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Costa Almeria News Jan 2015

IMG 2785

Earthship sets sail

Sorbas couple, living life "off the grid"

By Adéle Land

An expat couple realised their dream last autumn as they took residence in their Earthship eco-home.

David Buchanan and Laura Davies set about their unusual project some seven years ago and after many delays and years of hard work, finally moved in, in September 2014.

The home, located near Sorbas is a fascinating construction built using recycled materials and those indigenous to the area. This type of building is classed as sustainable architecture using natural energy sources and is, in effect, "off the grid" or autonomous.

The Earthship model was developed by US architect Michael Reynolds who patented the idea in 1972 after building his first house using recycled materials.

Ms Davies originally from West Sussex has a background in design and Mr Buchanan, who was brought up in Colombia, is a mathematician.

They moved to Spain 12 years ago with the dream of living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Having previously renovated an old cortijo they began to read about Earthships and despite neither of them having any real experience in construction took on the project of a lifetime.

The couple built the home themselves with some help from visiting teams of volunteers who, in most cases, laughed Ms Davies, "didn't return a second time".

The main structure of the 'earth sheltered' 81 square-metre building is based around some 250 tyres densely filled with earth, placed in a strategic brick-like pattern.

A large expanse of glass faces south which doubles up as an energy generation device and passive solar source.

The interior is thickly plastered with adobe or mud brick and the inside walls are built using recycled cans and bottles joined by cement which adds to the quirkiness of the home.

Ms Davies said they approached local bars with big plastic bin bags and asked for all the used cans and bottles to be collected.

A unique system filters rainwater and condensation through to the Earthship from the roof which provides fresh water inside the building. Grey water is channelled through an interior drainage system and feeds the mini botanical garden which is an integral feature of Earthships and works as a natural humidifier.

The temperature in the home is incredibly stable, on a cold night the inside temperature drops to a minimum of 17.5 degrees, while on a sunny winter's day it can reach 25 degrees.

Windows and skylights can be hinged open to provide natural ventilation in the warm summer months.

The build project was subject to the same regulations as a regular new construction, Mr Buchanan told CA News: "Sorbas council could not have been more helpful, people in the planning department were very supportive but we had a long wait to get the project approved at provincial level."

A year after purchasing the land, work began on excavating and preparing the plot. Another delay occurred in 2011 when Mr Buchanan suffered a serious hand injury while using a bench saw.

After initial suggestions that one of his fingers would have to be amputated, surgeons managed to save all the digits but work on the Earthship was put on hold for many weeks while he recuperated.

The couple originally planned to build a second, larger Earthship but in an interview with this paper said they want to "spend some time relaxing and enjoying the fruits of their labour".

They hope to hold open days at the project and invite people from other parts of Europe to learn about this type of eco-property. Follow their blog at

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