Let me state right now that we did not build an Earthship in New Mexico, although that's what I wanted to build and you can see the Earthship influence on the house we did build.
I found out about Earthships through an internet search on sustainable housing. They appeal to every part of my green perspective. They use materials (old tires) that are otherwise blight the landscape. They are self-contained and have a minimal resource footprint. They are well-suited for climates like New Mexico's and you can build one with the benefit of your own labor.
Simplified, the idea is this (although variations occur on the theme):
- Start with a building site having a south-facing slope.
- Excavate enough dirt from the slope for the footprint of the house.
- Stack old tires in the excavation, pounding them tight with excavated dirt as you go.
- Cover the tire walls in stucco for an earthy finish.
- Build interior walls out of glass bottles.
- Install lots of windows on the south side.
You end up with an earth-sheltered dwelling having thick walls that absorb solar heat and release it back into the living space after the sun goes down. It's a house that repurposes tires, cans, and bottles for permanent good use and interesting decor.