Permits, Plans and Designs of Earthship Ironbank

I fan so I’m going to I’ve been thinking a lot about that shit’s a long time now sort of got into it in about 2007 I think I read my first book and from that day forth I’ve been a changed man really stop thinking about I got over the Taos in 2008 I actually called my employer University of South Australia is sending me over there on a research mission I just kind of pounded tires but all weeks out there which was actually on that on that building at UC there which i think is the first global model Earthship then I managed to get another trip out to Taos as part of my PhD studies at the University of Adelaide I went back to Taos in at the end of 2011 to do part of my my research which was fitting temperature sensors and humidity and lighting senses in some in six earthships to try and prove that you know they do maintain really stable indoor temperature conditions so I’ll be talking more about that that’s sort of part of the are they sustainable question I was trying to you know really scientifically answer that question because Mike Reynolds the inventor of the Earthship he he says that they’re the you know the greenest most sustainable building in the world but if you haven’t got any sort of scientific data to back that up it’s just you know it’s just someone’s opinion so I’m just going to briefly explain you know why do we need earthships what is an Earthship imagine imagine a lot of you already know a little bit about earthships but I can’t I can’t be sure that everyone has done the Earthship 101 scene there there’s a really good YouTube movie actually called Earthship 101 so yeah I’ll just explain a little bit you know what they are and how they work Earthship iron bank is the project that Adam was talking about that he was helping out with earlier this year I’ve got lots of photos of that and I finish with some of my my research on are they sustainable so just to start with I live in a straw bale house in iron bank in the Adelaide Hills about 40 minutes out of the CBD it was actually a shed and we converted it to a straw bale house and in many ways this is this is like an Earthship in many ways in that it’s self-sufficient in water and energy we’ve used natural materials to build it you know cost lots of unnatural materials as well like steel but you know straw is a very natural waste material bit like car tires are a waste material we’re not very natural though I like car tires but they have other good attributes and yeah this is performed quite well it gives us about a 12 degree buffer in the summer so if it’s you know if it’s 40 outside it might be 28 inside unfortunately you can get up to about 42 so it can get up to 30 inside gets a little warm we’ve got no air conditioner apart from a little portable of that pretty one that we might we might get out if it’s really stinking hot and in the winter it gives us about 17 degree buffer so I feel like that’s without any heating or cooling so I feel like the straw-bale is working really well we’ve got passive solar design double glazed windows and we’re also doing things like we’ve got a composting toilet reed bed grey water treatment system so in many ways this is like an Earthship because it’s it’s really trying to be as self-sufficient as possible and I think that’s one of the main goals with an Earthship is about become more self-sufficient there’s a shot at a composting toilet above and below the reed bed in its infancy and this is a fire bunker that I built more recently there’s a big concrete box surrounded by is it there’s a tire wall at each end of it this is a close-up of one of the tire walls you can see a few old tires peeping out there from the render that’s starting to wash off it’s actually a mud

render with no cement no lime and it’s actually been really really durable due to some magic ingredients I put in there which were all organic basically sawdust and grass grass clippings so why do we need earthships well one of the games were kind of playing at the moment is you know how many how many people can we fit safely on this planet because someone want to yeah you know like with with never increasing but never increasing population you know we’re trying to fit more and more people on the planet it seems and the way we do this I think depends on the technology we use and our sort of approach our attitude towards that our behavior so is a little equation for you our ecological impact is directly related to the population on the planet which is going up what sort of technology each one of us uses why do we all live in McMansions or do we all live in a mud hut because that’s going to make a big difference to how many people we can fit on the planet and and yeah our attitude are we willing to change our behavior you know maybe we don’t have a hot shower every day just to give you an example that might be the kind of thing we need to do to reduce the amount of energy that use but the cool thing about the Earthship is that it’s really trying to provide us with all the modern conveniences like a hot shower everyday and some electricity so that you know we can live in the comfort that we’ve become used to but in a much more ecological way so this ecological impact gets much smaller so we can fit more people on the planet I mean hopefully some some day in the future we work out how to you know limit our our reproduction rates but that seems like a long way off at the moment so of course another reason why we need earthships I’m sure you’ve all heard of this thing called climate change and the scary thing about climate change is that with you know say six degrees of warming and what tends to happen is if you get one or two degrees of warming that leads to three degrees of warming to four to five to six degrees of warming I don’t know why they stop at six actually maybe it’s just too scary to even even fathom but yeah this part of the planet becomes the the tropics becomes basically uninhabitable because when it gets too hot and humid our sweat mechanism just doesn’t work anymore you can’t cool yourself down so it becomes dangerous to human health and like you may not even be able to live there so a lot of people a lot of climate scientists are actually now moving to Tazi and new zealand or you know to these green bands canada maybe no no Sherlock okay the other thing that’s going on on the planet at the moment is we’ve got corruption and we got fat cats like this who’s the president of the International Energy Agency who’s basically in cahoots with all the OPEC you know oil-producing Giants he’s he’s getting money from you know saying things like you know renewables just starting the way to go and you know this is this is what we see in our sort of political environment in Australia as well you would have heard probably about you know the the proposed cuts to the renewable energy target and all this kind of thing and all the solar solar installers are getting grumpy of course and yeah this is David Holm grens sort of predictions of where we could go in the future he’s the guy who invented permaculture along with Bill Mollison so on this graph we’ve got energy resource use population and pollution yeah and we’ve got time and overtime since 10,000 years ago you know developing agriculture then the Industrial Revolution we started getting more and more pollution and population energy and resource use that all sort these all go kind of hand-in-hand and part of the

