Led by Phil, best teacher of all time.
We learned about a new type of Earthship: The Hut (featured above.)
I am pretty sure that the Earthship I am staying is, is a hut but I’m not totally sure. It is not the greatest design and is considered a ‘failed design,’ or at least sub-great to the Unity and The Global Model .The hut came from a loophole they had to get through. There are lots of valleys involved with the hut which presents a problem when there is snow and ice. They used pumice as insulation and sprayed foam plaster to stop their condensation problem.
Fun fact: In the tropic, you do not cook inside of your home.
Then to avoid valleys they came up with the…
The packaged model was south sloping and there were NO VALLEYS! YEEHAW! This model is the reason why Mike lost his architect’s and planning license in NM because his contracts were considered ‘non-legit’ because the Earthships didn’t always maintain a temperature of 70 degrees. After this, they realized they needed to batter the tire walls. There were no systems built into the building and all plumbing went to one place. They did keep going and somehow managed to save their business. Mike is really good at getting through it.
In Brighton England they built the ‘Happy Castle.’ This was a packaged model which was a hut with a second greenhouse. This second green house made it perform better.
Then there was the magnificent GLOBAL MODEL. This is the most approved of model.
The first one was built in France and it performed very well. Mike was arrested by the French, Phil told us, due to some… lack of work visa or whatever. Phil saw Mike go into the office with the police and after awhile… champagne and croissants also went into the office… and Mike came out drunk as a skunk and apparently … it was all good. But they did get a 300 k fine. Mike went to court and somehow claimed ‘No one has to have a work visa when America stormed the beaches of Normandy..’ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA omg can’t believe he said that but wow. The guts of this guy impresses me. He did win them over by saying something along the lines of ‘Due to Nazi occupation, there are environmental issues and it’s not easy to get a permit…’ so they got it down to 3k, a much more manageable cost for their client. Then POOF, the global model was made which was basically a packaged model with a second greenhouse.
Then there is the UNITY- Mike’s favorite model.
This has a north-sloping roof, fresh air tubes, no valley, no penetration above the comfort zone etc. This includes arches which create cold hallways. Shaded arched vault in front of front door for hot climates.
For roof structures you can use a membrane or a metal roof depending on the climate….
Phil continued Model’s the following Monday.
Next we learned about getting our CERTIFICATION.
This is not fun to read unless you are in the acadmey but basically the process involves 1. the school 2. field study and then a 3. thesis/proposal….
Now let’s talk about my fan fucking tastic weekend.
Friday evening we went and sang karaoke at this cute little Carson’s bar. Singing karaoke under the stars is the most absolute perfect way to sing karaoke. We had a gorgeous evening.
Saturday we went to the amazing Taos farmer’s market and purchased a few fun things. We sat by the water after and roasted in the sun, I wish I had brought my books. We then cooked a cute dinner that evening .. I think? I kind of forgot at this point.
Sunday we had a laundry day, ate a free meal with our crew at the Ashram. After which we came to my ‘hut’ and had a lovely dinner.
My notes were not cute Friday so I will note be posting lol I drew this cat instead.
How to Read Drawings
It was hella hard to keep up today: symbols, scale etc. Our bodies are aching and our minds are very full. Mom came out of surgery okay, she is doing very well.
There are many different drawing types: Maps & Site Plans, Sections, Floor Plans etc. There are no perspective in drawings, they are orthographic. A schematic is info not to scale. Elevation says more about height than depth (duh.) Drawings communicate the literal items such as tires, dirt etc.
The Flow line is the direction of water in the area. Water goes perpendicular to contour lines.
You want to pile dirt around a building when leveling. Buttress a wall is battering a wall. Topography can be found via googles maps to create a plan. When starting an Earthship build, you have to coordinate with the Architect (builder), Engineer (specialist) and Inspector (county and code.) Planning department looks on the inside and the Building department looks on the outside.
Purlins are strips of wood and usually two feet.
