When traveling in the northern New Mexico area, one stop along the way that you won’t want to miss is the Visitors Center for Earthship homes. These structures are very interesting.
Earthships are buildings that are designed to be built with recycled materials. These structures take green living to it’s extreme. Each structure is basically old tires packed with earth and stacked on top of one another to form walls. The tires are surrounded by concrete or cement filler interspersed with old beverage cans and bottles. The bottles make a nice addition when light is allowed to flow through. One example we saw was an outside lamp post using what appeared to be the bottom of an old pickle jar.
The entire structure can then be coated with a mud or adobe mixture to give it a more polished look. Most Earthships are either fully or partially burned into the ground. The surrounding earth also acts as an insulation, keeping the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Earthship builders place large windows on the south facing wall in order to capture solar light and heat.
Each Earthship is designed to house an entirely independent water system. The Earthship captures rain or snow, usually on the roof, and then the water is funneled through a silt screen. The screened water is then stored in a cistern for further use. The Earthship Visitors Center near Taos has an indoor tank. The builders had incorporated a small waterfall that created a nice sound in the adobe structure.
From the cistern the water would be used for washing and bathing. That water would then be used as gray water to fill toilet tanks and water indoor gardens.
Each Earthship home is built with independent sustainability in mind. Power is harnessed through solar and/or wind collection. Energy enters the Earthship into a bank of battaries at twelve volts. The battery bank feeds an inverter that in turn produces one hundred fifteen volts and sixty hertz that is used to power the appliances in the Earthship. Earthships usually have special refrigerators called “Thermal Mass Refrigerator”. Thermal Mass Refrigerators are designed utilizing a type of alcohol as insulation and can therefore hold temperature better. Earthship power systems are capable of sustaining all kinds of modern conviences. Earthships are built to incorporate a central mechanical room to house renewable energy equipment.
Earthships are springing up in various areas of the country and world. Watch for one in your neighborhood.