Over the past few years, Kaila has become increasingly passionate about natural building, and specifically the building of “Earthships.”  These “self sustaining vessels on land” were conceived by architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970’s, as he experimented with using waste materials to construct houses. Using aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles, and used tires rammed with earth, Reynolds has revolutionized the design and construction of sustainable housing. He wanted to design a home that would do the following three things:

1. Use  natural materials that are indigneous to our planet combined with recycled materials whereever possible.

2. Produce their own energy using natural energy sources and thermal mass to be independent from “the grid”.

3. Be economically feasible for the average person with no specialized construction skills.

Orange Hill, Jamaica Earthship project, December 2008

As we seek to design energy-efficient living systems for ourselves and the planet, it is imperative that we open our minds to such radical ideas as Reynolds’.

We have begun to integrate Earthship-inspired projects in our permaculture courses, to empower students to think outside of the box, and more in a dome-like shape, as they design their sites.

Tali and Donna packing tires with sledgehammers

The most recent permaculture course held on Martha’s Vineyard, MA., took part in building an Earthship-inspired composting toilet on Kaila’s family land.

The first step….ramming tires!

This project is now almost completed, with 2 out of 4 walls put up, and some recycled windows waiting to be put in. The upcoming permaculture students will put the finishing touches on, and hopefully begin to put it into use!

Earthships follow six principles:

1. They are constructed using the byproducts of modern society, in the form of cans, bottles, and tires
2. They use passive solar and thermal energy for heating and cooling
3. They collect and harvest their own rainwater
4. They use appropriate solar energy and wind power to fuel electrical needs
5. Water is used at least four times, recycled through greywater and blackwater systems
6. They aim to produce all of their own food

In terms of integrating Earthship principles into a home site without engaging in full Earthship construction, Kaila has worked on two “Earthship-inspired” composting toilets – one on Martha’s Vineyard, and one in Roaring River, Jamaica.

Packed tires and bottle walls provide a solid structure at low-to-no cost (ecological and economical)
Martha’s Vineyard: Packed tires and bottle walls provide a solid structure at low-to-no cost (ecological and economical)
South-facing wall allows natural light to filter through the bottles
Roaring River, Jamaica

2 Comments on “Earthships

  1. Hi! I absolutely love the house! I am wondering how much of the neck of the bottle do you have to leave exposed for light to shine through? I am doing a wall now and have left a significant amount, but am wondering if it could just be the tip. I don’t love the look of the entire neck sticking out.

    Saludos from Sayulita, Mexico!

    • Hey Audrey usually bottles are cut in two and then fussed back together so that is is easier to build with. Yeah it helps with the Aesthetics for sure. Ciao

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