Next we have Phil…
(My brain was overloaded and I drew a lot during his session)
- 6 foot deep hole earth cliff
- you can build in desert because there is no ground water
- beam to spread load (viga) made of standing dead trees
- Latillas- cut in woods of Aspen
- 4 in. white insulation
- roof membrane is two layers of plastic
- checks- cracks in viga
- no thermal wrap
- 50-80 in summer and chronically floods
- Designed for Taos
- Patio door replacements
- Suncatcher- First commissioned piece
- Zero structural concrete
- Scrapwood Cabinetry
- Dennis Weaver was a huge client of Earthships
- Reach was the 1st intentional community with a lot of problems
- County shut it down
- firetrucks, water and other utilities could not get to it
- Flaw of U-Module is the valley
- Area 52 was the final U-Module
- Needed Grid power to power well
Today Marilou and I built on the bottle wall a bit.
- Pick the bottle that you think would be a good fit
- Put on your gloves and make concrete: 3 parts sand, cement and one part water
- Create a ‘half pipe’ with mortar. Mortar and Plaster is different, plaster is smoother.
- Put bottle on the ‘half pipe’ and make sure it’s plum with the rest of the bottles.
- You can probably only go up 4 courses before it needs to dry.
It was tricky but a lot of fun and will probably be my favorite thing to do. I also offered to draw Gaelan’s lost cat, I hope that wasn’t weird. He’s nice and I know what it’s like losing your pet.
I had the wildest dreams last night. They were so wild, I can’t even speak to them although I remember them vividly. Dreams out here seems more clear and also very emotional.
My mom also had her surgery today. It went well and she seems happy and in good spirits because now the cancer is completely gone. It’s been hard to talk to her with this shotty reception.
Today we learned about tires from a guy named Rory who taught us through a zoom call. I really despise classes through a zoom call so I will do my best to talk about what he was talking about.
Step 1: Lay out tires to conform to surface of the land. They need to have a running bond. Then you lay 2 to 3 layers of cardboard inside of the tire and do a three tire turn. You use capillary wicking in bottom of the tire if you need water to pass through and gabion is a wire basket with stones. Water can wash compaction of tires away specially in wet climates so you want to consider your packing materials. There is also something called a squishy (cute) but I have yet to learn what that is.
When you are reading a tire there are three numbers that look like this:
235mm 75mm R15”
That mean this: Height of Tread/ Side Wall/ Rim
When you loose side wall friction of a tire, you look the integrity of the wall. Therefore if the sidewall is too low, you don’t use it. Also I’d like to mention, our teacher Rory was always laughing and it was hard to keep up at times so apologies if I am wrong about a few things.
Still on step 1, you put cardboard at the bottom of the tire to hold material. The stabilizer is the rubber casing. You should compact dirt 90 percent, you can over compact. When you start laying out tires, start in a corner. In the corner you create a ‘three tire turn’ which is basically three tires that make a curve. For the straight sides, you can either ‘terrace’ the tires or ‘batter’ the tires to create a wall. Still confused on this but I hope to learn at the job site.
When you start the wall there are actually two courses of tires below the floor level called: Burnt or Subfloor and Subgrade. This creates more stability along with the dirt slope behind the tires. You measure tires with plum (to make sure it’s flesh vertically) and level (to make sure it’s aligned horizontally.)
They go on to mention that the Unity is their best design which is there old dog with new tricks. It basically is their original model with a few updates. When you lay tires you want to ‘knit’ them meaning you want to go back and forth with them. Still confused on this but hope to understand more later. I know you have to think of the radius point of the U-shape in the tires but… I’m still a bit lost on that.
The tires are staggered when you are creating walls but sometimes you have to make a ‘half block’ which has a half tire every other tire. This is a way to sleeve or chase which is putting larger things in so you can put smaller things around it.
The foundation for tires is called a Pile On. Jesus soooo much terminology lol. When you create a foundation you want to fine the lowest point of elevation and level everything to it. This makes total sense. Tire is a footing. You don’t want to use black dirt because it has too much organic matter and could break down over time. Use clay if the earth has too much organic matter.
Not sure where all the other steps start but…. moving on to…
Building walls with Cans & Bottles
Can has no strength in the wall, it is used to build up frame work and basically take up space so you’re spending less on materials and upcycling. You create a ‘honeycomb’ structure with cans and the cement mortar creates the strength in the wall. Cans are versatile for sculpture.