game we’re playing is how do we decouple those things so we can have more people and less pollution that’s again that’s worth ship comes in and here we are right now and what’s happening at the moment really is this techno explosion as holmgren calls it so this is where we’re installing more coal you know tar sand nuclear and renewable energy this all keeps our energy use going up and up and up you know and means we can have more people but unfortunately more pollution because of stuff like this now maybe a better option is that our population over time over the next few hundred years declines a little bit and you know this is what can happen we can reduce our Mount of pollution if we’re installing lots of renewables and that this is totally possible if you’ve heard about beyond zero emissions they’ve got a plan for Australia to be 100 percent renewable energy even in ten years costs about ten bucks per family per week so we can do that if we have the political will to do it then we’ve got what David holmgren thinks is more likely which is what he calls energy descent which really just kind of mirrors this upward you know this increase in energy use you know this is sort of like like the peak oil graph as well oil use an oil decline so maybe our population returns to you know a couple of billion people in two hundred years time that’s what he’s predicting or we’ve also got collapse where the really hits the fan and you know we might even lose the capability to do cool things like make solar panels and we’ve got bugger all energy bugger all people but bugger all pollution as well good news is that Earth ships make sense in all these situations doesn’t matter which one you pick because we will actually have to pick one of these which one where are we going what’s happening okay the future exists right and part of what you believe the future is going to be like determines how you’re going to react now how am I going to go build an Earthship where am I gonna go buy a McMansion so self-sufficiency is the earthships goal it kind of protects you from things like GFC it’s providing you with shelter water food and energy and you can live in really quite harsh environments without you know all the usual infrastructure that keeps a house working you know because without things like you know a sewer to take human waste away from your home you chop off that sewer and all of a sudden you’ve got a non-functional home same of course with the electricity and water so let’s just quickly go through the Earthship does features that’s Mike Reynolds of course and he’s articulated six principles which are passive heating and cooling basically trying not to use any energy or fuel to to heat and cooler home renewable energy water harvesting on-site sewage treatment natural and recycled materials and food production so there for example you see that’s actually a rendered over tire wall I think a lot of people when they think tire walls they think tires but you don’t really see the tires and this is the greenhouse which is where gray water is treated in this planter and that’s also where food is produced so let’s just go through there’s batteries you know because this is totally off-grid batteries sometimes on the roof sometimes in a little utility room somewhere inside the earth berm is this big pile of dirt out the back so this is our floor plan our section they’re water tanks hidden away nicely in the berm out of you know harm’s way out of the sunshine you know sunshine degrades plastic tanks tanks would be pretty durable there’s also some insulation in the berm which I don’t think is necessary in our climate but in Taos it gets down to minus 20 degrees so that installation is really important in Taos these are the tires here all around here that’s a retaining wall that’s retaining all those hundreds of tons of dirt and there’s are tubes that go through earth tubes or cooling tubes that provide a heat exchange so the stable temperature of the soil actually is able to cool down air that flows through those tubes so that air kind of gets sucked up and out through the greenhouse it gets warm in here you

open up a little vent up here and the hot air comes out and that kind of sucks through the cool air without any fans or anything like that solar panels and solar hot water are integrated into the the front face of the earth should they’re quite quite neatly I think I don’t look like a tacked on afterthought there’s double glazing here and here and that’s this is sort of a new design feature of the Earthship when I say new maybe about ten years ago Mike started doing this and getting much better performance same with this installation here because I think he actually got sued by one of his clients who was grumpy that you know the Earthship wasn’t performing as Mike said it would with the temperature and so he sort of introduced this sort of you know it’s like insulation glial it’s glass but you know it’s double glazed so that prevents some of the hot temperature in here from mixing up here in the summer whereas in the winter you can kind of open up doors and windows and stuff and that the warm air winter air can can kind of mix in there so um there’s the the great water system which is just a garden bed treats the great water and there’s also similar one outdoors for the black water the pool water from the toilet internal walls made out of aluminium cans and cement mortar and another feature of the Earthship which you don’t see in other types of buildings typically is this really long narrow floor plan so that’s that’s lighting natural light get in to all the rooms so you don’t have any dark rooms you don’t need lights on during the day and it’s also good for the heating of the home and cooling this is a different design as the floorplan they’re based on a flower they see that’s in in Africa and Malawi and that’s more for a you know a really hot climate so Mike’s got different designs for different climates I mean he’s got this thing called the global model Earthship which he says is suitable for any climate but he does also have other designs that are more suited to other climates so here they’re not really worried about how to warm the home that climate is such they don’t need to do that so it’s a different design this is this simple survival model design and their quote there from Mike what is right for Haiti is right for the world and what he’s talking about here is just this really simple design it’s quite small as well and this is what my Earthship is based on a little bit different but very similar and you know what he’s saying is that you know just just small and simple is really all that we need and I started out by saying you know you want the McMansion or the mud hut and you know I think if if you had to give everyone a house on the planet you’d give them something like this you know mud hearts we’re not all going to be happy with that but we’d probably all be happy with something like this and also another thing with earthships is and this is kind of the way they started out with these new modules it’s a it is a modular system so this is good because you can teach people to do this much and then you can kind of go away and they’ve learnt how to repeat it and to a certain degree you can start with one and then add the next bit on that takes a little bit of extra careful planning but it is possible so yeah and I reckon if if we rzz going to build the largest homes in the world which we do you know our average home sizes over 200 square metres we do build the biggest homes in though in the world if we’re going to keep doing that then they do need to be low in both embodied energy so that’s the energy that goes into making all the materials and low in operational energy which is the energy used to run those buildings throughout their life time which might be 50 years or 100 years or you know maybe for an Earthship even a couple of hundred years and that’s a real interesting question about what is the lifetime of a building because it doesn’t just depend on the durability of the building some idiot might come long and knock it over because it’s not fashionable anymore and they want to build something else there so I’d like to contrast the Earthship with the other which is Sai Rose CSIRO’s you know answer to this problem yeah they they are doing a bit of passive solar design facing it north you know to to improve you know heating

