Earthships, and Everything

We ran across the “biotecture” of architect Michael Reynolds and profiles of his “earthships” several years ago, and I was reminded of him by a recent piece on Democracy Now!

Garbage Warrior has its own website, and the full length documentary is well-reviewed on Heso Magazine. The full film is on youtube, but we ordered the DVD, which includes half an hour of extra footage.

The documentary is fairly straightforward. Reynolds and his followers build a collective of various earthships, which combine trash recycling, solar collection, solar mass, and water recycling to function as very sustainable homes in semi-arid open land near Taos NM. After many years, their collective draws the ire of traditional planning and building code officials, who want to see a normal subdivision with storm drains, sewage fields and power lines. Reynolds must stop construction, layoff workers and even loses his architectural certification. Reynolds tries to introduce a new law to allow experimentation in building design. He finds some allies, but mostly runs into a wall of hidebound politics.

In contrast to the developed world’s refusals to let him work, Reynolds and his team head to the Andaman Islands to provide technical assistance to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Instead of the usual corrugated metal quonset huts, his team build a small earthship that solves the critical problem of fresh water by harvesting and collecting the ample rainfall.

Somehow, their efforts overseas begin to be rewarded here in the US.

There was a lot less technical information than I would have liked, but the documentary is very inspiring. Whenever I read about these guys, I wonder why I didn’t follow a less conventional path towards sustainable architecture.


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