Porcupining is a technique where you put nails and screws on the sides of the panels to hold the concrete and have it bind to it better. Every material has contraction so you want to keep it wet so it doesn’t dry too fast. Cement Mortar is 3 parts sand and 1 part water. Frame wall for Plum.
Next we have Phil…
He started with this acronym
SAFE: Safe Autonomy for Everyone.
Side Note: Two story Earthships are not built a lot because it’s hard to control the temperature inside of them.
When you are building an Earthship there are Passive Systems (no mechanics) and Active Systems (Solar, Mechanical, Radiant floor heating etc.) You want the Earthship to become apart of the environment using convection. Taos Pueblo, owned by Indigenous, is a great example of this. You want to point all buildings south to make use of most of the energy needed from the sun. Heating and Cooling is the most energy needed for a home.
There are two norths: true north and magnetic north. You want to consider this and declination which means you point the building towards the sun. You also want to consider winter solstice when point the glass windows because the winter sun has the lowest angle. The slope glass is not used as often due to the amount of maintenance needed.
Now were going to talk about Thermal Mass & Insulation
Mass is either large or insular. Insulation (hay) is light with lots of air pockets. Mass (rock) has a thermal quality and will take on temperature. Side Note: Spaghetti sauce has good mass quality. Insulation does not take on temperature, it contains it. Cold – Insulation – Warm. Thermal breaks are leaks. Poly Iso is insulation they use a lot. Garbage insulation contains crushed plastic to create air pockets. Cardboard is good insulation and has a high R Value.
R Value is how well a material will insulate which range from 2-7
Thermal Wrap is what insulates the mass of the tire wall. It connects to the roof. So it works like this Tire Wall —> Insulation —> Burial Wall (not necessary but good for frost.) Brings frost line up. A battered tire wall requires burial. A straw bale veneer can be used as insulation.
Greenhouses are added to bring the temperature down but also to bring in the green. Glass has no R Value. A 70 degree home is required by building code. A second green house adds even more of a buffer to make Earthships 70 degrees depending on the climate. This double greenhouse works in any climate.
A transom window is an operable window above a door. Open vents and close doors to release heat (convection) and cooling tubes cool down the home. Triple greenhouses are used for extreme cold. Greenhouses are a buffer zone.
We were at U3 today which was the more established and built Earthship of the two. Marilou who is from France but lives in Switzerland, Adam from Israel and I cleaned glass bottles and taped them into bricks. It was fun. I really bonded with Marilou and learned a lot about her. She is also an artist. Most of the friends I have made are on the other job site so it’s nice to find someone to relate too.
We all then went to the hot springs on the Rio Grande. What a TREK it was v hard but fun when we got there. Something I have noticed is that there are a lot of tweekers in Taos and they did invade the hot springs. After that, Lauren, Isabel and I went out for some drinks. They were nice enough to join me because they knew I was distracting myself from my moms surgery. How sweet and I’ve only known them for a week. The people out here can be so damn friendly 🙂
The truth is the Sun, the Wind and the Gravity.Michael Reynolds
Fair warning, I learned a lot today so get ready for a big fat brain dump. I am currently chowing down on broccoli and hummus to get my ATP back up.
Sleep was hard my first night sleeping in the earthship. I am used to a droning fan and my feet hurt due to the excessive walking and elevation change I am not used to. I eventually did fall asleep after some tossing and turning but I think I will take a warm bath before I go to bed everyday.
I woke up at 8:15, make some coffee and chewed on some pecans before heading across the street to the classroom. I chose to sit at the only table next to Jonas because I can not pay attention unless I am doodling. I will post them at the end. I’m thinking of making an Earthship tattoo flash sheet! Everyone seems to want to get a commemorative tattoo here.
Class started off with Michael Reynolds who taught ‘The History of the Earthship.’ He was very eloquent and had a lot of quotable messages. He was one of my favorite doodles and my first one.
First thing we talked about is how a home should be built based on Earth Phenomena and show flow with that earth phenomena; wind, rain, sun, gravity, condensation etc. Mike was very forthright when saying that we are controlled by the ‘dogma’ of a capitalistic society and that the functionalities of our homes are a disgrace. ‘The fact that as soon as you turn off the A/C it gets warm immediately is a huge flaw in the system.’ The goal of an Earthship is to ‘reduce economical and institutional barriers between humans and a home.’