especially in the winter also it keeps the Summer Sun out when you face north but the problem with the Oz air is the six kilowatt solar panel array now that’s a lot of solar panels for you know a domestic residence and solar panels you know you’ve got to do a lot of mining a lot of really energy intensive manufacturing processes to make solar panels where as an Earthship would probably have about it one kilowatt solar system on it so and you know this is you know this is basically powering this the you know reverse cycle air conditioner so I think it’s cheating a bit and also the Aussie is not doing a whole lot of things like the Earthship is doing like harvesting water using natural and recycled materials and trying to produce food so in my opinion it’s a bit of a lame attempt by CSIRO so let’s just have a quick look at you know some of these Earthship features they’re the the tanks which are designed for burial you can load heaps of dirt they’ve got all these little ribs on them so the walls don’t kind of crush in well I’m doing an experiment with my build I’m just using a standard round rainwater tank I’m hoping the round shape distributes the forces of all the earth it gets piled around it and I just filled them up with water before I backfield and so far so good those ones cost a lot more money of course then I was readily available filters for filtering water this is the a cross-section through the grey water system so water comes in at this end from your bath for example you know hair and you know glinting stuff from the washing machine just gets caught in a little particle trap here which is just a little box with holes drilled in the bottom so the water can drain through the holes in the bottom of the box can also if those holes get blocked it can overflow out there goes into some big bouldery rocks to prevent you know backup of water the water can drain through those Boulder rocks quite easily and then it sort of percolates through some gravel and then on top of the gravel you’ve got soil where you’ve got your lovely banana plants and all sorts of all sorts of amazing plants some of them are specially selected to actually treat the water so part of the idea here is that by the time the water gets to the end it is it’s quite clean and you can actually it’s clean enough to pump it with a little pump here I’ll start a little pump they’re picking up the water from down there pumps it back to the toilet so you can flush the toilet which the reason these are in red is because sa health the local Water Authority told me that under no circumstances was I allowed to do this but guess what I’m going to do it and I’ll get a fork you just don’t tell them you’re going to do it but kind of more seriously there’s a there’s a three way valve here so you can turn a handle and the reason I was able to get approval was because I have a conventional septic and leach field area so at the turn of a valve I can kind of switch this off and use the conventional system or you can turn the valve and use this system so if anyone ever kind of puts the gun to my head I just go turn the valve now we’re good well that’s right and I mean I think they’d probably make me block up the pipe here with concrete or something but you know there’s ways of getting concrete out of pipes right so they don’t really have the resources to police it or care I’d cop of four hundred dollar fine and that would probably be the end of it and I think also if you want to change the laws first you have to break the laws so anyway so there’s I mean it’s really frustrating that they won’t accept you know research from United States like last weekend I was at the odds bail the straw bale building conference and they were talking about they’re gonna have to spend tens of thousands of dollars doing uni bushfire tests which they did back in 2003 to prove that straw bale walls were good in bush fires but all the codes have changed since the Black Saturday bushfires and the Germans have just done amazing testing on straw bale walls they’re just gone gangbusters over

