In Taos, New Mexico, Michael Reynolds has been experimenting with building off-grid homes from trash for the last 40 years. After years of being fed up with the inefficient design principles of modern architecture, Mr. Reynolds developed a new profession and building design concept known as Biotecture.  Throughout his years of observational and experimental research he has designed these radically sustainable homes that we now know as Earthships. He uses the technology of natural phenomenon such as biology and physics of the sun, the earth and people themselves.

Combining those natural phenomenons with his 6 design principles, he has developed his latest model called The Global Model Earthship which can be adjusted to any environment across the globe to meet all of a persons survival needs while being completely self sustainable. In an Earthship, there is no need for modern heating and cooling units, attachment to a power grid or any other commercially manufactured or collected utilities. It is essentially a machine that is impeccably designed to take care of you for life with almost no sacrifice of modern day comforts.

With a profound desire to learn more, Heather Duncan, our CEO, traveled to the world headquarters in Taos, NM to get her bio-construction skills directly from the Earthship construction crew and Michael Reynolds himself. She believes that with time and more awareness, these homes or at least some of the design principles can also be incorporated in urban areas to liberate and empower the local people and in turn build up local economy in more sustainable and stable ways. She now serves as a resource for those looking to implement or learn more about the biotechture design principles established by Michael Reynolds.

A sustainable home must make use of local materials, those occurring ‘naturally’ in the local area including waste byproducts of industrialized civilization. The majority of materials used in the construction of these Earthship homes are not only available to the majority of the world, but also serve as solutions to many environmental concerns by repurposing materials that overwhelm our landfills. When designing and constructing an “Earthship Inspired” home, one must always consider the embodied energy of each repurposed or new material utilized to ensure the lowest consumption of energy in each build.

There are MANY aspects to the Earthship design that make it the leading concept in acheiving sustainable autonomy. The Terrabelha team is committed to empowering every individual with the knowledge and hands on experience to create their own fully sustainable home utilizing biotechture design principles and many other sustainable housing concepts. Fill out our contact form to be notified about our upcoming workshops and building courses.

Heather Duncan, cutting used bottles to create “bottle bricks” incorporated in non-load bearing walls.
Building constructed by Earthship Academy students and interns.

TYPES OF RECYCLED BUILDING MATERIALS

Radial Reinforced Rammed Earth Brick (Tires)

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 unlike many conventional methods of housing which makes this a logical solution for houses in areas prone to earthquakes and some other types of natural distasters.

The tires are also lined with repurposed cardboard to keep the rammed earth contained inside each tire. There is a very specific technique used to pound the tire and is the most laborious part in the construction process.

A study was carried out for those concerned with off gassing of the tires in the homes. The off gassing study concluded that essentially tires are hazardous in piles, not Earthships.

Aluminum Cans and Glass/Plastic Bottle “bricks”:

These ‘little bricks’ are a resourceful and simple way to build interior, non-structural or load bearing walls. They help form the wall to many different kinds of shapes. Bottles can also create beautifully colored walls that light shines through.

Aluminum can walls actually make very strong walls. However, Aluminum can be recycled using only 10% of the energy used to create new cans. This means that cans should only be utilized in areas of the world that don’t have resources to recycle the used cans efficiently.

 

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