In the late 70’s the architect Michael Reynolds moved from Cleveland to the Taos mesa to race motocross. As a freaked-out hippie type, he was prone to rebellion and eschewing the standards of his formal education. While on his brief journey towards racing fame he began to integrate the then-novel concept of recycling into a building technique, using omnipresent mountains of empty pull-tab beer cans to construct bricks, and then shelter. A series of impressive innovations brought him a good spurt of publicity in the early days: magazines from National Geographic to Architectural Record came to the Mesa to see what was going on in the emerging field of living amongst garbage.
Reynolds describes a moment when he was living off the land in a primitive can hut on the mesa, eating grasshoppers and generating his own electricity outside of society. The orthopteran buffet and bucket commode suited his needs perfectly, but he knew his concepts required a more palatable iteration to truly evolve his notions of resource management and comfortable self-reliance. The simple hut gave way to a lifetime of experimental architecture that revolved around the motto of sustainable autonomy for everyone.
But, top of the line models are not cheap. Expensive, luxurious (by Earthship standards), and more-traditional home that meets most building codes called the Global Model. With a construction cost around $225 per square foot, or $300,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath home, it’s certainly not for people who don’t believe wholeheartedly in the concept. But for those with the money to spend, it is the most holistic home available today: a home that heats, cools, feeds, and treats the sewage of its inhabitants, completely independent of any infrastructure. No heat, no HVAC needed.
The Global Earthship design performs in almost any climate around the world. The main features of this design include a double layer of glass (“double greenhouse”) between the inner living spaces and the outside and the use of underground cooling tubes and convection skylights which work together to provide ventilation and natural air conditioning for the building.
The Simple Survival Earthship is designed to provide comfortable shelter, clean water, contained sewage and basic solar power for lights and charging small electronics at a very low price. This building uses simple systems developed for the earthquake-relief demonstration project in Haiti. The Simple Survival Earthship may be built with one or more rooms and has evolved to include Vaulted Concrete and Wood Roof options. The concept has been applied to numerous disaster-relief and humanitarian builds around the world. For those inspired to build their own, Earthship Biotecture offers a Simple Survival app with Earthship construction drawings, materials lists, photos and more.