EarthShips Are Us

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Taos, New Mexico is the unofficial (or perhaps official? How do they determine these things?) home of the “Earthship” movement. Earthships are ecologically friendly homes that are heavy on solar energy and use lots of recycled products in their construction. Some earthships even use recycled stuff like tires, cans, etc. A lot of them are actually partially built into the ground.

The company Earthship Biotecture takes the concept of an earthship to a new level. They define their construction technique in the following manner:

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

They seem to use some concepts in permaculture in their design ideas, so these homes are theoretically very self-sustainable. They’ve got some very cool designs on their website.

My only complaint about earthships? The price tag. Reports from some people I know in Taos say that earthships in general (not just from this company) are not what you’d call affordable housing. They’re more like housing for the very elite. Let’s hope that one day the earthship movement can open their doors to middle and low income folks as well!

4 thoughts on “EarthShips Are Us”

  1. I knew a guy who spent a couple of summers in Colorado building these things up in the mountains.

    The issue isn’t the cost of materials. It’s the intensive labor that goes into making an Earthship that makes it so expensive.

    Some people make these things themselves over a period of two or three years, doing all the work. In a case like that, you can make one pretty inexpensively. But it’s back breaking, hard work to build the walls for those things.

  2. I have been working on a 2800 sq foot earthship for three plus years. Goal is to get in loan free.
    Solar, wind and generator powered. N. Arkansas
    Dreamcatcher Earthship Project

  3. They’re expensive if you get the team to do it for you, but if you do it yourself it’ll be a lot cheaper.

    A family have built one in NZ, the only one in NZ til now for NZ$60,000 which is the minimum deposit to get a loan out from the bank for a “regular” house in NZ at the moment.

  4. Hello, I am a philosophy student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and I am minoring in sustainability studies. I have been studying the earthships, as well as varied sustainable building and farming techniques for about five years now, one of which I spent living in the Taos mountains and attending the UNM campus up there.(the most sustainable college campus in the country) My father has been a real estate agent for over 37 years, owns his own business ,Thomson Real Estate, and has been a land developer in the past. Several years ago, he acquired a forty acre tract of land in a township south of Albuquerque called Tome. This land has been basically developed except for infrastructure and homes. There is space for forty-plus homesites, leveled and graveled roads, and electricity, with two wells. We are planning to build a sustainable community of earthship-like traditional southwestern-style homes. These homes will be more affordable than purchasing an earthship brand new, but with all the same sustainability features. Instead of ever having a bill, upon moving in to one of our homes at the Rio Del Oro subdivision, a family will actually receive funds back from the electricity company from the draw off the solar panels. Rain water will be caught off of the entire roof surface, and this water will be collected into a cistern, which then has an overflow to a community cistern. So well water is just a backup, just as nature intended. The community cistern will then feed into a community greenhouse and garden space. This feature will provide for some facilitated community interaction, as well as supplying a subsidiary food source. The labor intensive aspect of the homes will be dealt with by utilizing volunteer laborers, who can easily be sourced and supervised by a licensed contractor. These volunteers will be paid directly in knowledge and understanding of how the process works. A similar deal is worked out at Earthship Biotecture, except they actually charge their volunteers $250.00 for a month long workshop. I am getting very close to being ready to break ground on our first model-home, which is being designed by the Henry architects in Taos, NM, Who already design most of the earthships up there. Really what I need at this point is some financial backing. It would cost easily under $150,000.00 to complete the first home, and begin work on the community designs. I can offer a minimum 8% return on investment annually, until paid in full. What I can also offer is the opportunity to finance the remaining homes, which could become incredibly lucrative. I plan on having the model home paid off within a couple of years, however the other residents will most likely have longer term loans, and we may need to adjust their interest rates accordingly. I just got my real estate license five months ago, and have had some success so far, but this is really what I want to do. . . We are going to make this happen. Please let me know if you are interested in becoming involved, or if you know anyone who would be. -John Thomson

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