WHILE for most people, Boulder is synonymous with green and healthy and sustainable, those are not usually the first things that come to mind when one hears “Colorado Springs.” However, if the folks at Boulder-based Earthship Village Colorado (EVC) have their way, “the Springs” will soon be home to a community of 75 off-the-grid, sustainable, Earthship homes.
For those unaware, EVC’s website defines Earthships as “beautiful, sustainable, earth-friendly, homes built primarily of recycled and indigenous natural materials.
“They are the brain-children of Michael Reynolds, radical architect, sustainability expert, and the acknowledged ‘father’ of the Earthship.”
They are “designed to be autonomous, meaning that they have little or no connection to the grid, using thermal mass, solar panels, rainwater collection, composting and other built-into-the-design-and-construction approaches that minimize the need for external resources.”
According to EVC’s founder, David Hatch, the company is “committed to the development of an extraordinary new neighborhood, designed to create and sustain the lifestyles of those who wish to live sustainably, self-sufficiently and in harmony with the earth, without giving up their individuality or the comforts and conveniences of a modern American lifestyle.”
Hatch said that he and his partner, Daniel Ziskin, Ph.D., are using the concepts Reynolds has honed over the last 40 years to develop a community of “self-sustaining homes, each of which cares for its inhabitants, rather than vice-versa,” and, perhaps most important, have now migrated that idea “from the purview of the incredibly dedicated — those willing to give up the traditional comforts of home, into the realm of the reasonable — those who want to live lightly on the earth, but also want wi-fi and perhaps the occasional cappuccino.”
By which they mean that, while the original Earthship dwellers were willing to go without basics, the current iteration of Earthships have all the comforts associated with the American lifestyle in 2014 and beyond.
LOCATED on 400 acres of prairie with views of Pikes Peak, EVC consists of five acre plots, each of which will be self-sufficient. According to Ziskin, that means each individual Earthship will be “capable of producing its own electricity, collecting its own water, disposing of its own waste, and growing its own food,” making EVC a completely independent community just 10 miles from the geographic center of Colorado Springs.
The homes themselves are built from rammed-earth-filled tires, which are easy to obtain from local landfills that are happy to be rid of them because they never biodegrade.
According to Reynolds, current research indicates that after 10,000 miles tires stop off-gassing, and no tire reaches a landfill with fewer than 10,000 miles on it.
However, both he and EVC use vapor barriers in construction, just to be completely sure.
Rammed-earth construction utilizes the warming and cooling properties of the earth’s thermal mass in conjunction with solar power, so there is no connection to the external grid required.
According to EVC’s website, the earth is “a thermally stabilizing mass that delivers and regulates its own temperature without wire or pipes, and our sun is a nuclear power plant that also delivers unlimited free energy without physical connections or monthly contracts.”
“The outer few feet of the earth heats up and cools off in response to surface weather. However, deeper in the earth, about four feet and beyond, the temperature remains relatively constant at around 58 degrees.
“Earthships are thermal mass homes first, passive solar homes second. As a result, appropriate design results in a home that can use the earth itself to maintain a stable, comfortable temperature all year round.”
According to Reynolds’ website, “Originally, people made shelter by assembling pieces one at a time. They put the pieces together around themselves rather than upon themselves like clothing and soon they had created shelter around themselves.
“They were inside shelter and thus protected from the elements.
“Earthships are designed so that each one sails with the forces that exist beyond human control and exploitation. They are simply an intelligent adaptation of . . . [ways to meet people’s basic needs] to the activities already occurring on the planet.”
“If people’s lifestyles can conform more to the patterns of the earth than to arbitrarily created and enforced socioeconomic systems, people can reduce the stress on humans, other animals and the rest of the planet, and still have absolutely everything they require to live.
“This is, of course, easier said than done. Due to the social constructs of mortgage payments, utility bills and the overall high cost of living, most people have no choice. They have to be at specific locations at predetermined times in order to make the money necessary to make those payments.
“However, Earthships have small or non-existent utility bills and, by allowing their owners to grow food year-round inside, also greatly reduce the amount of money they have to earn to meet their needs”
ACCORDING to the EVC website, Earthship owners obtain all their electricity from the earth, the sun and the wind; collect all their water from the sky and then use it multiple times to conserve as much of it as possible; contain and treat sewage in a way that is not only clean and odorless, but is beautiful and produces food (really, greywater is used to irrigate large indoor planters and greenhouses); and maintains an internal temperature of 68 to 72 degrees all year long, no matter the external temperature or weather conditions.
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