Frugalists are always interested in improving their minimalist way of live, to improve their quality of life and saving opportunities in order to reach financial independence. That is why the Earthship, a self-sufficient eco-friendly construction building, is a fantastic way to have a great base for an early retirement project.
The so-called Earthship is self-sufficient house made from wealth waste
An estimated amount of more than 140 million tonnes of plastic waste, which corresponds to the size of the area of Central Europe, is currently floating in our oceans. And it gets more every day. So-called Earthships make a virtue out of the necessity to act against this environmental pollution. These houses are fully self-sufficient eco-houses with the main building substance made of: wealth waste.
Initially, he was mostly ridiculed for his vision. It is in the 1970s in the New Mexico desert. At this time, the American architect Michael Reynolds puts his first Earthship in the desert sand. The special feature of his first self-sufficient eco-house consists mainly of civilization waste. As a basis for the walls, for example, old car tires serve, which are filled with dirt and then plastered with clay. At that time, only very few people believe that Earthships will prevail as a real estate form.
Today, about 40 years later, the first Earthship arrived in Europe. In beginning of the third millennia, the first “earthships” were built and completed on European soil. Mostly these were joint projects of a local eco-villages. Worldwide, there are currently over 1,000 houses modeled on Michael Reynolds’ construction concept.
Upcycling as a construction concept
The principle of upcycling refers to the recycling of materials. It comes to a material appreciation. That is, in its new function, the recycled materials have a higher utility than their original use. Earthships use the concept of upcycling by upgrading wealth waste into new environmental neutral building material.
Thus, the north, east and west facade walls are built of old car tires. These are piled up and filled with soil. Thus, they serve simultaneously as a structural component as well as a thermal storage component. Pipes in the earth wall supply the house interior with fresh air. The thermal energy stored in the earth heats up the pipes, replacing the system by a conventional heating system. In addition the south facade of the house is fully made of windows. Which also serves well for solar heat recovery a system which is unparalleled. Even at minus temperatures, the indoor temperature rarely drops below 23 degrees Celsius in Earthship buildings.
Earthships allow their inhabitants a completely self-sufficient life. Electricity is generated by a photo-voltaic systems on the roof. For almost all Earthship recycling houses, the photo-voltaic system is one of the few components that are not organic or made from recycled waste material. Otherwise, natural building materials like dirt, clay, wood, natural stones dominate the construction process of an Earthship.
A flowerbed as a sewage treatment plant
The central element in the interior of each Earthship is formed by a plant bed. The latter not only ensures an attractive appearance, but has, as so often in this type of house, a very functional meaning. The scree and sand layer contained therein serves as a filter for the rain- and melt water collected on the roof. The water thus obtained reaches the water supply circuit up to four times.
There are different circuits for drinking and waste water. Water contaminated with feces or detergents from the bathroom and kitchen does not re-enter the drinking and washing water cycle, but it still does not remain unused. The wastewater is first freed from excrement as it lands in an underground antiseptic tank outside the house. The sewage water is filtered and recycled into grey water thus the water can be used by the inhabitants of the recycling house to irrigate the garden plants indoor as well as outdoor.
Earthships might be the answer to the questions of our time
When Reynolds completes his first Earthship in the desert of New Mexico, he initially receives very little attention. Media often portray him as a quirky idealist. Granted, as Reynolds stands out from the crowd with his long hair and beard, just like his houses.
But in the end, he should be right with his vision. In the coming decades, climate change and increasing pollution of our planet will be one of the biggest issues of our time. Here his fully self-sufficient recycling houses provide a timely response. No wonder, that Raynolds’ Earthships are finding buyers around the world these days.
The price that owners have to expect for a standard Earthship model start at $100,000 depending on the size, the quality of execution and the interior house extension. As a result, the self-sufficient Earthship greenhouses are not more expensive than a comparable, conventional new building. There are differences, however, in terms of running costs. Whereas monthly costs for electricity, heating and water are incurred for a conventional property, an Earthship maintains itself and generates no extra running costs.
Under the name Earthship Biotecture Reynolds offers its services as a construction planner. The planning is done by himself or by a personally trained architect. Another option is to take part in workshops or to acquire corresponding blueprints. These enable owners to implement their Earthship totally on their own.
The first Earthship in Europe
In 2000, Michael Reynolds and his team came to build the first residential Earthship in Boingt in Belgium, but authorities denied the builder the finalization of the project by revoking the building permit just before the construction should start. Nevertheless, Michael Reynolds decided with the building developer to do a demonstration model in the back yard at their residence in Strombeek in Belgium.
In Europe anyone who wants to build an Earthship in his country, should nevertheless not get his hopes up to high. As the construction laws usually do not cover this form of houses. The pilot projects that have been built around Europe, were only possible with numerous special exception permits. And even then, the builders had to compromise. For example, the authorities have approved the construction project only on the condition that the building is connected to the local water and power supply.
Self-sufficiency is not well perceived by local and government authorities, but Frugalists should try to get their Earthship as it offers many long-term and cost-effective options to save money and create a base camp for your financial freedom and early retirement.
I hope I was able to inspire some of the folks from the Frugalist FIRE Movement to go for the Earthship adventure and take a deeper look into this construction concept. If you are inspired feel free to share this post with your friends on social media and leave me a comment below.