Earthship Academic Research Overview, in Plain English

What follows is a listing of the most important academic and professional research we found over many months of tracking research studies pertaining to earthships. We will make all of these intact and unedited publications and studies available on our website in the future, however, for the book, we wanted to include the best of the best data available in the shortest space possible. We clipped the relevant parts of their conclusions to include here, and added some explanations since academic studies are the most boring and difficult things to read on the planet.

The summary of the findings of the research is this:
  • Earthships overheat 8 months a year on average and underheat 3 months a year. Natural ventilation is inadequate and supplementary heating and cooling are required.
  • Natural ventilation in a humid climate is not adequate. Dehumidification is required.
  • Most people cannot collect enough water for average consumption on their roof catchment, and a well or grid-connected system is usually required.
  • Photovoltaics are cost prohibitive in many high-latitude climates due to high battery requirements.
  • Passive solar is not effective as the only means of heating in cloudy climates or high latitude climates where days and nights may by 24 hours long. The same is also true for photovoltaics.
  • Earthships are not appropriate for tropical, equatorial, and/or hot/humid climates.
  • The greenhouse is not suitable for habitation.
  • The earthship uses many more manufactured materials than we have been led to believe. It is therefore not as sustainable as we have been led to believe.
  • Tires, cans, and bottles are better suited to true recycling than reuse in earthships.
  • Thermal bridges are rampant in earthships and one of the major factors in the traditonal earthship design's failure.
  • Tire walls are structurally sound, but unnecessary, as other suitable, easier to install, options are available. Tire walls may produce dangerous offgassing.
  • Using an attached greenhouse is an excellent way to minimize thermal loading on the home.

Here is a list of all the studies we feel are worth linking to.
Click on the title and you'll be directed to the summary of relevant conclusions and questions raised by the research.

Collected Scientific Research on Tire Off-Gassing

Nathanael J. Kruis and Matthew K. Heun
Analysis of the Performance of Earthship Housing in Various Global Climates. Proceedings of ES200; Energy Sustainability 2007; June 27-30, 2007, Long Beach, California.

Martin Freney, Veronica Soebarto, and Terry Williamson
Thermal Comfort of Global Model Earthship in Various European Climates. Proceedings of BS2013: 13th Conference of International Building Performance Simulation Association, Chambéry, France, August 26-28, 2013.

Martin Freney, Veronica Soebarto and Terry Williamson
Learning from ‘Earthship’ Based on Monitoring and Thermal Simulation. University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia. 2012.

Elena Kuil

Earthship Europe
Earthship Performance. 2012. Digitally available at:

Aaron Zimmerman, Eric Burger, & Jared Nolan
Testing and Analysis of Modified Rammed Earth Tire Walls. Swarthmore College. Department of Engineering. May 6, 2011.

Martin Freney
Earthship Ironbank. Digitally available at:

University of Brighton
Case Study Report: The Brighton Earthship: Evaluating Thermal Performance. Centre for Sustainability of the Built Environment

Ann Schmidt