Evidence That EarthShips Do Not Work in Europe

That title isn’t quite fair because it isn’t exactly true. But given the hype around Earthships I felt it is a deserved.

This short post was prompted by a longer article where the author inquires into the performance of Earthships in Europe. He raises exactly the same questions I encountered in my research. He made an effort to reach out to known Earthship projects in Europe to inquire about their performance and this is what I read between the lines:

  • There are very few Earthships in Europe.
  • Most European Earthships do not have permanent residents (if at all, cats do not count).
  • There is very little information on performance.
  • From what little information there is, it seems there are severe performance issues.
  • There is very little sense of joy from all this.

The author is less blunt then me. I’ve written before that I think the Earthship “formula” is wrong for a cold and moist European climate. I also feel that the knowledge around Earthships is incomplete because I did not come across any information on why they are designed they way they are,why they work where they do and why they do not work in the European climate.

I did however find the Passive Annual Heat Storage book where (1) I finally found explanations on how underground houses behave and (b) answers to all the questions presented in the linked article and then some.

4 Replies to “Evidence That EarthShips Do Not Work in Europe”

  1. you should read “Earthships in Europe” http://www.lowcarbon.co.uk/publications
    It addresses most common issues and solutions!

    The main problem is ground insulation. In Europe it is needed and when implemented Earthships do work here too.
    One must carefully asses every detail before starting. I recommend this book and course at Brighton (just attended) to understand the nuts and bolts of Earthship build in EU.

    1. Thank you for your comment Simon.

      My interests have moved away from Earthship construction so I am less in touch.

      I can’t see how “classic” earthships can function well in the Romanian climate. Some of the changes that were introduced in the Global model seemed to be an improvement that makes things better, however I believe there are more improvements that can and need to be made. Maybe more such improvements have been made in recent years … however … as I said … I am not up-to-date.

      I looked at the website and build. I am very glad someone has gone ahead and managed to build a full Earthship in Romania. I was impressed to see you were able to bring Michael Reynolds here and that there was an interested audience. Well done.

      From what I saw on the site the construction is not yet complete so it would be hard to say that it “works”. For me “works” would need a few years of settling of the building and the surrounding earth, constant inhabitation for a few years through all seasons, especially winter … and then we can talk about what works and what doesn’t.

      My discoveries regarding Passive Annual Heat Storage answered questions for which I could not find answers in the world of Earthships. I am confident that rammed-tires can be used as a wall construction method in its own right … though personally, for now, I am not interested in that either (I am exploring earthbags).

      More importantly though, having discovered the work of Christopher Alexander, I also question the formulaic approach to designing a space, that is part of Earthship construction. I feel that the pattern language used to design Earthships may be too narrow for creating good living structures.

      I look forward to learning more about how the structure functions as a house in the coming years.

      Wishing you a warm and cozy winter
      With some experience working with Earthbags I can sa

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