Article  about my experience published in the national newspaper in Iceland. 

Off-the-grid sustainable housing



I worked as an intern for Earthship Biotecture that focuses on off-grid sustainable housing. It was a month long hands-on learning experience at the Greater World Earthship community in Taos, New Mexico.

Are Earthships the Future?

         In my first year studying architecture at the Arts
         University Bournemouth, sustainability was a
         constant talked about subject, a content I was not too familiar with. It fuelled my interest for sustainable design. 
While researching for sustainable examples, I came across the architect Michael Reynolds. Reynolds has worked on building radical, sustainable and off-the-grid buildings from 1970 in Taos, New Mexico known as Earthships. These are self-contained living facilities that would provide the occupant with everything he or she would possibly need. The buildings do not rely on municipal water supply, sewers, natural gas or the electrical power grids.


Rory at Earthship plastering the Towers
Global Model
One example of a built Eartship.  It can be modified for almost any climate and comes in many sizes.

Houses made from glass bottles and cans

           arthships are mainly constructed using recyclable materials such as tires, glass
           bottles, cans and other natural materials that can be found on site. For over 40
           years Reynolds has been developing housing that use recycled materials to create off-the-grid sustainable self-sufficient homes. He has established an experimental community called the Greater World Earthship Community in Taos, New Mexico which is designed around the idea that they are self-contained living facilities that produce their own electricity with photovoltaic panels and wind power. The roofs are designed to catch water and the greenhouses play a very important role in the building as they take part in controlling the temperature to the interior as well as being fully operational food corridors for the inhabitants.


Bottle Wall
Pio, one of the interns, placing the cut glass bottles on mortar bulding up a beautiful glass wall for the Towers greenhouse
Phoenix Greenhouse
The two storey greenhouse features towering banana trees, grape vines, birds, turtles and a fish pond with fountain. 
The Towers under construction

This building is an prototype designed for the urban environment. No Earthships have been built in urban areas, but Earthship Biotecture realises this is going to be necessary if they are to be a part of a sustainable future.

The Towers is a two-storey building with two independently accessed studio apartments. The apartments share a large south facing window and greenhouse area, and alternately could be used as a single home. Each studio space is formed by a rammed earth tyre circle and the attached greenhouse is predominantly built with can masonry.

South facing greenhouses

           he Earthships have a very distinct appearance, a
           south facing glazed greenhouse, tyre walls, water
           catching roofs and bottle walls. The major structural element is the site wall that is manually rammed full of densely packed earth found on site, creating a back wall with great thermal mass. This mass heats and cools the interior and does not need any additional heating or cooling. The floors are then finished with materials that help enable the thermal mass, such as cement or stone. This kind of thermal mass is a natural heating and cooling system that stores heat from solar gain and releases it at night when the building cools down. All the water collected is also reused. Rainwater is collected in large cisterns


that are buried behind the north facing tyre wall, the water is then filtered before it is used. The water in Earthship is reused four times before it is returned to the environment. The grey water is contaminated household waste water from the sink, bath or shower that is filtered through a worm pit or directed into the greenhouse planters where it is used to feed plants and gets naturally filtered and cleaned. The planter cells are angled in a way so that the water can flow through them using gravity. The toilet is the third use of the caught rain water and lastly the black water is filtered and fed to planter cells on the outside of the houses.

Tyre Wall
The major structural building component of the Earthship is recycled automobile tires filled with compacted earth to form a rammed earth brick encased in steel belted rubber. This brick and the resulting bearing walls it forms is virtually indestructible.
Water catchment
Catches water from the sky for drinking, bathing, cleaning, showering, washing, flushing, etc. for each building.
Worm Digestor
Used for cleansing sink water in the abouve kitchen, located in the inner greenhouse.
Constructing Earthships
Thora and Abbey punding the tyres. Everyone got to experience tyre wall building, ramming the tyres full of earth

I wanted to understand the Earthship method of building and gain hands-on experience with constructing houses alongside the architects. My roles included ramming tyres full of earth, tiling, mixing concrete and plastering as well as building bottle walls and taking care of plants in the greenhouses.

Manual Labour
The internship was hands-on building with your own hands and getting familiar with the material

             his was a very hands-on experience and labour
             intensive but also a great work and life experience
             to be able to be a part of building these self-sufficient homes. What really stood out during this time was the powerful thing that the Earthship culture does. It encourages people to think differently about how we live. This land of ‘experimental housing’, as the locals would describe it, has such a big focus on environmentalism and sustainability along with a strong sense of community. Due to the high costs of construction and energy, there is an obvious motivation for people to become more ‘green’. However there is also a greater awareness that green and healthy built homes have a greater payoff in regards to overall health, sense of wellbeing and raising our children in a healthier environment than we do now.


‘E.V.E. is a petri dish for development of a good virus.
...Every step of this EVE project is about learning to live without dependence on any other systems... political, economic or utility.’.
(Reynolds, M. Earthship Biotecture.)
Earthship Village Ecologies 'EVE'
The EVE project will address the economy of people living in harmony with the planet and with each other but much more independent of the global economy and thus not near as dependent on it. This village will aim to finance itself.