there building multi-level buildings out of straw bales and stuff done all the fire testing but will we accept their scientific test results on straw bale walls you know where they build Straub our walls and torch them with you know with a furnace kind of thing and measure the time it takes for it to you know fall over kind of thing no no we’ve got to do all these tests again ourselves and you know same with this this is a you know an Earthship in taos that’s the planner there there’s no problems with them they don’t smell they don’t you know they don’t screw up I don’t need lots of maintenance they work but you know try getting someone from sa health to believe that I actually think this is them this is kind of my favorite part of the earth ship so it’s a corridor it’s the greenhouse it’s a corridor it’s a great water treatment system you can do gardening twelve months of the year in there you grow food in there it’s for heating and cooling sort of creates this thermal buffer zone so if it’s you know often as I’ve said you know in Taos it can be you see the snow on the ground out there it can be -20 at night whereas in here it won’t drop below zero and so what that means is in here in the inside in the living spaces the living spaces don’t realize it’s -20 outside they think it’s only like five degrees or something outside so you don’t get too much heat loss and this this space is also providing that that stack effect where the hot air is rushing out and pulling cool air through the earth tubes and also it’s providing oxygen or removing co2 you know oxygen is a pretty handy thing for humans so and it can it plants can even take toxins out of the air things like formaldehyde can be sequestered by plants NASA found that out when they were you know designing houses for the moon and spaceships and stuff and it’s also really beautiful there’s the black water self outside septic tank oh it’s a solar septic tank right there and yeah as I’ve said it’s just like t-shirt weather in here pretty much all all year round and it can actually get quite hot in the greenhouse and one of the interesting things I found with my research putting the temperature sensors in here was that the greenhouse is actually at its hottest in the winter was everyone’s been saying to me Marty aren’t you worried that your greenhouse is going to overheat in the summer and I was like well yeah that that is a concern but guess what the winter is when it actually tends to overheat because the Sun is low you’re getting a lot more energy coming through those windows whereas in the summer there’s not as much energy coming in there I’ll talk more about that later yeah I mean like so it can actually get up to about 50 degrees in here in the winter but that’s not a problem when it’s zero outside because you just do some ventilation you know you mix the zero Degree air with 50 degree air and you can solve the problem very easily there’s a lot more zero Degree out there than there is 50 degree air so the berm is also that’s that pile of dirt around the back and the sides that’s I’ve explained already that regulates the indoor temperature no I didn’t I was talking about the earth tubes the the berm works in the same way because of the temperature of the soil is very stable it again it kind of falls the house into thinking instead of it being minus 20 out here it tricks the house into thinking it’s only 15 out here because the that’s what the soil temperature would be roughly about 15 degrees when when you when you get down a bit deeper you know like it’s actually really super stable temperature down about three meters you know as you start coming up you know just like maybe a hundred mil below the surface is probably quite a bit like air temperature but as you get down deeper it gets more stable and that really helps to regulate into our air temperature this is a really important part of the Earthship especially in a temperate climate like we have here in Melbourne and Adelaide so don’t go without a berm if you can avoid it there are lots of skylights and roof vents although more recent design

and sort of not doing these vents up the back here and instead using the earth tubes but there’s always sort of event a roof vent up here for letting hot air out at the greenhouse I’ve actually used some operable skylights in in my design a little bit different to what you see there they’re the earth tubes again under construction one thing I’m not super keen on with this particular material this is a corrugated you can just sort of see some of the corrugations here little bumps is that I think it might form a bit of a dirt trap and a moisture trap where you could get you know mould and funky little mushrooms growing so I’ve actually used a smoother old pipe I’ve actually used PVC pipe I’m not thrilled with the PVC but for a few reasons but yeah I think that that issue of what being able to easily clean it is super important there’s an earth tube lead coming through a tyre wall that’s a day be rendered tyre wall yeah yeah that’s in fact what I’ve done I’ll show you a cross-section of my Earthship will show the earth tubes coming out the front here more earth tube hatches you can just start kind of slightly crack these open in the winter to get a little bit of cross ventilation that’s the outside of the earth tube weather steels it’s a crappy old battery box on top of quite an old earth ship but the point here is there’s only eight batteries and you know one of the reasons we need to adapt earth ships to our climate is because in taos they have just such great weather they get will they hardly ever get any cloudy days in the winter they just get so much sunshine so they can get away with small battery banks and small sets of solar panels where as we need to sort of take into account we get a lot of overcast weather so hence more batteries and more panels but you know not not excessively safe so yeah this off-grid technology batteries water tanks it it drives frugal energy and water use meaning you know you do have to be quite careful although on a sunny day maybe not with energy sort of it really forces you to look outside and see what’s going on it really connects you with the environment and you know if it’s a sunny day do a load of washing if it’s not a sunny day then don’t do a load of washing because you know your washing machine is going to use a lot of energy it forces real limits to consumption so you know it very quickly teaches you to be careful about this if you’re going to leave all the lights and the TV on the batteries will be flat and so you learn pretty quickly to change your behavior whereas in a normal home grid-connected home that’s not going to happen you’re just always going to be you know tempted to use more energy it’s only really limited by how much you can pay on your electricity bill and yeah you know if anything you’ve got more comfort in an Earthship you know the the definitely in terms of temperature but you know in terms of appliances and modern conveniences you can still have all the usual stuff but you just might need to use them less often or size up your battery bank but of course there’s trade-offs with that with money in the environment these aren’t the world’s most environmentally friendly things although lead acid batteries lead is highly recyclable and you can actually it’s really easy to actually recycle lead acid batteries so they’re not necessarily a real nasty thing although I’m sure you’re all aware that the production of lead can be terrible you know if the lead gets into the atmosphere lead poisoning is a terrible thing anyway thankfully we’ve got new battery technology coming onboard pretty quick for electric cars you can now get lithium-ion batteries if your home and yet importantly you can be the change now this is sort of a grassroots movement you don’t need to wait for government to legislate or anything you can go out and do this tomorrow and you can get off the dirty electricity grid and you can get off the dirty water grid as well water is also very dirty because it uses a lot of electricity to pump water from point A to point B to Point C

