Last month, as part of the excellent “Off the Grid” series, AOL Real Estate paid a visit to the Taos, N.M. launching pad of Earthship Biotecture, visionary architect Michael Reynolds’ “radically sustainable” method of home building; a brand of of building that, most notably, incorporates earth-packed tires as building blocks along with various other forms of refuse and natural materials.

As noted in the article, the completely self-sufficient homes that operate as "independent vessels" and are viewed as what Earthship proselytizers believe to be a “veritable blueprint for what the future of housing might — and should — be like,” have sprouted up all over the place in recent years. (Back in 2009, I profiled the first Earthship to “land” in Florida). Kristen Jacobsen, education director at Earthship Biotecture, told AOL Real Estate: “Taos is just the beginning. We've built Earthships across the globe — in Canada, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Bolivia, Scotland, England, Belgium, France ...."


I hadn’t really heard all that much about Earthship activity in the first country on the list that Jacobsen rattles off. Then, lo and behold, just a few weeks after the AOL Real Estate published the piece on Earthship Biotecture, the Globe and Mail ran an extensive piece written by Dave McGinn on the burgeoning Earthship movement in the Great White North.


According to the Globe and Mail, there are dozens of Earthships and Earthship-type homes spread across the Canadian provinces. A handful more are currently being constructed in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec. A number of existing Earthship homes were actually built after the release of "Garbage Warrior," Oliver Hodge's excellent 2007 documentary film profiling Michael Reynolds. Explains McGinn: “The movie helped popularize Earthships, which appeal to many for both environmental and economic reasons.” Jacobsen tells the Globe and Mail that “the popularity is definitely growing.” She adds that “more than half the total international orders were coming from Canada.”


For a taste of Canadian Earthship living, McGinn visited a 2,900-square foot Earthship-esque home — it’s not designed by Earthship Biotecture but by a Toronto-based sustainable architecture firm specializing in Earthship-type homes — being built in Southern Ontario by Craig and Connie Cook, a pair of fifty-something retired custodians. The anticipated cost of the couple's under-construction Earthship is around $55,000. And once the home is completed, they needn’t worry too much about utilities as a wind turbine will provide the home with electricity and water will be collected through a rooftop rainwater catchment system and filtered.


Like other Earthships, the home is being built in accordance to six key design principles established by Reynolds: building with natural and recycled materials; thermal heating and cooling; solar and wind electricity; water harvesting; contained sewage treatment; and on-site food production. The Cooks are still pondering what to do about that last one once their home is complete although there’s been talk of a banana tree. “Initially [our friends] thought we were crazy,” Craig Cook tells the Globe and Mail.


Writes McGinn … “when you walk through the Cooks’ front door and take in the spacious main floor and glass wall, it’s proof that earthship-type homes have serious aesthetic potential. And with the lower costs of building and maintaining such a house, along with their green benefits, it’s no wonder they are becoming more popular.”


Lots more, including some choice quotes from other Canadian Earthshippers and photos of Chez Cook, over at the Globe and Mail. And, of course, the Earthship Biotecture website is worth a visit for a crash course in building energy independent homes from tires and dirt.


Via [The Globe and Mail]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Beam me up, Mounty: Earthships invade Canada
The Globe and Mail takes a look at the increasing number of Earthships, off the grid homes constructed largely from reclaimed materials such as old tires and gl