Constructed using recycled and natural materials and equipped with natural off-grid systems to provide heating, cooling, energy generation, water, sewage treatment and food production, Earthship homes make a radically sustainable lifestyle possible. For the first time, cautious German authorities have supplied a pioneering self-sufficient community with a permit to build their own inhabited Earthship. Could a new wave of self-sufficient, self-built German homes follow?
Schloss Tempelhof community met with Earthship Biotecture Deutschland in 2014 to begin a design process including biotecture expert Michael Reynolds and local architect Ralf Müller. With more Earthships dotting the map of Europe, the team could point to inhabitants enjoying year round comfortable and carbon neutral conditions in existing Earthships such as the low carbon trust headquarters in Brighton and Brittany groundhouse. Other projects have started in Germany such as the Cologne Earthship, but this will be the first built for year round living.
Earthships recycle car tires as load bearing walls, something the planners found hard to work with. Although the tires were eventually accepted, strict requirements of the construction and health authorities required compromises. The Earthship is equipped to provide all basic human requirements off grid, but must legally be connected both to the central drinking water and sewage network. Rainwater collected will be used for cleaning, to flush toilets, for washing laundry and to irrigate crops. In the hopefully unlikely case of complete societal breakdown, the 170 square meter building could happily capture and clean its own water, generate energy, deal with its own waste products and produce food.
Scientists Ralf Müller (University of Stuttgart, Fraunhofer Institute) and Max Koch (University of Göttingen) plan to monitor all Earthship-typical functions such as rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, passive-solar, thermal storage heating, sewage processing and solar electricity generation to thoroughly evaluate performance of the structure in the south German climate.
The community behind the project is “founded on the meaningful principles of ecological sustainability, social justice and a new human consciousness.” and was described by the Suddeutsche Zeitung as a ‘high tech Kibbutz’. Community members live cheaply and share in food and energy produced on site. Already on sunny days, the community produce 50 percent more electricity than they need
Earthship construction will provide opportunities for education and training for the wider community and public. More than 80 volunteers have signed up to to take part in workshops building with recycled and natural materials and to help with construction. In just three weeks since starting an online crowdfunding campaign to make the Earthship construction and education program possible, over 70,000 euros was raised. The group will openly share their plans and experience to help interested individuals and groups initiate their own projects and inspire a new wave of deep green building.
To see regular updates on the building construction, check out the inspiring videos going up on the Earthship Tempelhof website.
Images copyright Henry Farkas / Earthship Biotecture Deutschland