Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Earthship Ahoy!

This summer I visited the Brighton Earthship, one of the most sustainable forms of housing being designed to be completely "off grid" in terms of energy, water supply and sewerage. The earthship concept comes from the US, and, according to its promoters, Earthships Biotecture, they are "self contained dwellings that will sail on the seas of tomorrow". Hmm.

The building is built into a hillside using scrap tyres rammed with earth to form the back wall and provide 'thermal mass' to store the sun's energy through the night. This is much better than the normal way of creating thermal mass - pouring loads of concrete - but it caused a bit of a problem with the authorities as scrap tyres are officially a 'waste material'. Fortunately the Environment Agency looked fondly on the project and gave the developers a waiver.

Rainwater is harvested and greywater treated inside the building by the plants you can just make out through the side window. There's plenty of provision for renewable energy - solar PV, hot water and a wind turbine. The wood burning stove inside is rarely used as it makes the building too hot. Composting toilets are stationed outside.

I like the futuristic external appearance - a nice departure from the 'Swedish chalet" look of many eco-buildings, and the interior has a fantasticly airy feel about it. I wish I had the time and money...


At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen these Earthships too - not in the flesh so to speak, but in an introductory film about them and their architect, Mick Reynolds out in Taos New Mexico.

The people who live in an Earthship community out there even have their internet connections solar powered!

Time and money? Me too - I'd be off the grid like a shot and these Earthships are stunning.

Gareth - what do you think about Bill Dunster and his eco architecture?


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Gareth Kane said...

I must admit I've never been to Bedzed, but I've seen some of Dunster's buildings and they certainly look good with those iconic wind cowls.

One thing that worries me about that project is the carping between Dunster and the developer as apparently some of the technology doesn't work as it should. I haven't followed the argument in detail, but if anyone has an insight, please post it here.

Another worry is that his designs use a lot of concrete as thermal mass. I can't help thinking there are solutions to this requirement which much less embodied energy such as the earthship's rammed earth tyres.


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