Point C being the sewage treatment facility there’s a there’s one of the New Energy sorry battery storage solutions I think pretty sure that uses a lithium-ion batteries yeah about size of fridge maybe a little bit bigger depending on the size you know how much storage you need so there are some people there and this is a tire pile in the USA where stray Lien’s we actually ship our tires off to China some of our truck tires get recycled but there’s only I think there’s not a facility and South Australia I don’t think so there’s a lot of transport going on with moving them here and there yeah in China they get burnt in cement kilns because tires a great energy there’s a lot of energy in the tire they’ve burned for ages so you chuck them in a cement kiln and actually the steel and the tires is good for the cement making process but I argue that you know by using tires in an Earthship you give it an extra life you can still burn it you know in a cement kiln later on when the house gets knocked over or I reckon you can you can use the tires again and again building earthships because you’d they don’t really I don’t think they’ll really degrade you know once that sort of entombed in earth you know plastic and you know render they’re not really going to degrade only degrade because of a agents like water and air and fire and you know stuff like this so they’re actually quite well protected in an Earthship wall so yeah super durable that they’re probably the most durable thing humans have ever invented and of course we’re using for artificial reefs and stuff like that just so durable and there they are they’re being made into a wall this is everyone always wants to know can you can you automate the tire panning process because it is it is a pretty strenuous activity I can only do about ten tyres a day and then I got to lie down for about five hours so and you know that kind of hence you know the idea of having workshops and having lots of people come and help out and Mike Reynolds builds an Earthship with his you know 50 or so helpers in six weeks and I mean the tyre wolves are done in a week so this this doesn’t have to take a long time and you know I think this is a husband-and-wife team who are building their Earthship without you know the benefit of lots of helpers and so this is a kind of device that rammed earth contractors used to doing rammed earth walls and this is the one that the guy in New Zealand invented sort of a Ranma that Rams the earth out into the rim of the tire and then they just had a relatively small amount of dirt to pack in the middle and they were using planks and things to roll the tires up into position on the wall and and then just fill in that little hole the hardest part of pounding a tire is getting the dirt in under this rim so there’s other ideas also where you cut the top out of the tire and that’s what eco flex do eco flex is a civil engineering company in New South Wales that’s about a 5 meter high tire retaining wall made out of truck tires and eco flex they just tip gravel into the tires can you don’t need to pound gravel so that’s a pretty pretty quick way of doing a tire wall and then they clad it with you know shotcrete or even colorbond or shade cloth they’ve tried all sorts of things and they’ve also done heaps of work on stuff like bushfire resistance water leachate so that’s where water is coming into contact with the tires and you know there’s concerns about maybe toxics leaching out of the tires because there are lots of heavy metals in tires unfortunately I did see a thing the other day saying they’re working on making tires out of and you won’t believe this but they found a way to make them out of dandelions no Sherlock that’s a true story so I was thrilled when I found out about eco flex because this proves for a start that you’re allowed to build with tires in Australia and they done all their homework on these really important issues like fire water and structural engineering yes mm-hmm yep oh you can do that yeah I mean you have

to pay for the gravel I mean it’s about 50 bucks a time I think so it wouldn’t be quite as good as dirt but I think as long as you got that berm on the outside the berm is really the thing that’s doing most of the work in terms of giving you the stable indoor air temperature I don’t really know but I’m pretty sure that it’s not changing the thermal properties of the wall all that much yeah but you’re right it’s there are lots of little air gaps in that gravel so it would be a bit of an experiment this is something I’m not so thrilled about with the Earthship using lots of cement and also with like cans and bottles we actually have really good systems for recycling these especially in South Australia or it’s got deposit on the bottles and cans I actually had to pay 300 bucks for my cans oh my and we didn’t even use them all up that was a bad thing so anyway you know a little bit questionable buttons in some countries where they don’t have good recycling facilities and this does just end up as waste in streams and rivers this is a great idea yeah you can use plastic water bottles yeah yeah but you can recycle them too and they also worth 10 cents in South Australia well so here we’ve used some mud this is this is my project and there’s a bit of cement used in the background there but we did a little test wall here using mud and that worked out really well so you know the moat the main impacts are coming from you know cement cements a bit of a baddie so replacing it with muds a good idea all right so this is the Earthship iron bank project it’s gonna be a bed and breakfast so people can come and experience the earth ship phenomenon it was approved and I think July 2013 and that process took about a year not because it needed to but just because I was being lazy I worked full time at uni si and I was doing all the plans myself and it just took me a long time to get my together it shouldn’t really take a year to do that there wasn’t any real objection the biggest objection I had as I’ve said the grey water system was declined by ESA water before he talked about that but the the building rules consent which I did with a private certifier oh the the thing he got excited about was the fact that I didn’t have exit signs in the Earthship because it’s a B&B and I’ve got to have exit signs in there he did not bat an eyelid at the tyre walls and that’s partly because Thomas here is going to speak next who did the structural engineering I mean basically Thomas is saying that these walls and roof and whatever are okay and so the private certifier says well if the engineer’s happy I’m happy and you know he looks at other things like just compliance with other things in the national construction code like exit signs and alerts me if I’ve missed something out so yeah so that’s a CAD model of it there so the roof lines actually changed a little bit it’s a slightly older one and that’s the floor plan there’s just sort of a single room there with little kitchenette bed little table there is going to have a little wood heater for backup hopefully that little wood heater is not necessary it’s there for sort of ambience and it’s also going to backup the hot water system rather than using electricity but yeah really in terms of the thermal performance in this space here it shouldn’t be necessary but I figured because it’s a B&B and people expect a certain amount of luxury or something it was a good idea the green house bathroom little patio and the entry and the batteries are getting going a little cupboard here 58.3 so that’s yeah it’s about 23 square meters in their greenhouse is about 23 square meters earthships cost about two thousand to two thousand two hundred dollars per square meter they cost about the same as a normal home but then you don’t have ongoing costs with electricity and water bills and of course you could probably reduce that cost by doing a lot of the work yourself and so you know that’s another interesting thing about the Earthship is it is pretty simple you can

