How Much Does It Cost to Build an Earthship?

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What are the components of an Earthship home?

Because Earthships are purpose-built to be environmentally sustainable — and are frequently off-the-grid-ready — these homes are as in-tune with nature as it gets.

Let’s take a closer look at the six human needs and how Earthship construction facilitates harmony:

Shelter

Construction of an Earthship home incorporates as much natural and repurposed material as possible, and the key element is earth itself. “The rammed earth is the strength; it’s the heating and cooling system,” says Reynolds.

Disused tires provide the perfect container in which to pack earth and create a robust, insulated structure. Given that there are at least 2.5 billion tires currently stockpiled in the U.S., it’s a win-win solution for both construction and recycling.

If you’re wondering whether tires deteriorating over time or off-gassing with age should be of concern, according to Reynolds, “In a word, no. Tires will last probably the longest of any part of the building.” Additionally, the tires are sealed in with whichever material a client chooses to finish the walls, be it mud plaster, drywall, or anything else.

The systems that make Earthships self-sufficient are built into the structural shell, and every detail is considered during the design process.

Energy

Most Earthships are U-shaped to maximize natural light and capture solar energy.

Since they’re built into the ground, the thick walls of an Earthship home naturally help to regulate temperature. Additional insulation is often added to the roof and the north, east, and west-facing walls to further reduce heat loss.

To make truly passive living possible, Earthships are typically built with solar cells and deep-cycle batteries to capture and store energy. Some Earthship homes also have small wind turbines to further optimize energy capture and retention.

Food

Take your windowsill herb garden to the next level with an Earthship home!

Earthship Biotecture encourages organic, in-home food production by incorporating greenhouse space and hydroponic planters into home construction.

Clean water

Earthships collect water directly from the roof, storing rainfall and melted snow in cisterns. The cisterns then feed a pump system that filters the water and routes it to a solar-powered hot water heater and separate pressure tank.

After you’ve showered, done your laundry, and cleaned up the dinner dishes, the water then moves on to its next phase.

Sewage treatment

Used “grey” water is directed to botanical cells, which both waters your plants and gives the grey water its first round of cleaning. After the in-home garden, used water is collected and pumped to toilet tanks for use in flushing. Toilet water, however, is routed outside the home to a septic tank, which may then nourish exterior landscaping.

The built-in system to contain, treat, and distribute liquid waste water is an important component of any Earthship home.

“Every drop is contained,” says Reynolds, and “nothing leeches into the earth.”

Garbage management

Because Earthships are built from recycled materials and are so self-sufficient, there’s less material waste right from day one. You’re likely to notice less waste in the kitchen, too, thanks to the Earthship’s ability to aid in food production.

 Source: (Braden Collum / Unsplash)
Source: (Braden Collum / Unsplash)

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Is An Earthship Worth It?

Considering the high expense of an Earthship, you may wonder if the investment is worth it.

After all, it’s going to take a very specific type of buyer to purchase your home in the future.

If you have an interest in protecting the environment, living sustainably, and practicing self-reliance, then an Earthship is the perfect home for you.

The expense that you put into it will come back to you in terms of longevity and energy savings.

Advantages of Earthships

  • Highly Efficient: Earthships are highly efficient buildings which utilize solar and wind power to generate their own electricity without using any from external sources.
  • Water Conservation: The place uses in-built water collection, filtration and storage systems that allow water to be used on more than once occasions.
  • Water filtration system is set up in the earthships which help in water to be reused once it becomes clean.
  • Greywater can be repurposed to provide water to the plants planted inside as well as around the earthships.
  • No need of HVAC systems: The building has the ability to self-heat and cool itself using geothermal heath, preventing the use of furnaces, insulation, or household heating systems to be used.
  • The residents of the earthships can self-grow fruits and vegetables without purchasing them from local sites and farms. This way you can carry out organic farming on-site.
  • The earthships are very easy to construct, if you are willing to do manual labor that is.
  • Earthships use natural recycled materials in its construction and that prevents these materials from ending up in already-massive landfills.
  • Energy Conservation: The earthship doesn’t require lighting up with electrical appliances as it uses natural light in abundance thereby reducing the energy load on the local electric power grids or on renewable energy sources for that matter.
  • Extraordinary use of organic farms and interesting masses are the essential hallmarks of designing earthships which work together in making a sustainable and eco-friendly home.
  • People living in earthships are doing a world a favor by becoming sustainable, using minimal resources, and reducing pollution which greatly reduces the heavy strain on energy resources and works towards fighting climate change.
  • People tend to develop a soft heart for nature and learn living in the moment as they learn the importance of the environment and nature around them as well as dire consequences if they are not careful in their lifestyle choices.
  • Earthships create awareness among other people seeing the success of the earthships, thereby motivating others to choose to live in an earthship thereby creating a ripple effect across the community.

SEE ALSO   10 Most Green and Eco-Friendly Funeral ideas

Why Are Earthships So Expensive?

1. Labor

Earthships are no ordinary homes, and they require a lot of expertise despite their low-cost building materials. Much of the costs go to the intensive labor that customs build instead of using industry-standard techniques. Moreover, Earthships boast massive and unique projects that need a lot of labor.

That means you have to deploy a lot of specialized labor for well-done Earthship homes.

