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Rarely There

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007


front entrance: image courtesy CNET networks

Ever since I read this article on earthships a few days ago, I've been dreaming about living in something like it - to see what it's all about - to find out for myself that this is indeed sustainable and lives up to its claims... it ain't gonna happen anytime soon, i know, but what's the harm in dreaming, right?

Daniel Terdiman's Road Trip 2007 series of articles have been informative so far and this one about earthships made me want to dedicate a post here about it so I can look back and remember.

These are earthships, a form of entirely off-the-grid, fully sustainable houses that are made from natural and recycled materials, and which can provide a family with a steady, comfortable interior temperature regardless of how hot or cold it is outside.

side entrance: image courtesy CNET networks

Earthships currently exist in every U.S. state and in several other countries, but the Earthship World Community, about 15 miles northwest of Taos, N.M., is ground zero for this alternative form of dwelling.

Jacobsen then explained the six major points that define the earthship philosophy: thermal solar heating and cooling; building with natural and recycled materials; using electricity only from solar and wind; harvesting water from rain and snow; on-site sewage treatment and containment; and the last, and most recent development, producing food in the house itself.

The keys to the system's success are the south-facing windows and solar arrays; walls made from materials that store heat, such as stone, dirt-filled tires and adobe blocks; and a natural ventilation system. These factors work together with the natural temperature of the ground, and with the sun and the seasons, to heat and cool the house without ever requiring air conditioning or heating. Plus, construction is geared toward circulating air throughout the dwelling.

But the earthships employ a smart water-use system.

The water is collected when it rains and stored in a cistern to be used and reused throughout the house. Water is first used for tasks like washing dishes or clothes, then it's circulated through the house for the greenhouse system, and then for toilet flushing.

And what allows for full electricity in a house with no connection to the grid is a combination of solar power, wind power, DC wiring and high-efficiency DC lighting.

Sciarrillo also explained that if the wiring system is done properly, there should be enough power left over to run AC appliances like TVs and stereos.

Of course, earthship isn't cheap to build, and it cannot be plonked in the middle of a city grid.

I haven't looked into it enough to know all the pros and cons, but, it aligns well with my personal philosophy to reduce negative impact on Earth as we pass through it.

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