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Recently Asked Questions

Laura Dave earthship 1024

The Daily Mail article in June 2020 has a comments section where some interesting questions/comments have arisen. I think they’re worth answering more fully.

Below are the questions with our answers, please add a comment at the end if you have any other questions or would like me to expand further.

Are the tyres a fire risk?

No! In Michael Reynolds’ books he shows a photo of an earthship caught in a forest fire. The only thing left was the tyre walls - as sturdy as when they were first built. I’m guessing this is because they are packed tight with soil so there’s no air to aid combustion.

Does the earthship smell of rubber from the tyres?

No! I can see why you’d think that, and we could certainly smell them when we were transporting them in our car. But somehow as soon as they become solid earth-filled walls there is no smell, not ever, even when things warm up in here during the height of summer.

A few years ago we took part in a scientific study carried out by the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg. They commisioned dust samples to be tested from 5 European earthships by The Laboratoire National de Sante Luxembourg.

Bearing in mind we haven’t plastered over the tyres yet, so they’re still exposed to the interior, and we took the dust from directly under these tyre walls, the results were clear that they were not emitting harmful substances. This was across all 5 earthships, not just ours.

Does living off rainwater mean you can’t shower regularly?

No! Certainly you need to be aware of your water useage more than if you’re on mains. But as the water in an earthship is used 4 times taking a shower is the same as watering the plants and flushing the loo.

So you take your shower in the clean rainwater, this then goes into the planters where the plant roots clean it enough to use for flushing the toilet. That blackwater then goes to a septic tank and exterior planter.

The trick with using rainwater is to have enough catch area and storage tanks for your needs:

• Work out roughly how much water you use a year

• Find out the average rainfall per year in your area

• Then you can work out what catchment area and tanks you need.

I don’t like the decor, it looks like a rubbish tip, is that how they always look?

No! Earthships are a way of building, a concept, there is no one look. You can adapt the look of it to your personal tastes and your surroundings.

I’ve seen photos of earthship interiors that you can’t tell are earthships, they look like a regular build with straight walls, some look like log cabins, others stone built cottages.

The reason you can see the tyres and cans in our interior is because we haven’t finished plastering the walls.

16C minimum sounds chilly!

Yes it does until you realise that is the absolute minimum after quite a few days of cloud and seriously cold temps outside.

Our average temps in winter go between 18-21C, more than comfortable. And this is all without any back up heating at all.

You could, and some earthship owners do, install a wood burner or open fire if you wanted to take your temps up higher, it wouldn't take much as your starting point is always more than a conventionally built home.

The first winter after we moved in, when we came inside on a cold day we’d be thinking we’d left the fire on it felt so cosy, then we remembered we don’t have a fire anymore!

When it does drop to 17 or 16C we put an extra jumper on or I bake a cake. The small amount of heat generated by the oven is enough to heat the space up to 18C again.

Does living in an earthship make you a hippy?

No! Again, earthships are simply a way of constructing a home - albeit a very effective eco home.

The materials used are unconventional and they tend to be off grid for both water and electricity, but you can live in one and be anything you want to be, live pretty much how you want to live, have any political, religious or cultural opinions.

It really is purely a way to build a super comfortable home yourself.

Isn’t there a problem with condensation and humidity?

Earthships have an air circulation system built into their design. Skylights and low opening windows and/or air vents. The air passing between these devices gives a natural ventilation system.

Ours has the skylights to the back of the building with opening windows in the front face. We have found this system of ventilation works really well most of the year bringing fresh air through the building. Occasionally, on very cold mornings, we get a little condensation on the skylights. We have addressed this by putting blinds on them which stops the condensation dropping onto furniture below. We haven’t had any problem with humidity.

Newer designs have air vents (cool tubes) low in the back mass walls with skylights in the front face above the planters. This allows the air to be cooled in summer and warmed in winter as it passes through the back berm. It has the skylights above the planters so any condensation drops onto the plants.

For more humid environments the design now includes a vapour barrier between the tyre walls and the berm.

I’ve heard Michael Reynolds, the designer, doesn’t even live in one!

I’m not aware of Michael Reynolds’ current living arrangements! But I do know he lived in an earthship for many years (and possibly still does). He also lived in other homes he designed. He’s an experimental architect, constantly assessing and improving on his designs and concepts. I imagine he changes his living arrangements to suit his current needs as most people like to do if possible.

Mr Reynolds encourages people to build his earthships themselves, or at least be involved in the whole process. This means you understand the concepts fully - you know how it was built and can therefore live with it and maintain it with knowledge.

When we started building our earthship we decided upon one of his designs that we felt suited our requirements. After living in this earthship for nearly 6 years we both agree it’s the most comfortable home we’ve ever lived in, and both of us have lived in many different types of accomodation over the years.

There are always things that can be improved upon and that, with hindsight, you might wish you’d done differently - but when you start with something wonderful, what do you get when you keep on improving it?!

We’re extremely happy with the home we’ve built and feel no hesitation to recommend the earthship concept and design. We feel that the living systems built into this home are way ahead of their time.

“If you look for perfection, you'll never be content.” - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I hope these questions and answers help you understand a bit more about earthships, the materials used to build them and what living in one is like.

Please do leave a comment below, what do you think of earthships? xx

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