do the tyre walls by yourself yeah I’m quoting I’m quoting a figure by Mike Reynolds and so whether that’s in US dollars or you know I’m sort of going through the process now I’ll be able to tell you at the end of my project what it cost me to do it but depends on whether you’ve got gold plated you know sort of taps or secondhand taps or there’s so many different you know variants on on that it’s always going to be hard to predict but Mike Mike basically says costs about the same as a normal home and if you want to reduce the price of your home the obvious thing to do is to reduce the size of your home you know cut you your home in half in size and you’ll cut the budget in half as well hmm I did hear ya maybe remind me of that in a minute I’ll just keep going through this there are those earth tubes here 15 to go yeah yeah yeah yeah that might be a good idea there the earth tubes coming through the front cuz there’s my slope on quite a steep North facing hill there’s a very cement vault roof which Thomas is going to be talking a bit about some of the engineering on that and there’s actually some little vaults over the the entry so these these ones here entry and bathroom yeah so that gives you a bit of an idea there’s one of Thomas’s drawings showing the the ring beam or the bond beam on top of the tyre wall and some of the reinforcing in that and how it’s tied into the tyre wall I’ll let him talk more about that so moving on how to build an Earthship step one fine land to design three build four move in I still haven’t got to this step I’m still on this step so finding land north-facing slope or a flat site avoid other slopes I’m actually kind of thrilled to announce I’ve got my first big Earthship design job in in Brisbane and Brisbane in Queensland up near arm Childers and their their site is not ideal because the slopes are gone every which way bit north so it’s going to mean a lot of earthworks to to do an Earthship which is a bummer but it shouldn’t be too bad clay soil is desirable for rendering but it’s it’s generally not an issue you can because of the nature of the tyre super strong you can basically put anything in it and it will be okay unless it’s a quicksand or something you don’t also don’t want to build on quicksand Thomas can talk more about that as well water courses can be an issue for the wastewater system you’ve got to be 50 metres away from a watercourse in in in most states I think that’s a pretty standard rule 50 metres away from a watercourse and this means on my side I actually have to pump pump water uphill pump pump uphill it’s black water to get to my wastewater disposal area from the septic tank and yeah you got to do a soil test on your land which is important for the engineering footing design design considerations you’ve got to evaluate your microclimate you know where’s the wind coming from a bit of a sort of a permaculture assessment I guess and you know are there any cooling breezes for example that you could tap into that sort of stuff is it going to be a heating climate like in tazzy where you don’t really need to worry so much about cooling or a cooling climate like in Queensland or like in a place like this you got to do a bit of both so that sort of just adds to the challenge I think so here’s a greenhouse appropriate is angled glazing appropriate is Rees recycling gray water even necessary if you’ve got boggans of water you know pouring out of the sky and adequate water storage do you really need to do this is kind of one question I’m asking these people in Queensland you know I think we still end up doing it just for fun but you know fun fun actually means wrangling with the regulators I’ve gone for vertical glazing on my bill to try and avoid you know excessively hot temperatures in the greenhouse in the summer and and yeah again in Queensland I don’t know if a greenhouse is really all that appropriate just just your standard passive solar design with double glazing on the north side I think

would be adequate for Queensland you know a subtropical climate the the extra two layers of glass think is just adding expense and and maybe leading to but you know be nice first we must build these things and find out so the design process stage 1 planning approval and my approach with planning approval was not to give council too much information they do not need to know what the wall construction details are ok so you don’t want to say the word tires necessarily if you want to you can and I tried this with some friends so I did some math sheet plans for we told Council exactly what was going down and all of a sudden they were worried about bushfire and worried about water leachate and this and that and Thomas actually ended up writing a letter to council saying don’t worry about it guys but of course they still worried about it the only time you really need to mention the tires is with building approval you need to tell the engineer how you’re building your walls and the private certifier needs to know but you don’t you shouldn’t really be dealing with council for building approval you always have the option to go private certification for this and in I think in Queensland they always do it do private certification a building certifier not council does that stage to building approval so yeah just don’t give too much way my tyre walls were labeled rendered stabilized rammed earth walls not tire walls but they’re round earth walls which is stabilized with tires but they don’t need to know that ok these guys need to know that not council and yeah coming back to your question about how you’re going to get this thing built are you going to run a workshop or two and I definitely think this is a good idea if you own a building how much time have I got left five minutes okay all right sweet contractor builder it could actually be tricky there’s not that many builders around although they are increasing a lot of the people who came to my workshops super keen Earthship builders and I think in the not-too-distant future you will be out of contractor builder to build your Earthship or maybe you do all of these things quite often an owner builder will contract a builder to help out where the owner builder reaches the limits of their expertise so this is how a cheap iron makes started off in 2009 Mike Reynolds came and pounded the first tire and then I ran weekend workshops did about 20 I think over three years just getting the tire wall going this wood gave me time to work out what the hell I was doing and whether I’d even apply for approval it started off with no approval and eventually I got approval because I decided it was the right thing to do lots of tire pounding this is kind of the I think pretty much the first day of the workshop we just did over the summer the tire wall was all built and there was all the rest to go so one of the first jobs was reinforcement for the bond beam building the vault so this is being built just next to the ship tire wall and then gets lifted over with all hands on deck there it is getting getting the mouse wire tied onto the rebar mouse wire just kind of holds the concrete while it sets here propping propping the vault putting the first layer of concrete on subsequent layers as bond beam and the vault coming into the bond beam this is a spandrel sort of beam that goes across the front of the ship and sort of all sacks is a bit of a retaining wall because this is actually a green roof that’s got about 15 tons of dirt and gravel on the top which is great for bushfires it’s never going to burn this is lunchtime at a ship iron bank there’s about 35 people there every day for five weeks and a lot of them were camping on site so it was just like a non-stop party and go I kind of think my wife’s letting me do that because that’s our front porch and yeah it was all systems go for five weeks or six really lots of farm work involved for that spandrel wall wall across the front we didn’t sort of build that the typical

