Seems to me they are way too labor intensive and too complicated for the average owner-builder. Am I wrong? I built a stick frame house from start to finish 13 years ago and wouldn't even consider tackling an earthship. What I would like to figure out is how to make an earthship more doable for the avg. owner-builder (eg Me). How would you modify an earthship or what substitutions would you make to get the most bang for the buck so to speak without spending years pounding tires and having to hire out much of it? Thanks!
As an owner-builder, can you downsize your project? Earthships are big buildings and you would indeed spend eternity pounding tires. If you don't bury the house in the hill (tires side gone) and make it smaller, it's not an earthship anymore, but it can be a very pretty house.
I have a few question to ask:
Do you think that you could build a stick house, but with a roof strong enough for to support a greenroof?
Do you think you could make that same house strong enough to support earth bermed walls, like a basement/pool/etc?
Do you think that you could build that same stick-framed house with a lean to greenhouse as a patio/sunroom?
Put another way do you think that you could build a basement or pool, with some columns to support a strong roof. I think it can be built by a small crew or just 1 person.
I have a couple other question, what makes an earthship different from a wofati or a Mike Oehlerunderground house? I think that any of those 3 types of house can be build by a owner builder.
It's see what makes these 3 types of green roof houses harder than a regular houses:
-Columns, Beams and roof strong enough to support the earthen roof. But a single person/small crew can do it along
-Buying a few dump truck load of dirt for the roof and sides, this is pretty cheap.
-Adding the waterproof membrane and insulation. This too can be done alone or with a small crew.
-The internal plumbing, electrical, HVAC, bathroom, kitchen system. This is just like a regular house
-Berming the sides of the house is easy, similarly is digging into the ground (think septic tank, just rent a machine)
-Getting dirt and plants on top of the roof is a bit more involved but still very doable.
-Building what is essentially a lean to greenhouse vs patio/sunroom to the front of the house, this isn't so complicated.
-Building a greywater setup inside the greenhouse, is also not that hard.
-Blackwater septic system is just like any other system.
-Digging a well is the usual, hire the professional to do it.
-Rainwater harvesting, I also think that this can be done by 1 person or a small crew, it can also be omitted.
-Solar panels are not a must, but it can also be setup by 1 person or a small crew.
Now if by earthship you mean that rammed earth/cob has to be stuffed into tires, then yes this part is quite a chore. If you also mean that no circular saw or excavator or cement mixer can be used, then sure it becomes even harder.
I think of earthships as walk out basements.
Add lean-to greenhouse and green roof and your structure is completed.
The mechanical components are a separate issue.
So it turns out you can stick build a basement.
Sounds crazy, but it is done.
It pretty much is done like an Oehler structure, except with conventional materials.
Block walls are the other obvious choice.
Plenty of owner built block buildings out there.
The green roof is simply a matter of building strong.
Internal stick built walls can support roofs as well as columns.
I think an exposed roof is a better choice, but the earthship model calls for a green roof.
The greenhouse portion has got to be the simplest part.
The thing about making it easier for owner/builders is you get away from the low environmental impact part of the recipe.
Logs, scavenged timber or packed tires all require extra time/effort on the part of the builder.
Conventional building supplies deliver standardized materials in bulk for a cost.
Even tires can be made into compressed bales, delivered and set in place for a price.
I can see ways to use tires on one's own that would reduce the labor to an acceptable point.
Cutting out sidewalks is easy and one cut through the treads isn't a lot to ask.
I've used this technique to make leave in place forms for concrete.
Using that tread as siding could be as simple as screwing it in place, from the bottom edge of the wall up, overlapping as you go.
Used on either side of a framed wall, it could be the form for cement, soil cement, strait soil, glass or plastic bottles, cut up tire sidewalls, papercrete, fibadobe, sawdust, straw clay or whatever you want.
I would lean into the thermal mass already present and go with locally available soil.