Earthships As An Affordable, Sustainable Part Of Vernacular Architecture

By Nikolaos Meintanis, posted on November 6th, 2010 in Earth Observation, Essay Contest 2010

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University of Sussex

By Nikolaos Meintanis
University of Sussex

Abstract

This article defines shortly the term “vernacular architecture” with examples, presents some of the world’s energy issues regarding homebuilding, and describes the construction process of an earthship and the systems it constitutes. There is a lot to gain from this type of building, and society needs to start thinking “green” and more economically.

Introduction

Vernacular architecture is a term used to categorize methods of construction which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs. Vernacular architecture buildings do not need expertise of any kind: they are just simple buildings built by local people in order to have their needs satisfied. They differ from area to area. For example, dwellings built in the Philippines differ completely from those built in the Middle Eastern deserts due to different climates and different local materials. Vernacular architecture tends to evolve though and today people have to see the potential of something which looks like the perfect solution for the people’s pocket and the planet’s health. Earthships can be the perfect autonomous dwellings at low building cost, taking in mind the economical crisis of today. They are built from recycled “green” materials available everywhere. Furthermore, they have renewable energy systems which make them off the grid with low to no utility bills.

Environmental Functions Of Buildings And Affordability

Vernacular Architecture

Historically, people have always been modifying the internal environment in which they were living. Caves and other primitive types of dwellings were used in prehistoric times for protection from the external environment like rain, wind and earthquakes. These have developed later to simple artificial enclosures as civilization continued developing, and, in this way, different types and styles of identifiable dwellings started to appear around the world, depending on the climate, technologies and available local materials of the place. Therefore, the term vernacular architecture evolved, and is used to relate to these different styles of building around the world.

Energy Issues

Later, through the ages, technologies developed, cities evolved, and transport means were invented, all resulting in the more refined and complex dwellings of today as materials could be handled better and transported from everywhere. People’s never-ending desire for modification and control of the living environment resulted in a 60 percent increase of an average 2007 house’s size compared to a 1970 average one, which is a significant percentage increase1. Moreover, co2 emissions from buildings have been significantly increased as well due to this change of house size. According to the American Institute of Architects national government advocacy team, the largest source of “greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in America, as well as around the world, is buildings. Buildings account for an estimated 30-40 percent of all energy used globally. Citing the example of Europe, more than one-fifth of present energy consumption and up to 45 million tonnes of CO2 per year could be saved by 2010 by applying more ambitious standards to new and existing buildings2. Therefore people have to start thinking of new styles of dwellings, and new economical and energy efficient methods of controlling their internal living environment.

Affordability

When buying a house, the question “what would I feel like if I lived in this house?” isn’t usually the first one people ask– it’s more likely to be “can I afford it?” They don’t ask whether the house will help them grow, to be purposeful, to contribute to the society, or whether it will make them feel small and mean. Although people have the power to change things, and the ability to make choices, these can often feel severely limited by a culture dominated by financial imperatives rather than principles of well-being. It can be hard to envision a world for ourselves that nurtures and sustains us. But why should we accept anything less? Earthships are the “green” economical future lying ahead when the people cannot keep up with the economical crisis of the present.

The Earthship structure

Earthships are “green” sustainable buildings made out of recycled everyday life materials. It is a compilation of systems which make it autonomous like waste water treatment, water gathering from rain or snow, passive solar gaining, hot water system, electricity production from renewable energies like solar and wind. A lot of problems occurring in towns could easily be solved by building earthships and adopting this economical “green” way of building. Some of these include: sewage contamination, dwindling energy and water resources, garbage and the lack of affordable housing.

