About this Project

This project started with one idea: Share the answers to the questions I got asked day after day about fixing earthships so they work better. 

Living in Taos, New Mexico at the epicenter of the earthship phenomenon, we are taken by these structures every time someone new comes into town to visit, because they inevitably want to visit them. We have many friends who have lived in them. We have visited them, interviewed their builders, and even gone to workshops about them. While we love and celebrate their successes (our favorite is the glass light walls), we also see... and listen to people bemoan... their flaws.

Our clients have an extremely high standard for sustainability:
  • They do not want to cart questionable building materials long distances in the name of “recycling” and call it green. 
  • They want to build locally, build naturally, and build it themselves. 
  • They want their buildings to be cool in summer, warm in winter, the humidity to be predictable and regular, and they want to minimize pests and allergens in their environment.
  • They want to be able to get a permit, and insurance, and resell their homes if they want to, or pass them on to their children if they can.
  • Oftentimes, they want to be able to spend the rest of their lives in their home, which means they want to make their home easy to manage, maintain, and get around in, even if they are in a walker or wheelchair.
  • They want their home to feel like it is made from and relating to the earth: in views, in light, in fresh air, in the ability to grow their own food, in a beautiful landscape that supports the function of the home.
In order to address these concerns, we started case studying earthship builds around the globe, and right here at home in Taos. We started asking builders what they were finding…we studied earthship builds in 15 countries + visited 20 sites in the US - visiting every kind of build we could, from the smallest hand-built tiny house earthship to one of the largest, most palatial, custom earthships in the world. We read thousands of pages of commentaries on builds, builders, and systems; digging ever deeper into the data - what research has been done? If not on this wall system, what do people know about the materials? What are the pros and cons? What is the embodied energy? We built surveys and conducted interviews of owners, builders, and renters to find out what issues they were having and how they solved them. We started collecting weather data to see what tweaks make the homes work well in what climates. 

Then, we branched out… digging even deeper into the data… finding scientific research and data to support both sides of every debate, more interviews … we started collecting enough data to start to identify patterns in what techniques worked where and why, in the same way we would if we were trying to see if there was enough “base data” to justify a larger academic study.

Then, we kept going, spending more than a year cultivating the list of “people to watch” in Earthships in particular, and Natural Building in general. We checked out the websites, blogs, research, forums, and facebook fan pages of the foremost experts in their fields. Some were professional designers and contractors, and some were hobbiests who had learned by doing how to get great buildings built. We paid careful attention to their advice and problem solving abilities, and then dug into the next level of data… the comments, sometimes hundreds, even thousands, from invested readers who were sharing their own stories of triumph over common issues raised. Too hot, too cold, just right, what they did and how they did it… and we wrote it all down.

We decided that we should release all the data we had collected, and help explain some of what the most confusing parts said. Academic research is especially difficult to digest, so we wanted to translate that into plain English, insomuch as we could. As part of our research process, we also found quite a few places on the Earthship Biotecture website and publications that were confusing, and we felt we could help people to understand what was happening there. So we endeavored to explain the science, implications, and explanations of what was actually happening in these buildings. Then, finally, after reading Earthship Volumes 1-3, we realized that what people really needed was some help deciding what systems worked for their values. Because, while those books are interesting and certainly helpful for the water and power systems especially, they really leave a lot to interpretation in the design portions, and set people up for learning the hard way how not to build. 

What started out as 3 pages on a website a few years back, has now grown into a coalition of designers, engineers, sustainability experts, and regular people in the know offering to share their knowledge so that we can try and help make the world a little bit better place. Those people changed everything about this book, and made it really great. None of us has made a cent in bringing this to you. Not one. Because it is not about the money. It is about sharing ideas.  

And that is when it all really came together. 

We love how beautiful the earthships are - the organic forms and the beautiful cascades of light that come through the glass walls - and we love the idea of living free and in concert with nature – growing our food, reducing our need for systems, rising and setting with the sun – these are noble, sustainable, mindful ways to live. 

What follows is our best effort to collect information and share it with you. It is our goal to supplement the Earthship books with helpful principles of design that can help elevate the earthship ideal into its next generation. And hopefully make the process as painless as possible for would-be builders, along the way. 

About 1/4 of the book is talking about the earthships - how they succeed, where they need improvement, all the research that is been done by experts around the world, and how regular people who became experts in the field have mastered the art. The remaining 3/4 of the book is a primer to help you design your own home.  This is our way of trying to bring great design to your fingertips. 

This book is not about taking anyone or any idea down. It is about being realistic and making a plan. It is about making things better and helping your home to shine. 

We wanted to make this book totally open source. But editing and then printing books is not free. So we have charged a little something to cover those expenses.

We believe in you. 
Brightest Blessings,
The Team