Earthship way it was all reinforced with steel whereas Mike Reynolds just uses little concrete paddies and cans and bottles but Thomas will talk about why that was important thing to do that was a bucket line taking concrete to the formwork framing for the greenhouse that was our drag day that was the day we finished the roof so that’s the green roof with the gravel on top on top of that big vault that’s the that’s the firefighting tank which became a mud pit one afternoon I think that was her idea Rachel anyway that was great fun that’s sort of where it got left off I think at the end of the workshop that’s Easter getting a layer of cement it’s just a thin layer about 75 mil thick on that on the birdcage that’s hempcrete insulative layer of hempcrete there it is there there’s Rachel pointing at some bottles planning out planning out how to do a nice pattern in the bottle wall there’s a bottle wall that’s it in the background Sam chickens are testing for leaks in the in the Plata Jessie just finished all the joinery here nuts that’s it there with a layer of render on the most bolts on the end there and these are some other projects in Australia the first one in Agnes water not council approved little odd ways Earthship also not approved I think this one’s coming up in November and tazzie Leander Leander came to my workshop there this is a suburb in the Netherlands has been built now Earthship suburb and you’ll see the interesting sort of you know adaptation of the architecture and there’s some high-density earthships in taos that’s one in Brighton England that was proposed but never went ahead because I found dinosaur bones once and friends of mine designed for the old dendrites eco-village the one you would have seen on Grand Designs in France I’m not gonna have time to go through all my research but just really quickly basically the people I spoke to about there are ships just love their earth ships they think that great totally comfortable living off-grid these are my temperature sensors this is a graph of winter in the bedroom and you can see six different earth ships here you can see here minus nineteen degrees overnight and lots of a big range in performance because the Earthship size monitoring were of all different designs but the latest global model design is this green one here where it was sitting on about you know nineteen to sort of 22 degrees right throughout winter well that that week in winter this is the greenhouse this is what I was saying about hidden 50 or more degrees but again like I said really cold outside so you can you can deal with that and you can see that in this global model Earthship they were dealing with it I think they were actually operating their ventilation a lot better and spring we won’t go on about spring but summer again really stable temperatures there in the global model Earthship that green line getting up to about 36 degrees or something 35 degrees and here in the greenhouse it’s not getting up into the 50s in the summer and the global model Earthship it was about again that was about 35 there same as outdoor temperature you can see outdoor temperature there in gray about the same and this is some my part of my research was to develop a computer model that simulated the temperature inside an Earthship and I measured that I compared it with the indoor temperature that I measured to get an idea of how accurate the model was and another part of my research was looking at different types of walls straw bale rammed with him without a greenhouse to see how that improved energy performance and what I found was that the Earthship was the best and I found that using my

calibrated model it would work really great in Adelaide climate an Earthship even in a in Adelaide heatwave it would perform really well also did a whole lot of looking at the embodied energy of materials going into the Earthship wall and all the other types of walls sort of shown where the main impacts are coming from so like the foam which is used for insulation or the concrete in the bond beam and just to sort of I got a lot of graphs here I’m not going to talk about them all but I looked at global warming potential ozone depletion smog eutrophication which is nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways land use and transformation water use and depletion solid waste embodied energy human toxicity and ecotoxicity and to kind of cut to the chase I’ll just tell you the Earthship was you know generally the best not always the best mud-brick was actually has less embodied energy than a tight wall mud brick wall better but because the Earthship uses much less energy for heating and cooling than a mud brick house it comes out on top the other thing I found was that an off-grid energy system has far less environmental impact than being connected to the grid and the big surprise was that off-grid water is much more environmentally friendly than the grid water supply so to me this was my take-home message from my research was just to go off grid don’t really matter how you do it but go off grid and if you but if you do it with an Earthship you’re gonna have really nice stable temperatures and I think the Earthship is the obvious way to go off grid so I think I’ll actually leave it there yes I will yep no not really yeah I’ll repeat the question the question is the decision to use the insulation in the berm was Thomas involved with that the answer’s no it’s sort of a decision to do with the thermal properties not so much the structural engineering but the thermal properties and I guess your next question is would you need to do that in like particular Australian climates may be in tazzie I would think about doing that where it’s really cold maybe not so much sunshine maybe even in some parts of Victoria it might be a good idea to do but the problem with having the insulation in the boom is that actually is detrimental to the summer performance because in summer you want the cool from the earth to be able to get to the walls whereas that insulation is blocking it so it’s a trade-off between winter performance and summer performance so in taos where it’s minus 20 it sure does make a lot of sense but in in our temperate climate not so much sense yeah there’s there’s kind of a raging debate in Europe because they’ve done a lot of temperature monitoring of earthships in Europe and they’re not getting good good performance with that earthships in Europe because essentially it says it’s a solar-powered home and if you’re not having a lot of sunshine then you know you’re not getting the energy in and you might be getting a lot of heat loss out through the floor out through the walls and that’s where insulation makes sense I think but you know there’s there’s a lot of factors then even even the ones in Europe that aren’t you know they’re not thrilled with they still work pretty well you know that they’re better than the one next door that hasn’t gotten earth berm and hasn’t got a greenhouse you know I say I think I think certainly they do need adaptation to different climates yes yep yeah in a way it was only though because we already have our straw bale home on the same block of land this