Construction Materials And Process

As already mentioned, earthships use recycled “green” materials as the primary building source. Used automobile tyres filled with earth and rammed by hammers are used for load- bearing walls of the earthship. These massive construction walls are 3 feet wide and virtually indestructible. These walls are built in rammed earth as seen from the picture on the left, resulting in thermodynamic living spaces where the temperature is stabilized and controlled better. Recycled cans and glass bottles are used for filling the gaps between the rammed tyres, and then a matrix of cement is formed which strengthens the walls. Moreover, they serve as bricks for the creation of the interior non-structural walls. It is worth noting that the cans and bottles are not used for either insulating or to strengthen the walls in any manner, but it is a way to form concrete into the walls without using more cement or wood thus making the house “greener”.

Temperature, Sun And Air

The massive construction of the house acts like a storage heater, and, in conjunction with passive solar gain, the temperature of the environment is comfortable to live in every hour of the day. The large windows of the south side are more than enough to let adequate sunshine in, which is stored in the building’s fabric (walls and floor). As soon as the temperature falls some degrees, heat is released, stabilizing the temperature again to match the zone in which the dweller feels comfortable. Insulated shades can be used on the large windows in order to keep undesirable hot summer rays out, and keep heat inside during cold winter. Fresh air is circulated in the house at all times or when desirable due to dormer and hopper windows as well as skylights and doors. Everything works together for natural air convection.

Image of an earthshipElectricity Generation

Electricity is generated in an earthship by using renewable energy systems, which use sustainable sources for their purpose (sun, wind). Solar photovoltaic panels are installed on the roof of the earthship and generate electricity during sunny days in order to meet the earthship’s household and system needs, which include electric appliances, heating water, electrical water pumps. The electricity is stored in a battery bank and is more than adequate to provide the earthship with electricity even in continuous cloudy weather. A wind turbine can also be installed to boost the earthship’s energy performance if needed.

Water Management

Earthships efficiently use fresh water by reusing it four times. A cistern is installed to store water coming from rain or snow. The fresh water is prepared by the Water Organizing Module which consists of a panel of filters and a DC pump which pushes the water into a conventional pressure tank. After that, the water needed for household needs is filtered, pumped and pressurized. Water that drains from the sinks and the shower passes through a grease and particle filter and then onto a gray-water treatment planter where plants flourish from the water. The extra water not used by the plants drops into a reservoir at the far end of the planter where it pumps and sends the cleaned gray-water to fill the toilet tank for flushing. Used toilet water known as black-water is flushed outside for treatment in a conventional septic tank with a line out to a conventional leech field in an alternative series of rubber-lined planter cells, which feed the exterior landscaping while further cleansing the water.

Conclusions

The interest in Earthship building is highly noticeable and more and more people build their houses using this method. There are already a lot of earthships in Europe which attract visitors and a lot of them are amazed by the idea and concept of the earthship. Small steps towards money saving and co2 emission reducing are taken with the hope of more to come.

Thanks to Earthship Brighton!

Citations

1 http://www.nahb.org/news_details.aspx?newsID=10898

2 http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=502&ArticleID=5545&l=en

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26 comments
Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Hey John-Paul, earthships can be built in rural areas only I agree and thats the whole point of the idea! "The earth is our space module flying through space. We are riding it. The earthship concepts serve as our operator's manual. We can self-destruct shortly after launch or we can sail into the future on the wings of universal energy patterns" (Michael Reynolds author of "Earthship"). Michael talks about energy here. He is aware too that earthships can be built in rural areas only but this is not a problem for large scale projects. 90% of the buildings in the world are made vernacular (local materials by builders with no building experience) according to the Centre for Vernacular Architecture Studies, International Studies in Vernacular Architecture, brochure (Oxford: Oxford Brookes University). Therefore earthships are made for the people who want to make a difference, who want to leave their mark and help fight global warming. I am sure that these people would not migrate to a city if they think about the environment or want an affordable sustainable house. So to be honest earthships are a choice for certain people and it was not in my intention to present an obligatorily way of building :)