Your laborers majorly focus on building an eco-friendly house that is off-grid from recycled materials. That means it takes more time to put up the materials. For instance, when installing tires, a carpenter has to ram them with dirt for approximately one hour per tire.

Now imagine how much time it takes to put up hundreds of tires for the home wall. Well, it can take days and even months. This is one reason why Earthship homes require plenty of labor which escalates the cost of labor.

2. Permits

Earthships are different from standardized houses. As earlier mentioned, these are eco-friendly houses. These kinds of homes have particular issues with new building codes and permits. So, many costs go to the local government, which boasts different construction codes and regulations for your safety and your neighbors.

Note that the local building codes do not account for Earthship homes. For Example, rammed-earth tires don’t appear anywhere on the list of approved structures. Because of this, you have to part with a lot of money for the local government to allow you to construct an Earthship home.

The local government has to permit several things in your Earthship construction site, such as:

  • Zoning approvals
  • Project valuation and fees
  • Septic system
  • Any other building permits

Earth homeowners spend a lot of money on permits when they engage architects or lawyers to help them ensure that their building will become legal. However, you can do this yourself, but you can experience challenges when following up with the legal documents. So, hiring someone familiar with construction documents save you time and frustrations.

3. Excavation

When you think of an Earthship, you imagine a house built by professional laborers who don’t need loud and heavy equipment like a typical construction site. To some extent, this is true, but some construction parts need heavy machinery.

At one point, you will need to do some excavation which is a huge task that needs backhoes and lorries. Excavation is essential, and it helps in:

  • Collecting dirt for building your Earthship home
  • To grade and make even your site home
  • Dip deep enough for you to establish a solid foundation

The cost of excavation depends on various factors, such as the surrounding climate, soil type, and terrain. Some climates and soil require you to dig deeper, which becomes costly, while others require less effort.

4. Concrete

Although most materials used in Earthship home construction comprise recycled materials, concrete is a staple have. Much of it is used in reinforcing rammed earth walls, seal the tires dirt from environmental exposure. It is also used in the fulfillment of safety and structural security requirements.

The cost of concrete is underestimated, but it’s one of the materials that take a lot from your construction budget. This is because to make firm concrete; you need water, cement, and sand. Also, remember that it is smeared in and around uneven crannies and nooks of the walls in Earthship homes.

This means you will need a skilled concrete laborer for a clean job.

5. Tools

Earthship home construction requires a lot of tools for different artistry. That means you will have to spend some money on tools. In case this is your first construction, you will have to buy all the tools needed.

  • Saws
  • Drills
  • Bits
  • Concrete working tools
  • Sledgehammers

You might also require significant power tools for plumbing and electrical work if you have never used them before. Your laborers might require:

  • Wire cutters
  • Trimming tools
  • Fish tapes
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Pliers
  • Windows

It is no secret that Earthship home designs require many windows. These are essential for solar heating and lighting. The windows allow the sun’s energy to penetrate the house.

Although the windows pose a lot of benefits, they are expensive. You have to buy dozens of substantial double pane windows and door-sized windows that can accommodate solar heating. Windows prices range according to the dimensions, shapes, and features.

Large windows with odd shapes and unique designs cost more. For Earthship homes, owners prefer double or triple-paned windows that are treated and tinted. Such windows are costly and escalate your budget.

6. Solar Panels

Earthship home designs combine both passive solar heating with thermal mass construction. The two elements help create a building that can cool and heat itself depending on the weather condition. With solar panels, the house can create its electrical power through sun and wind power. Solar panels and integrated water systems cost some substantial money that adds to your construction budget in that you have to invest in:

  • Inverters
  • Battery packs
  • Charge controls
  • Meters and monitoring units
  • DC disconnects
  • Internal Wetlands

Another factor that makes the Earthship house expensive is the addition of other features that average houses lack. Among the things that are typically added include the internal wetlands. Internal wetlands are essential for detoxifying, capturing, and purifying greywater from showers and sinks.

Constructing an internal wetland is expensive and requires specialized plumbing skills. The plumber has to build it in a way that it can capture greywater and divert it in the internal wetland. For greywater to drain into the wetland, your house needs several pipes for pumping, which are costly.

Another cost adds up on the work done by planting pipes in-depth so that greywater can get routed from the sinks to the other side of the house.

7. Custom Design

Earthship houses are unique, and due to this, they are expensive to construct. Although it is built using recyclable materials, most of them are not readily available. Therefore, it takes a lot of time to gather different materials needed, and, in the process, owners spend a lot of money searching for enough tires, straws, and glass bottles.

Remember that most Earthship houses boast customized bedroom furniture, kitchen cabinets, skylights, roofing, and bathroom fixtures. These custom-made fixtures cost more money and time to build according to the owner’s taste and preference.

What is an Earthship Home?

An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials (such as earth-packed tires). Earthships can be completely off-grid or partially off-grid.

Earthships can be built in any part of the world, in any climate (with a permit) and still provide electricity, potable water, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production.

Earthships are thermal mass homes first, passive solar homes second.

Whatever temperature goes into an Earthship, it will hold… and since it is also a Passive Solar House, it is also very tight and interacts only with the sun and the earth for heating and cooling, providing stable comfort year round in any climate. This results in being able to provide a sustainable home on property that may not be situated to the ideal of 13.5 degrees east of south.

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