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Revised edition

Get Started On Your Earthship - Navigate your way through the land purchase, Planning and Building Permission processes

After many requests for more info on the subject of purchasing land, Planning and Building Permissions, we've written an e-book about our journey through this minefield. Click image to find out more.

Below is a brief overview of the process.

Slowly, slowly

In his books Michael Reynolds suggests a staged process of application for planning so as not to freak out planning departments who haven't come across eathships before.

We first approached the local council planning office via an architectural engineer we'd consulted. She was very enthusiastic about the project and sent us to speak to the planning officer to see what we would need to do to start the process off.

When we had our first informal chat with the planning officer he said he'd heard of 'tyre houses', as he described them, but didn't seem that keen to get involved with them. He said we would have to put in a Project of Actuation which could take years to go through. We really didn't want to wait that long so asked if there was anything we could do on a much smaller scale to start the project off. He was happy to allow us to apply for building permission for a small navé without having to do the full Project of Actuation. This seemed like a perfect solution as we could learn from building this and see if earthship living worked for us. This was before there were any to rent in Europe.


Building permission for a 'Navé'

A Navé is an agricultural building in Spain. We started off our process by applying for building permission to build a 35sqm hut (Navé). It took about 8 months and a fair amount of chasing for the permission to be granted.

We then put in an application to build the greenhouse on the front of the hut. This, to our surprise, came through in a week.

In our plans we'd allowed for an extra room to be added to the hut at a later date - the round room. As the permission for the greenhouse had come through so quickly we thought we'd try and get the permission for the round room so we could build it at the same time as the rest. This was the proverbial straw! Because the round room added to the overall square meterage it tipped it over the maximum for a navé on our type of land. We were advised that it was time to apply for the Project of Actuation as it may take years to come through and we could still carry on building the hut and greenhouse (and the round room to a certain extent!).

Planning Permission

Called the Project of Actuation in Spain, it's the process of changing the usage of a piece of land. In our case from 'Agricultural' to 'Agricultural with living'. As we're ultimately planning to build a 'main earthship' plus other structures such as the battery house and extra water storage tank the planning application included these too.

Even though it's a more in-depth process and we were told it could take years, it only took about 8 months to come through. The next step is to apply for Building Permission, which has to be applied for within a year of being given the Planning Permission.

Building Permission for a dwelling

A dwelling is subject to much stricter rules of building than a Navé. As an earthship is a very different structure from a conventionally built house some of the regulations are simply not applicable. Our local council therefore required that we have sign-off from the Almeria School of Architects (a government run body) to confirm that it is fit for purpose.

This has been the most complicated and lengthy part of the whole planning process. It's now complete and we have full Building Permission for our little abode.

There is however one more stage...

Project of Ejecucion

The final stage which is basically the fine details of the construction with sign off from an engineer.

The normal time given to finish building is 3 years.

We have a couple of things to finish off before we get sign off from the engineer who has already visited the site. Good news is he's happy with everything else we've done - yehey!

Layout Plans

Initially we planned to build only the main hut and greenhouse. However, we decided to allow for the future addition of a round room in the plans. This would affect how we constructed the adjoining wall.

Top view showing water catchment tank and back-up gas bottle storage -


Get Started Booklet

If you'd like in depth information about our planning process we've written a booklet all about it.

Making a donation for the booklet qualifies you for our free up close and personal Q&A service via email.

This is where you get to ask us any and as many questions as you like about our earthship build. But it's only for those making a donation as it's our way of saying thank you to you for appreciating how much time we put into helping you.