John Paul
John Paul

Hi Nikolaos, I'd like to resurrect my question from a month ago, if you would allow me. Yes I've heard the idea of vertical farms before, but I think you misinterpret my question. I did not query about the future of farms. Since rural areas will still comprise the greatest proportion of land in many countries in the following decades, they are not an immediate concern. Therefore, places to perform farming will not be a great issue except for the fact that rural areas will be constructed by industrial plants and factories which is detrimental to the crops. Going back to my question, in your essay, you stressed the idea of sustainable construction. Based on the pictures you provided, they looked like they are not suitable to be built in the cities because cities does not much have space, therefore, high-rise apartment complexes are the answers to solve the issue of lack of space. And since you are advocating a large scale construction of these houses, I am of the opinion that many cannot do it because people are continuously migrating from rural places to cities. And by the fact that earthships are more suitable to be built in rural places, the idea might not be adapted in large scale. Please give light on how you could plan to implement the idea in large scale? Blessings, John Paul

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Hey dave, No, earthships are not meant to be constructed on coastal areas because they are partially built in rammed earth. Sand or light gravel in coastal areas is not an acceptable building soil for earthship standards. Therefore if built inland, they are very durable because the walls are actually made of rammed earth filled tyres which serve as structural blocks!! They are virtually indestructible. flooding could be an issue though but on the other hand, I cant possibly think of a floodproof structure at the moment. :) Hope I covered you! Cheers Dave!!

David N. Tshimba
David N. Tshimba

Dear Niko, It has been so great reading your essay. From such an outstanding idea, I am yet to believe that only problems are scare for solutions are ever available and forever they will be! I must confess that I know very little about very much concerning vernacular architecture. I am of the view that earthships could serve us a huge deal. Nonetheless, one simpler worry I could be having is to get to know how durable such a construction could be (bearing in mind the already felt effects of climate change, namely flooding, tornado, and such other natural calamities like quakes, erosion, etc. Would this construction still be durable in coastal regions? Otherwise, I thank you for your work and keep the spirit tuned for the best. Dave

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

I very much thank you all dear sirs and apologize for not replying sooner to all of your thoughts since I am working on my final year project as well! Your contribution is greatly appreciated. I really enjoyed reading the comments since they all almost start with the words : "wow I have never heard of this method" and such. It feels good when you offer an idea which everyone appreciates,understands, criticizes and in general gives an opinion. I am really glad I contributed with my knowledge guys. Thank you!

Rob Dent
Rob Dent

This is a very interesting concept. I hadn't thought of the idea of a self sustained home before. However, as several others have said already, with times as they are right now, going green isn't on everyones agenda. Many people are happy to just be able to have a home over their head and food on the table. However, this shouldn't stop other people from taking the initiative and starting this trend. While a new concept to me, this idea has infinite possibilities to help with the growing problem of energy and pollution in the world today. We need to start stepping up to the plate and combating these issues head on, and this seems like a great way to make a stand towards a greener environment.

Troy Hudson
Troy Hudson

Wow, I've actually never heard of this housing before and think its an exceptional idea. If we could get more and more of these houses throughout the world, then we could make a major change in our economy. The thought of this architecture doesn't seem appealing, but looking at the pictures and seeing how much they help the economy helps make them more appealing. I like how you mention when going to buy a house, you don't think to yourself how it would make you feel living there. The first thing you think of is, can I afford it? Hopefully the economy can get better to the point where "how would this house make me feel" can become the first questions in people's minds.

Chanell Ridley
Chanell Ridley

I'd first like to say that these pictures are beautiful, looking at the things that we can do to make our homes more efficient. People are making assumptions that going green is expensive and not for me; but reading this article seeing that we can choose to recycle and reuse materials. Many people feel as though if they are not using something then they will throw it away; and this is the mentality that we have to stray from. Using the Earthship house is a great idea, knowing that society can change this thinking pattern with the right direction. I am so excited to see that people can reuse materials that may have been seen as trash. This housing component can really change thinking patterns in our society.

