Construction Earthship

Tires Together

One of our core projects here at Bhudeva is building our future house. We have been doing a lot of research on sustainable and ecological construction and we have been facing many challenges in bringing existing knowledge into context for our life here in Romania. Our latest design envisions a mostly underground house that will provide us with a year-long steady temperature of 21c without any energy inputs (neither for cooling in the summer nor for heating in winter). The core of our design is based on the concept of Earthships. At the heart of Earthship construction are massive walls built of tires that are packed full of earth.

So for many months we’ve been looking and asking around about tires here in Romania and this is what we found out:

  • Most tire dealers and repair shops sell some used tires that barely have treads but can still just barely be driven for 15-20 ron a tire (just to be clear – they are sold to people with old cars who can’t afford new tires).
  • Tire dealers are required to “recycly” through the state (represented by licensed operators) a certain amount of tires to offset new tires that they import.
  • The dealers are paid a symbolic 50 ban per tire collected from them.
  • Most of the collected tires are then sold off to different uses . Some are recycled (yey!!) into products such as car mats … however …
  • Many (we suspect most) are sold at a premium of 10-20 ron per tire (purchased in quantities of tens of thousands) to cement manufacturing companies (and their likes) who use them as fuel (boo!!) – it seems that a single tire contains a equivalent of 7.5 liters of oil!
  • We know of at least one giant pile of tires in Cluj-Napoca that is just sitting there slowly decomposing in the sun. We assume that other such piles can be found all over Romania.

Used tires is a waste product we (especially those of us who drive cars) are all responsible for creating. The concept of Earthships (built with earth-packed tires) was born out of recognition that this huge source of waste (available all over the planet) can be put to good use in creating houses (which it would seem are also needed all over the planet). Any recycling of tires requires high energy inputs (often starting with shredding). The thought of all the toxicity released when tires are burned as fuel (a single tire contains a equivalent of 7.5 liters of oil!) is mind-boggling. When used to build Earthships the tires are used as is and because they are completely buried they do not decompose or release any toxic gases (which they do when exposed to the sun).

Whenever we speak to someone in Romania about needing tires we quickly encounter an opportunistic greed. Regardless of the “asking-price-per-tire” we would also need to find a solution to sort through tires and have them brought over to our place which incur additional expenses. All this caused us to rethink about construction with tires – suddenly it seemed that concrete blocks that easily snap together would be much cheaper (and way faster to build with) then working with tires. However we really don’t want to resort to massive construction with concrete … so we scratched our heads and though of you … yes you πŸ™‚

Inspired by the awesome waves of goodness we encountered with the introduction of Cutia Taranului we decided to once again try collaborating with you – our fellow Romanians. Also in the spirit of Cutia Taranului we realized that the best way to get tires would be to go around the existing system rather than through it. It boils down to this … the next time you buy tires we would like to ask that you keep your old tires, don’t leave them to be used opportunistically as fuel.

Now look at your old tires … what do you see? Look closely … you are holding a personal invitation to visit with us at Bhudeva including at least a pleasant conversation, a tour and a tasty cup of herbal tea … and best of all you have become a contributer to a unique experiment in sustainable construction taking place here in Romania.

For our house we are going to need about 2000 tires (though we have other structures planned … so we will try to collect much more). Tires come in different sizes which are indicated with a combination of numbers printed on them. All you need to look at is the first number – the one that has the letter “R” in front of it. We need tires that are labeled as either “R15” or “R16′”. The larger “R16” tires will be used for the base of our walls and the “R15” tires will be used on top of them for most of the wall.

Lastly … since we are talking about garbage πŸ™‚Β  We are also going to need empty cans, empty wine bottles and used cardboard boxes. So if you are already holding on to tires an invitation to visit Bhudeva then pleaseΒ  hang on to these things you may be tempted to throw out πŸ™‚

Since tires are not often changed this initiative may move a bit slow so … please do spread the word to your family and friends πŸ™‚


11 replies on “Tires Together”

Yes we have considered earthbags. We are aiming for an underground house and from my understanding earthbags are not suitable for this. Also they usually require cement in the mix to solidify and the bags themselves are not necessarily cheap. So thats not an option we are looking at.

Well, I am not an expert, an underground house has its own advantages, but it also requires serious hydroizolation, which is not very cheap (doesn't matter if it's an earthship, earthbag or even reinforced concrete).

There are some plans available here:….

And some people also built something similar:

From what I have read, about 90% of the cases, the cement mix is not necessary if the clay/sand mix is correct.
One new bag costs about 1 to 1.5 ron (if you buy more, I think you could get them cheaper). It's also possible to recycle them, buying after being used for grains, flour, etc.
(not really underground, but with a living roof)

I hope you don't mind my insistence πŸ™‚

that looks like a good example of lack of knowledge and poor construction (looks to me like primarily a weak soil-mix which led to poor workmanship)

when you walk on our walls it feels like you are walking on concrete.

because we are moving slowly, our structure has endured two winters (without a roof) and held up fine.

I'm also interested in gathering tires.
Can I ask you privately about gathering tires and some other aspects in Romania? Can you send me an email at mikaell21 on yahoo ?

Hello, we are building an earthship in Canada (British Columbia) and are moving in at Christmas. There is FB page by somebody in Iasa, Romania called Earthship Romania. If you’d like to check out our Facebook page, we are called The Darfield Earthship. Our webpage is We haven’t updated it very often in the last 6 months because we’ve been so busy finishing the earthship. My husband is an engineer and he’s documented many, many parts of our build. We’ve built a rocket mass stove, too. Good luck with yours!! Cheers, Sandra Burkholder

Hello Sandra,

Thank you for your comment. I’ve spent much time on your precious website – and it was listed early on in our self-builders links:

Congratulations on finally moving in – what a great way to celebrate the invitation to rest that winter brings with it. I can’t (yet) imagine how exciting it is to reach a point in this journey where you can move into the house you built. We haven’t even begun construction yet … so I can only relate to the wish πŸ™‚

We also know about the Earthship Romania initiative.

We have for the most part given up on building with tires. It is too difficult/expensive to get our hands on tires here in Romania. We are currently looking at earthbags as a primary technology for wall construction – we only recently learned that it is possible to build underground with earthbags … especially with an insulation umbrella ( which stabilizes the earth around the house. I have to say that earthbags are quite a relief compared to tires … it looks like a much easier and faster method of wall construction.

So, it looks like we’ll be taking away some inspiration from Earthships – but not really building one. I also plan to do some more writing in the coming months to share our findings and thoughts on our plans.

All Things Good

There was not enough response and there was a big unresolved question how to get them from the city to us efficiently. For the time being we have moved away from building with tires.

Thank you VERY MUCH for offering to help πŸ™‚

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