On the desert mesa of New Mexico, miles from the nearest town of Taos (pop. 5,700), Star-Wars-like shelters rise from the earth, half-buried and covered in adobe. Called “Earthships” – brainchild of architect Mike Reynolds in the 1970s- they’re nearly completely self-sufficient homes: no electrical grid, no water lines, no sewer.
The Greater World Earthship Community, about 70 passive solar homes built from earth and trash on 633 acres, had a rough start; they were shut down as an illegal subdivision in 1997 and it took them 7 years to come to compliance. Though today, the county fully cooperates with Reynolds and his Earthship Biotecture operation to turn trash (tires, cans, glass bottles) into shelters and has even given them 2 acres to experiment with housing in anyway they like (they also provide their recycling).
Sixteen years ago, Tom Duke had just finished over a decade on the pro volleyball circuit when he bought a bit of land here with his wife and began to build a tiny Earthship the size of a storage shed. When their first son was born they built their dream house on the property, a two bedroom that, like other Earthships, collects rainwater, uses its water four times (the plants in the indoor greenhouse filter the greywater) and even processes its own sewage.
In this video, Tom takes us on a tour of his home, his original “Earthship survival pod”, the “nest” ($50,000 studio apartment), the “Simple Survival Earthship” (aimed mainly at the developing world), a custom home designed to feed a family of four (including a tilapia pond in the greenhouse) and the “BMW of Earthships”, the “Global (aimed at the average American where all cans and tires can be covered to look like the typical home; the cost is similar to a conventional build, but once complete the systems should work for you).
* Pros and cons of earthships from New Mexico architectural cooperative Archinia.