthship uses its water four times
and treats it on-site in contained sewage treatment planters
called botanical cells.
Water used once in the sink and shower
travels through a particle filter
and becomes gray water in interior treatment planters.
These planters are re-circulated by solar pumps.
As the gray water travels through the rubber-lined planters,
it gravity-feeds the plants,
is oxygenated by the plant roots,
and cleaned up enough to be used for toilet flushing.
A pump panel draws cleaned gray water from a well
at the end of the botanical cell
and fills the toilet tank for flushing.
The black water from the toilet
then goes outside
 to a conventional septic tank
which overflows in to another rubber-lined botanical cell.
Landscaping plants are grown with used, cleaned-up
black water instead of fresh water
and ground water supplies are 
preserved and protected from contamination.

There are hanging buckets in the greenhouse
which allow for more growing space.
The tubes provide a way to
bottom water the plants,
similar to the greenhouse planters.
This encourages the roots to grow downward
in search of water.

Earthship residents can pick their own organic
produce fresh for any meal.

The latest Earthship designs feature
expanded food production capabilities 
with second and third greenhouses.
Over one-third of the total square footage
is dedicated to food production -
the effort being to produce enough food
in one's home to survive.'
There will also be fish production
and chickens and goats for 
meats, eggs, and milk and cheese,
in addition to fruits and vegetables.

There are four operable windows along
the front of this building.
In conjunction with the vent boxes
(operated by hanging ropes)
these help provide natural ventilation for the building.
There is also an operable skylight
 in the back of the main room.

That's a mushroom log on the left.

Earthships are completely off-grid.
This means there are no pipes or wires going 
in or out of these buildings.  
 They are not attached to any main utility lines.
The Earthships produce all of their electric power
with solar panels.
Windmills can also be used.
A Power Organizing Module,
a design produced exclusively by Earthship Biotecture,
distributes energy from the batteries throughout the house.

Super efficient lighting, pumps, and refrigeration,
in addition to natural ventilation, heating, and cooling
greatly reduce the energy requirements for these homes.
Both people and the planet
benefit from this arrangement.

This building heats and cools itself naturally
without burning fossil fuels or having any heavy utility bills.
It taps into and encounters the constant temperature
of the earth which helps to stabilize temperature
 in the massive building.
The living spaces are surrounded on three sides
with thermal mass in the form of used automobile tires
rammed with earth.
More earth is buried behind these walls, 
then insulated with a thermal wrap.

In the winter, glass along the whole south side 
of the building admits sun,
which heats the mass of the very thick walls.
When the temperature in the room drops
below the temperature in the walls,
heat is released from the walls in to the space.

In the summer, with the sun high in the sky,
sun enters only in to the planters.
The naturally cool temperature 
of the deep earth cools the building.  
Natural convection driven ventilation 
from underground cooling tubes,
operable windows, and skylights
provide additional cooling.
Neither money nor fossil fuel is used for comfort in these home.

Energy is collected from the sun with
photovoltaic solar panels and wind-powered generators
and stored in batteries.

An Earthship has only a $100 per year utility bill
of propane for cooking.

Operable windmill.

The walls were coated and finish plastered
with adobe mud, which is a mixture of
dirt, sand, straw, and water.
These natural materials can be found 
virtually anywhere in the world.
Adobe is extremely durable 
and has been a reliable building material for
thousands of years.
This medium is especially noted for its thermal mass properties.
Behind the adobe are earth-rammed tires
with even more thermal mass to passively regulate
the Earthship's temperature.
Earth-rammed tires create the thermal mass
which passively heats and cools the building
by absorbing heat when the surroundings are hotter
and releasing heat when the surroundings are cooler.
This heat is collected from the passive solar gain
in the greenhouse.
Since the tires are packed so tightly in plaster,
they are no longer exposed to any elements
which would cause them to offgas toxins
into the environment.
Tires are a discarded resource found
virtually everywhere in the world.

This is not the trash pile.
These are building materials.

Now you know what to do with your leftover cans and bottles.


Lea said...

Oh, I love it! That very interesting. I'm not sure I could be that hardcore, but it is certainly inspirational!

Marilyn said...

I could see doing the solar panels and or the spiral windmill.

Rocquie said...

I love it! Never heard of it, so thanks for enlightening me.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Wish we could have gone into the actual houses. We only went into the "museum." They had photographs of the rooms and they were very nice. There are homes available for rent in case you're ever in the area.

Check it out: