Are Earthships the Ultimate Prepper Paradise?

Earthship with bottle walls, large south-facing windows, solar panels, and lush green surroundings

To start this discussion we must first understand….What is an Earthship.

An Earthship is a type of passive solar house made of natural and upcycled materials, designed to be self-sufficient and environmentally friendly. The concept was developed in the 1970s by architect Michael Reynolds. Earthships are constructed using earth-packed tires, recycled cans, and bottles, making them sustainable and cost-effective. They incorporate six key design principles:

Thermal/Solar Heating and Cooling: Earthships use thermal mass and passive solar design to regulate indoor temperature.

Solar and Wind Electricity: They generate electricity using renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines.

Water Harvesting: Rainwater is collected from the roof and stored for household use.

Contained Sewage Treatment: Greywater and blackwater are treated and reused within the structure.

Food Production: Indoor and outdoor spaces are designed for growing food year-round.

Building with Natural and Recycled Materials: Earthships prioritize the use of sustainable materials.

Benefits of Earthships

Earthships are designed to provide a high degree of self-sufficiency, making them ideal for sustainable, off-grid living.

Energy Independence: With solar panels and wind turbines, Earthships generate their own electricity, reducing reliance on the grid.

Water Conservation: Earthships collect and purify rainwater, ensuring a steady supply of water even in remote locations.

Waste Management: The integrated sewage treatment system recycles greywater and treats blackwater, minimizing waste and environmental impact.

Food Security: With built-in spaces for growing food, Earthship residents can cultivate a significant portion of their diet.

Reduced Carbon Footprint: By using recycled materials and renewable energy, Earthships significantly lower their environmental impact.

Lower Monthly Overhead Costs: Even if you aren’t a doomsday prepper, the benefits of reduced utility and everyday living costs are undeniable.

Cost of Building an Earthship

The cost of building an Earthship can vary widely based on factors such as location, size, and the availability of materials. On average, costs range from $150 to $225 per square foot. Here’s a rough breakdown of potential expenses:

Design and Planning: $5,000 to $10,000

Land Acquisition: $20,000 to $100,000+ (depending on location)

Materials: $50,000 to $100,000

Labor: $30,000 to $80,000

Solar and Wind Systems: $20,000 to $50,000

Overall, building a modest Earthship can cost between $200,000 and $400,000, although this can be higher or lower based on specific choices and circumstances.

Starting Your Own Journey to Build an Earthship

  • Research and Education: Begin by learning as much as possible about Earthships. Books, online resources, and workshops can provide valuable insights.
  • Visit Existing Earthships: Touring existing Earthships can give you a better understanding of the design and functionality. Consider visiting the Greater World Earthship Community in Taos, New Mexico.
  • Acquire Land: Choose a suitable location for your Earthship. Consider factors like climate, water availability, and local building regulations.
  • Design Your Earthship: Work with an experienced Earthship designer or architect to create plans tailored to your needs and site conditions.
  • Obtain Permits: Ensure you have all necessary permits and approvals from local authorities before beginning construction.
  • Gather Materials: Source the necessary materials, focusing on recycled and locally available options.
  • Build Your Team: Assemble a team of skilled laborers and volunteers who share your vision.
  • Construct Your Earthship: Follow the design plans and construction techniques to build your Earthship. Be prepared for challenges and adjustments along the way.
  • Install Systems: Set up solar panels, wind turbines, water harvesting systems, and sewage treatment units.

Erica’s Personal Journey with Earthships

As the team leader of Real Premier Team and someone passionate about finding alternative ways to build properties, Erica first discovered Earthships while watching YouTube. A video about the artist/architect Michael Reynolds was suggested, leading her to a wealth of information about his creation of the Taos community in New Mexico and the lives of his followers worldwide. One of Erica’s favorite features of Earthships is the double indoor greenhouses, which allow for year-round food production and add to the unique, eclectic design of each home. She loves that no two Earthships are the same, each one reflecting its builder’s creativity and innovation. Erica thinks it’s incredibly smart to reuse tires for the foundation and load-bearing walls, given their abundance and the fact that they are non-biodegradable pollutants in landfills. While she understands people’s apprehensions about using “trash” for a home’s infrastructure, she believes that with proper planning, Earthships can be a solid investment not only as a bug-out or primary residence but also as a piece of art. And, not to mention, she would love the opportunity to be able to represent a seller in a sale of this type of home, one day.

Let’s Build Together

If you’re interested in exploring Earthships in Arizona or other sustainable living options, consider contacting Erica to be your real estate agent. She believes places like Cave Creek or Carefree, AZ, and even further out in the East and West Valley, could be perfect for a new autonomous housing community. However, it would be necessary to work on getting the state on board with solar regulations, as current Arizona legislation requires that energy collected from solar panels be sold back to energy companies rather than used directly in homes. But she is always up for a new challenge to help her clients meet their housing goals.

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