little B&B is like 50 meters down the hill on the same block of land and council wasn’t thrilled about me doing an artist’s studio or a granny flat or our better being beasts okay yeah crazy next question so there’s one up and back then I’ll take you okay okay so you’re asking about off gassing from the tires into the living space as far as I know no one’s actually done that specific test they have looked at the air quality in earth ships but I don’t think they’ve actually been testing for stuff leaching out of the tires now the thing working in your favor with the tires is that you’ve got this layer of render and for off-gassing to occur you really need things like light hitting the tires and air hitting the tires also the tires are mainly off gassing while they’re on the road you know so you go into a tire store it smells like tires that’s because they’re off gassing but you know after two hundred thousand Kay’s or whatever no you wouldn’t get two hundred thousand but you know what I mean there are they’ve done all they’re off gassing and also you know you’ve got a good ventilation in Earthship you’re going to get off gassing from carpet you know this carpets off gassing you know the plastic on the chairs computer lots of things off gas so don’t get excited about the tires off gassing worry more about the carpet or the your computer screen like the housing around it the plastic on that you know that’s got nasty flame retardants in it that you know get into mother’s milk and stuff so yeah now did you have a question thank you yes yes so the the building like I said you know if you’re going to build one of these things there’s a few ways to do it I really enjoyed doing a workshop it was hard work as I said it was you know five weeks you know basically six days a week I actually work seven days a week on my seventh day off I got to play with the poo I had two big composting toilets and I built big piles of poo compost I was too cheap sheet collector wasn’t my item so it’s a it’s it’s a huge thing to take on but it’s a beautiful wonderful thing like all these people came and helped me and helped each other I think just to live on-site and learn from each other and you know what it was like a party for five weeks so everyone has had a great time everyone got along really well everyone was there for the same reason and there was no charge bar G is just like fun but that’s not for everyone and so that’s why I sort of showed some slides of people with you know mechanized devices maybe doing it that way or the Eco flex way cutting the top out poor and gravel in yeah you know you’ve got to think seriously about how you want to tackle it but you know don’t get the idea that tires necessarily take a long time to do I’m sure with the gravel method or with the workshop method you can get it done quickly doesn’t have to take four years like it’s taken me you know I was doing you know I did 20 workshops on a Sunday afternoon that’s like three hours work you might get done in an afternoon so you know three times to us like 60 hours of work with you know maybe ten people helping so it’s not necessarily a huge amount of time that really went into it if you look at it that way so is there anything else on that topic certainly for Thomas and we’ve got time for more questions done okay yes yeah I actually looked at the effect of the berm so here you see for example an Earthship war without the berm so this one’s with the berm this is with the greenhouse and the berm this is with the greenhouse and no berm this is with no greenhouse and no berm and and you know for example we got rammed earth here down here performing

really badly although not that badly you know you can still get almost seven stars if you put a greenhouse on it and if you insulate if you insulate the round earth because the problem with round earth is conducting a lot of heat and most people who live in mud brick homes and rammed earth homes burn a shitload of wood in the winter okay and there’s a reason for that it’s because they conduct the heat outwards so your question again well you can see the difference from there to there that’s how much better the berm makes it so yes it is a it is quite a substantial improvement yep I’d be similar to rounder yeah so we got a question here and then in question down the front and was there one up the back all right let’s start with you out there yet Thomas might want to come back to that one but Mike has done some some two-story jobbies that I know about anything higher than two stories but multi-storey is potentially possible yep so sort of landscaping the berm and engineering it to have other beneficial advantages like I’ve yeah i’ve often thought about the earth tubes it’s good to have like some water kind of seeping down onto the earth tubes to improve the cooling effect of them so if you’re able to irrigate the berm that would be useful you could also maybe have water more water storage with like a gravel system you know a rubber lined gravel sort of container in the berm plants are usually just ground covers you don’t want anything with big roots that might go through the tyre walls and the other thing I didn’t really go into any detail about that I mean Thomas might mention it a bit is that you do need really good drainage behind the tile wall in our climate Mike Reynolds only has to deal with 250 mil of rain all that does all tend to dump down in a hurry but he’s also on a relatively flat site on my sloping site one of the reasons I didn’t want to put my earth tube through my tyre wall is I was worried about water leaking through so I’ve got plastic gravel drain at the bottom and that system is working pretty well so it’s just a builder’s plastic point three mil than your usual builders plastic but the idea is that with all your landscaping water will be shed away from the Earthship and any water coming through is kind of hitting the gravel layer hopefully that plastic layer is almost redundant you know if you’ve got good drainage water proofing is not really an issue the water proof things there is a you know a last resort the last line of defense you’ve gone yeah I can do that yeah okay thank you