”Each building is a living breathing cell that is getting everything that its inhabitants need from an encounter with the natural phenomenon of the planet, like the sun, like the rain, like the gravity, like the wind, the condensation, the convection, all of the natural phenomenon of the planet are studied and observed and built into these buildings so that they, through encounter with the natural phenomenon become a living breathing organism that takes care of people, and doesn’t need fossil fuels.”Mike Reynolds
Mike said there are seven things we need to consider when building a home: food, sewage disposal, garbage disposal, comfy shelter, water and electricity. ‘We need to evaluate everything on why we live on this planet and if you don’t change the direction you’re headed, you’re going to end up there.’ He then went on to talk about the floating ‘trash island,’ and all the trash piled in the Caribbean. He also went on to say that every Earthship that is built,’ brings back a bit of the Amazonian Rainforest.’
Mike started building Earthship’s after he graduated college with a degree in architecture. He felt that ‘dogma has branded our brains,” and that there was another way to build homes by recycling garbage and capturing energy. I can tell Mike gets a lot of criticism because there was a lot of fervor in his voice.
“We were able to grow banana trees inside homes at 10,000 feet elevation.” This was inside their Global unit which is one of the many models of Earthships Mike has created. The Unity he feels is his best model, it’s cheaper, most efficient and gorgeous. It’s also taken a lot from what of his first models. He stated that they experimented and tried lots of things and mostly how the first model was built was correct with some modifications.
One thing Michael said that really resonated with me as that he thinks that ‘he is an alien who has arrived from another planet.’ And that’s how he’s able to do these crazy, off the wall Earthships. He once built an earthship in Jamaica out of beer cans. Jamaica is known for it’s drunken buffoonary tourism and for that, there are tons of cans to be used for ‘mass.’ He also did something similar with a villa in Puerto Rico.
The therma spiral of an Eartship should be around 70 degrees. This often the temperture that’s required by code. A lot of this is based on natural convection that, ‘heat goes to cooler places.’ He thinks of Earthships like trees, there are to become apart of the environment. You have to organize the water into botanical cells.
Mike has stage four cancer. Despite that, he’s inredibly active and I’ve even had the change to work next to him. He claims eating spinach and being a vegan has kept him healthy. “Eating animals from factories are eating animals full of fear but spinach grows fast and can keep up with your appetite.’
Last remarks from Michael was ‘Live simply so that all can simply live.’ and I fucking loved that. He also mentioned that South Dakota could really take the lead on earthships and the Phillipines was a great place for ‘Windships.’
Next we had Phil. I really like Phil. He has long hair and he’s quite chipper and probably the best teacher at Earthship Biotecture thus far. He’s worked with Michael for 30 years and has worked on Reach (an intentional community at Earthship Biotecture) and Biotecture planet Earth (the traveling earthship building company.)
Phil says that what sets Earthships apart from normal homes are tat we ‘repurse, reuse and remanufacture.’ This is Upcycling vs. Downcycling. “we take more from the dump than we bring to it.’ He’s worked in places like Haiti, Jamaica and many more.
One of the first things he taught us about was ’embodied energy.’ Every object has embodied energy. It’s better to use materials in the home that have lower in embodied energy but Earthships use materials with high embodied energy such as Aluminum, Tires and Copper so that they can have a second use. He said to always always recycle aluminum.
“Source materials based on your surroundings.”Phil
Some terms I learned around this part were Vega- peeled bark log and Earthen plaster- plaster made from the earth. He then went on to talk more about Tires, tires are obviously a huge component and the most important component of Earthships. Tires have great thermal masks, cannot be put into landfills and work as it’s own foundation. They are a great resource for building homes.
You can batter a tire or use a tire plum. Sometimes tires are pounded with gravel to allow water to pass through. Cans are used as bricks. They are not loadbearing and are only used as ‘mass’ unless you make a double can wall. You can also use spray paint cans and votive candles as bricks as well. Steel is the best material to use for a place that has earthquakes.
Later that evening, some friends came over to my Princess Bourgeoise Earthship and we played some villan monopoly. Then we all went to bed early because this pitch black night makes it super easy to do so.
