Voyage to an Earthship

As a present for his graduation from Joplin HS, I took my brother-in-law and his friend out west (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado).  We saw several cool places, but he specifically wanted to stay in an Earthship near Taos, New Mexico.  So, we set off on the long drive, stopping along the way to see Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, TX, Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari, NM, and historic Santa Fe.  Just northwest of Taos, NM across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge we came upon a community of very odd looking structures: Earthships, self-sustaining off-the-grid homes created by Michael Reynolds.

We approached the Earthship visitor center to check in and we were greeted by unique, spaceship-like buildings. Pop cans, glass bottles, and tires were slightly exposed in demonstrational structures and buildings still under construction.  The buildings focus on utilizing recycled materials, minimizing resource use, increasing indoor environmental quality, and staying off the grid, all while creating exceptionally comfortable homes.  The sustainable “biotecture” includes features like

  • Solar panels and small wind turbines
  • Passive Solar elements, thermal mass insulation, convective air circulation
  • Rain water and snowmelt harvesting
  • Grey water/black water filtration
  • South-facing windows, indoor greenhouse space for air-purifying plants and potential food sources, etc..

The Earthship we stayed in was called The Euro, or Global 3-bedroom Model.

You can see the gorgeous biotecture, solar panels (photovoltaic and solar hot water), the vent boxes on the roof, and the south-facing windows.  Many of the round/square decorations you see are glass bottles placed into the concrete/adobe/stucco.

Rooms were separated by additional doorways to control circulation.  Ropes mechanically close or open the vent boxes.

Source: Wikipedia

No air conditioning necessary with this ingenious design.  Vent boxes above the sun room and green house area help promote convective circulation as air tubes bring in air that is thermoregulated by the massive berm.

If you’re ever visiting northern New Mexico, consider staying in one of these relaxing homes!

Have you seen Earthships or other passive homes and green architecture in your neck of the woods?

Update:  View my next post for more photos!

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16 thoughts on “Voyage to an Earthship

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  5. I’ve been fascinated by earthships for years and did finally get to visit one in Taos, but I had to give up my dreams of building and living in one since I live in Alaska. There are other ways to live more sustainably around here that are a bit more realistic. 🙂 Great post, thanks.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I was thrilled with the design of the earthships, but it’d be nice to know what features work best in other climates. What part of Alaska do you live in? What features work around there for sustainable living?

      • My husband and I live in Fairbanks, a very dry cold area (though potentially warm/hot in the summer). We live in a small 2-story square home with radiant floor heating down and baseboard up, all oil fired unfortunately, although the house is a great design and has a 5 star energy rating (the highest is 5+). This is the most realistic level of sustainability in Fairbanks (basically, not) with some exceptions, like the Passive House that was built here in Ester (an area west of Fairbanks). We burn well-seasoned wood in our wood stove and plan to get solar panels that should cover our electricity usage for at least half the year. We are trying, but with 40 below regularly in the winter, it’s tough.

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    • One of these days, I’d like to have one of these, too. I’ve also seen other homes built into hillsides. So efficient to use the Earth’s natural cooling/heating system. But for now, a place with a basement will do, I guess!

  7. Hello Mark,

    I was searching the internet for earthship pictures and found your picture of the green earthship above.

    I was searching because i am currently writing a lessonbook for my students about earthships. In Holland there are virtually no study materials about environment friendly building. So to open the minds of my highschool students i am writing it myself.

    I would like to ask your permission to use te picture in my lessonbook.
    Of course i will attribute your name and send you a copy the finnished book.

    Kind regards
    Henk Petter

  8. Hi Mark, I visited one of Michael’s early Earthships in NM years ago, but can’t remember which one. I’ve always wondered if that construction would translate to the hot humid climate of the SE US. I suspect not, but great idea and I love the abundance of adobe and natural materials used all over the SW.

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