Alyssa Rae Bolinger
Alyssa Rae Bolinger

I love that your essay emphasized that the terms “green” and economical can be pursued in harmony! I have never heard of vernacular architecture, but I definitely understand the concept. I do not feel that every consumer realizes the cost and pollution that is involved in transporting, manufacturing, and maintaining materials that are not native to the consumer’s environment. It is much more economical and green to utilize local, available materials – it saves time and it support local business. People should live in a home that fits into their environment using earth friendly and money friendly materials. Construction that is designed specifically for one’s geography and climate also saves money; a functioning house made from materials that will resist environmental variables, such as wind, rain, heat, or freezing temperatures, will cut down on maintenance. Also, the size of a home should reflect the size of a family – not their ego or their wallet. Like your article suggest, energy use has greatly increased with the greater occurrence of two story homes. Bottom line is people should live realistically and practically so they do not take away from the health and beauty of the natural world. A practical sized home is also easier to incorporate and afford renewable energy. Passive solar mechanisms such as solar chimneys, sun facing windows, and automatic blinds can affectively regulate a home thermostat – this can all be done without the installation of active solar systems with expensive collectors. People need to be educated on these ideas and the world could effortlessly take a step in the right direction.

Shanna Helvey
Shanna Helvey

Wow, I have never really heard of vernacular architecture before, this could be a great solution and a giant step in helping better our environment. With most of the materials being recycled materials it will better help our climate struggles as well. This is could be good for societies that are so money driven, the money saved in building this such as these could go into other things that will help out the environment. The “going green” method would be great for these buildings and would really help out tremendously. I think your essay was very informative and could really plan a big role in educating people on new ways to save energy and in turn will help out environment. Most people would probably see these buildings and think low class but really they are being smarter because they don’t have to pay nearly the price as those how live in mansions. I hope your essay brings about great awareness because this could be mean huge changes in bettering our environment. Great job!

Brad Sneary
Brad Sneary

I think your idea about Earthship structures when it comes to building house is a great idea. It’s a great way to use items that most would see as garbage. This idea could solve some serious problems like you mentioned with garbage and the lack of affordable housing. People can buy a great house to live in and at the same time help the environment by going “green”. The pictures above show some pretty good looking homes. I am not surprised when it is mentioned that these structures are becoming more and more popular. If people can find a home that is good looking and is energy sufficient they are going to jump right on it. It’s crazy to think that such a reliable structure with all the needs of a regular house can be done through Earthship. I found it amazing to see all the different material used to make one of these houses. This all goes back to using renewable resources. If we start thinking like the people who developed Earthship buildings we will be able to solve some of the problems our environment faces by not only making houses but also making other items as well.

Brad Whittaker
Brad Whittaker

I agree that building these types of houses and buildings could be a great energy saving source, they depict what a house would look like exactly by “going green”. When people see these houses many people wouldn’t be thinking of how big an energy saver these houses are. For example the building materials are actually made from recycled materials. When seeing these houses many people would think about the ability to afford them and surprisingly they are affordable, I didn’t believe when reading your essay how affordable they really are because they seem like they would cost millions of dollars to even build a smaller home. These Earthships are a great idea, however they are going to be more suitable to people in either high middle class or the upper class of society. Most people any lower aren’t going to be interested into wanting a house like this or having the means to build one. Although these houses are going to be very energy efficient its going to be very hard to really get people to buy into getting these houses because of the economy and the housing market. Many people that don’t have the money aren’t going to be able to buy these house as of right now.

Craig Fitzgerald
Craig Fitzgerald

I thought that this article was very interesting. I have always wondered about what was available for green housing but I have never really seen anything about it. I really like the idea of vernacular construction. I think that we need to keep trying to build homes using the renewable resources that are available locally to us. I also like all the examples you give about all the ways that green technology can and is being used today. I thought that the walls made out of old car tires was a really neat idea. I would have never thought that a construction technique like this existed. I think that right now though that many of these green technologies are too expensive for the average person to use in their house. I know for a fact that the more energy efficient that something is the more it is going to cost you. The government tries to give tax incentives to get people to do this but you have to spend so much more money to get these tax breaks. I thought that this was a great article and it showed some up and coming ideas on sustainable living. I hope that I will begin to see some of these things become common over the next several years