Cheers to the Green Revolution
Happy Independence Day everyone (I guess?) I am beyond happy that after the overturning of Roe V Wade and all the other bullship* going on in yeehaw Texas, that I am spending it out in the middle of the desert, inside of a gorgeous Earthship*, where the plants and trees grow as much inside the homes as they do outside of them. The peace I feel here on this, the very first day, is insurmountable.
I decided to leave Houston Sunday rather than Saturday due to the fact that I was still finishing this large project for an apartment complex called Co-Op. It was comprised of 6 murals and one painted vintage Chevrolet truck. The murals were each seamless and took one try where as the truck had many rewrites. Therefore due to the ‘rewrites’ and the periodic summer showers, I needed more time so I decided to leave Sunday.
4:30 am, Sunny and I are in my Jeep that’s packed to the brim because I admittedly am a horrible over packer. I’ve honestly never been away from home for this long, the laundry facilities are 30 minutes away, we’re working in the dirt and heat so I thought, better safe than sorry and packed my whole athletic/muralist wardrobe and some cutie outfits you know… for the weekends. I threw it all in the car like a rockstar smashing his guitar during the pivotal moment of his show and we began our 14 hour trek to Taos, New Mexico.
Things were going SPLEDIDLY till about 8 hours in, my tire blows out and the right side of my jeep took a bit of a nose dive. This was fine. I pulled over and began changing my tire till about 8 minutes in, a HUMONGO truck pulls over and a tattooed and slender older gentlemen with an eyepatch pulls over and says ‘No one has stopped to help you yet? They must have all voted for Biden.’ I said nothing and allowed him to continue changing my tire. I could have done it myself but honestly, I just wasn’t feeling it in that moment. The man’s name was Grasshopper and he was on his way to Wyoming. He finished changing my tire and zip tied the dangling part of my bumper. He was very kind despite are differing political views. He asked to take a picture with me and I also took a picture of him, I’ll post the picture in the credits 😉
I jaunted on with my little donut tire to Firestone in Amarillo, Texas. I’d like to thank the tire Gods for inspiring them to be open on the weekends because the next day was July 4th and I would have been totally screwed. They fixed it and I rolled along another 6 hours into Taos, New Mexico.
Once I arrived in Taos, I unloaded into my hotel and biked to the free Lyle Lovett concert down the street. I met up with another Earthship member, Jonas, who had just taken a 24 hour flight from his home country, Belgium, to be here. He is also here to learn about Carl Ruck who I also…. need to do my research on. He was kind and we had a blast! We drank a couple beers (which is like four in this elevation), watched the show and parted ways. It is so amazing being around like-minded, diverse, environmentally contentious and educated people all in one place. He has his masters in classical studies and is an college professor who teaches Business English.
The next morning, Sunny and I woke up and went to eat the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had at a hotel. This was not a continental breakfast, this was a breakfast FEAST! I scarfed down a burrito and gravy biscuits and stashed a few extra burritos for later. I also mixed some hot chocolate with my coffee because I am a God damn adult and I can do whatever I want. I then scooped up Jonas because he is without vehicle and we jaunted our way into the Earthship Biotecture Academy.
Orientation was cute. Lara, one of their teacher’s and also runs visitors center (?), went over the rules (there are lots) and the scope of our how our month here would look. She was very funny and it was at ease. She then had each of us introduce ourselves and include our pronouns. They are quite inclusive and intersectional here. I of course introduced myself with a ‘Howdy Ya’ll,’ because I’m an idiot and I’m one of the only people here born native to Texas.
We then drove around to our job sites and then taken to our Earthship dwellings that we will be living in for the month. There are several kinds, The Hive and Castle which are communal and RUI, RU2, simple living units which are individual spaces. I am in RUI which is the bourgeoise princess Earthship and the only one with a bathtub, it’s own kitchen and is the largest open space of them all. How I lucked out with this one NO CLUE because I was the last student and the last to choose her quarters. I am one lucky beach.
I am neighbors with four other lovely women. Two, Marlene and Marilou, are from France, one, Isabel, from Canada and one, Lauren, from California. We all bonded instantly and ate hot dogs together because it’s fourth of July and why not. We then went to our Earthships and called it a night. I can’t wait to start class tomorrow and start building on site. I hope to be environmentally brain whipped and body ripped when I return to Houston! :’)