Image courtesy of Alan Howell, Star Path Images
Who built this house?
Melina Winterton and Larry Peck; progressive greenies who now live in Berkeley, CA.
What is an earthship?
An earthship is a type of eco-home. The concept house was developed by architect Michael Reynolds and he coined the term "earthship." Many earthships are made of earth-rammed tires. Many are made of concrete to accommodate local building codes.
Has the house you been in the news?
Yes. Twice, to date. Here in 2008 and here in 2005.
How is an earthship different from a regular house?
There are a few characteristics that make a home an earthship.
The house is "bermed," meaning that dirt is gently placed, from ground to roof line, on the northern, eastern, and western sides of the home. The berm is about 15-20 feet deep. Think of it as a huge earthen blanket that provides insulation equivalent to 10 layers of the standard pink stuff.
It collects rainwater off the roof. Rainwater collects in large storage tanks, called cisterns, and can be used as the primary water source or as agricultural irrigation.
It recycles greywater. Greywater is "used" potable water. All used water (except the waste water flushed down the toilet, which is called blackwater) is greywater. Examples of greywater include water from the dishwasher, sinks, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines. In a standard home, all this water is sent to the municipal water treatment plant, or to a septic system. In an earthship, the greywater is directed to an indoor garden, where plants use the greywater in a process called transpiration.
The first thing people notice is that it is strikingly different from typically designed houses. It is filled with natural light, is highly oxygenated from the greenhouse, and has an open, organic floor plan. The house is alive, and you can feel it when you walk in the door. It is beautiful, filled with plants, art work, children, natural materials like tile and granite, and easy to be in. It has been described to us as "amazing," "cool," "nothing like what I expected," and "incredibly comfortable."
This earthship is made of concrete, is bermed, collects rainwater for irrigating our gardens, and has a greywater planter. This earthship has the additional feature of a green roof, which provides insulation and beauty without affecting our ability to collect rainwater for irrigation.
Many earthships are designed to function "off grid," meaning that they have their own solar-electric systems and independent water sources. We use solar panels to generate the heat for our hot water and are connected to the local power grid.