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Dear Shayla thank you for expressing your concern about the recycling of old buildings! Earthships are actually not meant to be built in cities. They belong to the rural or semi-rural areas where there is plenty of earth to be built in as I said in my previous comment(November 8th, 2010 at 8:14 pm), replying to John Paul's question: "But have you considered building these kinds of houses in cities? In general, cities have very limited space and thus high-rise buildings answer the need for houses in many cities" We dont have to tear down old buildings or recycle them in order to use them as earthship material, there is no need. Earthships are built from recycled tyres bottles and cans and adding anything more would damage the whole simple sustainable design. For example in some cases, insulating a wall with more than required material makes the insulation to act negatively so you end up with nothing. Earthships are actually a part of a great environmental universal try. It is not an idea that alone could save the world and it doesnt go like: "lets build some earthships and solve the greenhouse emissions problem forever". It is one of the many things that would contribute in energy saving and emission minimising in the world. Like the energy saving plans applied to buildings set by the European Union, discussed in one of the above comments (November 15th, 2010 at 3:16 am) Cheers Shayla I hope I answered all of your questions and you are welcome to ask more!

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Dear Kathryn I am so happy you mentioned straw as a way of building!! Im actually designing one for my final year project! Straw can be used as a zero energy insulation material in Buildings and has twice the insulation Building Regulations require. It is kind of funny that people ask me the same question over and over: "Isn't it a fire risk?" Maybe you have the same question too so I will answer it anyways. The answer is no. It may seem strange but when you stack bales up in a wall and plaster them either side, the density of the bales is such that there isn't enough air inside the bales for them to burn. It's liketrying to burn a telephone directory- loose pages burn easily but the whole book wont catch fire. If you are interested and would like to know more I could point out some really good books. Cheers Kathryn!

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Brice Darling thanks a lot for your time reading this and for your questions! I understand your concern about changing bulbs and appliances to energy star when someone doesn't have any money to do that. I live in Cyprus, this is an island small country located below Turkey. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 therefore all the energy saving plans of the EU are applied to Cyprus as well. EU sets multiple plans for energy saving which I would need 20 pages to analyse here so take a look at this link: http://www.euractiv.com/en/energy-efficiency/energy-performance-buildings-directive-linksdossier-188521 The legislation about zero carbon emission in houses has been approved in 2010 and until 2020 all new buildings are going to be nearly zero energy. European Union actually forces changes, knows whats best and makes the universal jump as a well organised group of countries! Moreover I dont think that EU could achieve such a huge energy change without changing the bulbs as a first step. In my opinion it is all about education and America should follow this example.. Unfortunately Brice you do the same american thing I described in my comment dated November 7th, 2010 at 4:10 pm. Just a few lines above my quotation from the book in page 8 of “The Renewable Energy Handbook" by William H. Kemp it characteristically says: "North Americans have an unfortunate habit of looking at first cost rather than life cycle or true cost when analysing appliances and consumer goods", but this wasnt necessarily appropriate for my comment above so I skipped it. My advice is, take a look at the whole comment including the example about the bulbs and that will answer all of your questions. You could buy the book also if you think you have to. Thanks a lot Brice!! :)

Jonathan Lehman
Jonathan Lehman

Earthship building is a great idea. Most people who think of Earthship building think of primitive living, when in fact it is the complete opposite. Earthship buildings are attractive, energy efficient, and have all the luxuries of a regular house. Earthship houses can be built in any environment. You mentioned Earthship houses being built in the Philippines and Middle East, but Earthship houses are also becoming popular in the United States. Earthship houses are unique and many people are unaware of the benefits to living in one. Like you mentioned, they are substantially more energy efficient, they are affordable, they are well-built, they use local materials, and they have all the utilities of a regular house. Earthship house are also not limited to size. These homes are extremely strong and durable, and can have multiple stories. These houses also have endless designs and layout options. When most people think of Earthship houses, they think of huts. This could not be farther from the truth. Earthship houses are not for everyone, but they should at least be considered. They are beautiful, well-constructed homes which just so happen to be environmentally friendly. I enjoyed reading your essay on Earthship building. This type of building is becoming more popular around the world, but many people are still not aware of its benefits. People are surprised when they find out how modern these homes are. I know I was. They offer an individual a great place to live, while at the same time saving the planet.

