Off The Grid with The Earthship Concept Print
Thursday, 15 November 2007 01:43

Earthship Biotecture  has been developing a sustainable housing method called  the  Earthship Concept  for over thirty years in New Mexico.  

This housing  is independant of municipal utilities and presents ...

1.)  Solar /thermal heating and cooling
2.)  Solar/wind electricity
3.)  Water harvesting
4.)  Contained, zero discharge, individual on site sewage treatment
5.)  Building with recycled materials
6.)  Food production in the home

Earthships directly address the global issues of our time. These issues have become more serious in the recent months due to a heightened awareness of global warming. The Earthship concept is directed at curbing global warming and at the very least offering a direction that will sustain human life on earth longer as planetary conditions worsen.

 

 Solar & Wind Electricity


Solar panels
Windmill
Batteries
Power organizing module

This building is completely "off the grid" meaning it is not attached to any main utility lines.  It produces all of its electric power with solar panels (windmills can also be used).  These onsite renewable energy sources charge a bank of batteries in the systems room.  The Power Organizing Module  (a specific design produced exclusively by Earthship Biotecture) distributes energy from the batteries throughout the house.  Super efficient lighting, pumps and refrigeration in addition to natural ventilating,  heating and cooling greatly reduce the  energy requirements for the home.  These "designed down" energy requirements meet the solar/wind energy harvesting half way.  A very reliable and free energy bank for the home that will never be dependent on fossil fueled, centralized, municipal utility systems is the result.  Both people and the planet benefit from this arrangement.

Thermal/Solar Heating & Cooling


Solar gain
Thermal mass encounter
Natural convection

This building heats and cools itself naturally without burning fossil fuels or having any utility bills.  It taps into and encounters the constant temperature of the earth which helps to stabilize temperature 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 under ground cooling tubes, operable windows and skylights provides additional cooling.
No money nor fossil fuel is used for comfort in these homes.


Building with Natural & Recycled Materials


Used automobile tires
Plastic & glass bottles
Aluminum & steel cans
Natural mud & straw plaster
Reclaimed wood
Scrap metal

The walls of an Earthship are built with used automobile tires rammed with earth.  These massive  walls are  load bearing monoliths  which are wide enough to also serve as their own  foundation.  No concrete foundations are required.  The tire,  a steel belted rubber casing,  is simply a form for  the rammed earth which creates the thermal mass.  These building blocks are filled and compacted in place and staggered like bricks.  Each Earthship uses between 500-5,000 tires.

Small interior walls of the Earthship may be made from aluminum or steel cans;  or glass or plastic bottles.

Earthen plaster is used for the interior of most of the building.  A mixture of sifted dirt from the site, sand, chopped straw and water are used.  The chopped straw is added to help bind the plaster and prevent cracking.

Other Earthship projects have incorporated sheep's wool insulation, metal paneling from discarded household appliances, adobe bricks for interior walls, straw bales as insulation for unburied tire walls, reclaimed materials from demolition sites for doors and cabinets and much more.  Local byproducts of modern society are used for housing in a effort to minimize the use of trees which are becoming precious and concrete which is damaging to the environment to produce.


Water Harvesting


Roof catchment
Cisterns
Water organizing module
Solar hot water heater


Every Earthship harvests all of its own water from rain and snow that falls from the sky on to the roof.  This water is stored in cisterns buried outside the building.  The water then gravity-feeds a panel called the Water Organizing Module.  This unit filters, pressurizes and pumps the water to fixtures throughout the building and to the solar hot water heater mounted on the roof.

An Earthship uses all of its water four times.  These water harvesting systems  help preserve existing aquifers and reduce the need for centralized, municipal water systems. They may be used in climates that get as little as 7 inches  of total annual precipitation.

Contained Sewage Treatment


Grey water botanical cells
Re-circulation
Black water botanical cells

An Earthship uses all of its water four times and treats it on site in contained sewage treatment planters called botanical cells.  Once-used water from the sinks and shower travels trough a  particle filter into interior grey water treatment planters.  These planters are re-circulated by solar pumps.  As the grey water travels through the rubber lined planters it grows plants,  is oxygenated by the plant roots and cleaned up enough to be used for toilet flushing.

A pump panel  draws cleaned grey 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 preserved and protected from contamination.


Food Production


Grey water botanical cell
Year round production of various fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs
in a variety of temperate zones

In an Earthship's interior grey water botanical cells you are able to grow food year round.  Tropical plants such as banana trees and hibiscus flourish even when there is snow outside.  Earthship residents pick their own organic produce  fresh for any meal!  They can also simply graze throughout the day.   The latest Earthship design, the Phoenix, features expanded food production capabilities with a second and third  greenhouse and over one-third of the total square footage dedicated to food production.  There will be fish production and chickens and goats for meats, eggs, and milk and cheeses in addition to fruits and vegetables.  The effort being to produce enough food to survive in ones home.

 


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Last Updated on Thursday, 06 December 2007 04:23