Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Earthship lands in the Netherlands

Trainees build a tire wall that will retain an earthen berm containing the septic tank.

The construction site was a hive of activity on September 22 as tires were pounded full of dirt, concrete mixed, and a greenhouse framed. Eleven workers from the Earthship Biotecture headquarters in Taos, New Mexico descended five weeks ago to begin building this teahouse in a Zwolle public garden. The European Earthship outfit, a new group for building on this side of the puddle, worked besides the seasoned hands. They were training new staff for a larger scale project to come soon; a planned 20-30 building community in the Netherlands. Also on the construction site, "Trainees", who pay $350/week to learn the trade and help build were speedily putting up tire walls.

The project's 10 week schedule demands running at a frenetic pace. As a result, certain corners have been cut. Adobe (mud, sand, straw) is the preferred material of Earthship, but as it has a long drying time, more cement is being implemented than usual. Also, the roof had to be thrown on early, so interior tire walls will not extend quite as high.

Despite this, the Earthship teahouse will be incredibly eco-friendly, green, & sustainable. I am very impressed by the water system. Rain is collected off of the shallow corrugated metal roof and filtered for drinking and showering. The resultant gray water is then pumped into interior planters built on a slight incline. Once the water has been filtered through the 'botanical cells', gray water is re-collected and used for toilet flushing. Finally, 'black' water from the toilet is sent to a septic tank in the earth berm beside the house. After separating solid waste from the black water, the liquid is pumped into a garden in front of the house. And of course, electricity will be made on site by solar panels and stored in bank of marine batteries.

Earthship Biotecture Netherland build website

Heady & dreaded, Earthship Biotecture senior builders framing the south facing green house.

Niels of the European Earthship crew (and Wageningen UR) works with a volunteer on interior tire walls that will separate the toilets from a cold storage area.

Bottles and cans are included in walls not as structural elements or insulation. They only take space that would otherwise be used by more cement and allow some light to pass through.

Earthship's Tiffany says, "Get an Earthship and never pay a bill again." The wine bottle & cement wall fills a space between the top of the tire wall and the roof.

Michael Reynolds is the architect who patented Earthship Biotecture after doing his university thesis on recycled materials for building materials. He was on site in Zwolle looking like Jerry Garcia and aligning the greenhouse.