Shayla
Shayla

This Earthship idea is awesome! What a great topic to write about. It amazes me what you can make out of recycled materials. Not only is a recycled materials so it’s helping our earth but most of them look pretty cool also. The unique designs of these houses are kind of modern, but so unique! I know of a house locally that was built using this same concept. The funny thing is that it was built probably almost ten years ago when none of this was much of a big deal. It would be prudent for builders to look into this Earthship concept. I think that when buildings are being constructed that people focus so much on technology verses eco-friendly. Though our technology is advancing so much, not all of it is echo-friendly. Most companies would rather have the best and most current advances in technology other than recycled water and lower electricity bills. The idea of Earthship is superior, but at the same time what would happen with all the old buildings and houses? Would we be able to recycle materials from those buildings and incorporate them into Earthship buildings? Where would we build these buildings at? Would we have to tear down existing buildings?

Kathryn Hensler
Kathryn Hensler

I have found your article to be a quite informative piece of literature! I am happy that you took the time to really research what you are discussing and implement your knowledge of the subject even in the comments you reply with. As for your essay, I agree that Earthships are a great way of reducing energy costs, and solving a lot of housing issues, not only in the United States but in other countries as well. In my Environmental Sociology course, we discussed how one may utilize straw as a means of building materials and during that discussion I had to admit that I had never thought of that before. I feel that many people do not stop to realize alternate forms of housing, and when they do come across them they find them to be a minor curiosity rather than something to be taken seriously. I feel that if Earthships were advertised in a well informed manner to a more global audience than people will be more interested in this type of housing. Hopefully this will help create a new and better tomorrow for Earth and our children!

Brice Darling
Brice Darling

I completely agree with that fact that it would be great if all the people in America could get energy saving lights and appliances throughout their houses, but where are people going to get this money to update their way of living. People don’t often update until the old stuff either breaks down or goes completely obsolete. Why fix what isn’t broke? This is the mindset that a lot of people in America have today. Also with unemployment and the way the economy has been for the past few years why would anyone spend money that they don’t absolutely need to? Unless you are positive that your job is secure and it is paying a more than fair amount of money you don’t have the extra money to go out and buy energy star appliances. You also mention that people could save in the long run because they could save money on their energy cost, but how long is it going to take for them to really make their money back and the appliances to pay for themselves? If I can keep using my appliances that I am already using and I don’t have to use my hard earned money to go out and buy something that is a little better, why wouldn’t I just stick with what I already have? You have great ideas and it would be great if people would really do it, but I don’t know how many people would really jump on board, especially the middle to lower class families.

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Of course it would be dear John that is the idea of it because we all know there isn't too much earth in the cities for the earthships to be built in :) Have you ever heard though about vertical farms? http://www.verticalfarm.com/ As a quick description: these are buildings used to grow vegetables and fruits or even wheat and everything in general (that can be grown by hydroponic systems), built inside the cities using hydroponic systems, meaning they manage and treat their wastewater (by re-adding minerals and vitamins) in order to use it again to water the plants. The main advantage is that you save farming space out in the wild because you can grow in this way plants in stories, like farms on top of each other. Thus a lot of building space now becomes available and you keep the plant infections to a minimum as another advantage of hydroponics. It is another design struggling to emerge with a lot of potential! Moreover vertical farms are designed to solve the food shortage problem which is getting bigger and bigger every day. "Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today" taken from the vertical farm site above. Therefore vertical farms could be the solution to the food shortage problem by saving and using efficiently farming space. Earthships do the same thing too but in a smaller scale since they only have a botanical garden outside. They are like mini vertical farms which provide food to the residents due to their autonomous nature. Vertical farms and earthships in conjunction seem like the beginning of a new world only visible to an ecologist's eye! Thank you for your question, it made me think about other aspects of earthships and I really enjoyed answering this! Cheers John!

John Paul
John Paul

The idea of the house is indeed awesome. But have you considered building these kinds of houses in cities? In general, cities have very limited space and thus high-rise buildings answer the need for houses in many cities. We cannot eliminate the fact that many people are migrating to cities each year because of economic reasons. This is very true in China and India where cities receive thousands of migrants each day. Due to space availability, these types of houses would only be feasible in rural areas.

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Thank you Heather for your time reading this. Actually earthships are really cheap to make because of the use of local materials like straw and timber. A lot of governments grant 50% bursaries or more of the actual cost for building something "green" reducing CO2 emissions so everyone could build one with basic and simple knowledge of building, thus no hiring of workers is needed (vernacular architecture). As for the bulbs I am definately sure that if a commercial explained the cost of the commercial bulbs (edison's) everyone would stop using them. Unfortunately a lot of people buy bulbs looking at the first cost and not the life cycle or true cost.. But William H. Kemp is the most appropriate person for this situation since he described it perfectly for the American homes in his book: "The Renewable Energy Handbook p. 8" "At first glance, the initial cost of the compact fluorescent lamp appears uneconomic compared with the cost of old-fashioned incandescent lamp. Typical compact flourescent lamps have a first cost of approximately three dollars where the incandescent lamp is approximately 40 cents. But look closer. the compact fluorescent lamp lasts approximately 10 times longer, making first cost lower ($.40 x 10 incandescent lamps = $4.00, giving the same life as a compact fluorescent = $3.00). Based on first cot alone, our compact fluorescent lamp is already one dollar less expensive. Now let's look at energy costs. Assuming you pay $0.12 for each kilowatt hour of electricity delivered to your home, a 23 W compact fluorescent lamp (which provides light equivalent to a 100W incandescent lamp) will save over $92 in energy costs over the life ofthe bulb. Now multiply this savings times the average 25 light bulbs per house and you have just put a cool $2,300.00 after-tax dollars in your pocket." I think that its a nobrainer and everyone would understand what is in their best interest after reading this dear Heather and this is just for the bulbs. Against the elements I think that a 3-foot thick wall made out of rammed earth tyres is indestructible. The tyres weigh around three hundred pounds once they are packed with dirt and then added as part of the wall. This is just the filler of the wall!! A cement matrix is formed resulting to a massive wall like a convectional cement wall but thicker. Massive construction is used for heating storage like the desert houses. Moreover the earthship is built in rammed earth, meaning a big part of the earthship is covered by earth for temperature control and protection of the external enviroment. Once again thank you Heather hope more questions will follow!

Heather Hyndman
Heather Hyndman

I agree that implementing housing and buildings of this nature could be a great energy saving source and sounds as though it would contribute greatly to the “going green” movement. In the economy we have today however more and more people are losing their homes and as a result many probably are not worrying about how “green” the roof over their head is, they are just happy to have one. Also, it is often not financially possible for people to build a new home so many are buying older homes instead. I think the Earthships are a great idea however I think for the time being only those with better financial means in higher socioeconomic classes may have the means to implement these types of new homes. Also there is the question if people will want to do so. Although we know the implications of our energy usage and the possible future effects it will have, many Americans do not do anything to change their consumption habits. Many do not even partake in the simplest of things such as buying energy efficient light bulbs rather than the traditional ones. If simple changes like this cannot be made, it will be very difficult to implement such a drastic change in the style of homes. Also I wonder how sustainable these materials have been against the elements such as severe storms etc.

Nikolaos Meintanis
Nikolaos Meintanis

Thank you for your time reading this Behzad! Feel free to ask any questions readers! Cheers

Behzad F
Behzad F

It was a very interesting article. I had heard something about this technology before, but this essay really goes deep into the topic. I also have an interest in alternative energy systems, so it was really interesting to be introduced to a new technology.