A young couple built a 560sqft ‘earthship’ home using reclaimed and re-purposed materials with wooden walls reinforced by car tires in the Santa Cruz Mountains for just $10,000.
The surprisingly spacious interior has a minimalist look and natural light floods the living areas through large windows where discarded colored bottles provide a stained-glass effect.
Architecture student Taylor Bode and his wife, preschool teacher and yoga instructor Steph, both 31, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, decided to build their own home in an effort to reconnect with nature.
‘Steph and I were 25 years old and fantasised about experiencing a simpler life – the whole Walden Pond, slowing down and reconnecting with nature idea,’ Mr Bode said.
‘We also believed in the potential of a minimalist, self-sufficient, environmentally conscious approach to architecture and lifestyle, particularly as a solution for low-cost housing in critically impoverished parts of the world.
‘So on one hand, we built the house to chase an idealistic dream of our own and on the other hand we built it to set an example for how others might carve out a higher degree of comfort and autonomy for themselves.’
Building a house isn’t cheap but Taylor and Steph managed to complete theirs for just $10,000 after deciding to use free, easily accessible materials to construct a low-tech, high-performance cabin.
‘We had observed the cavalier attitude with which unwanted things were so routinely sent away to landfills, and we chose to re-imagine those discarded items as useful building components, rather than as junk,’ Mr Bode said.
‘Car tires became reinforced rammed earth bricks. Bottles became stained glass compositions. Old barn wood was reused for interior finishes.
‘We applied that philosophy and construction method to our own circumstances and to our own site. We also kept costs down by doing all of the work ourselves, with some monumental assistance from friends and volunteers.’
An earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and up-cycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.
It is meant to address six principles or human needs such as: thermo-solar heating and cooling, solar and wind electricity, self-contained sewage treatment, building with natural and recycled materials, water harvesting and long-term storage and some internal food production capability.
Earthship structures are intended to be ‘off-the-grid-ready’ homes, with minimal reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. They are constructed to use available natural resources, especially energy from the sun and rain water.
‘Living in a passive-solar, earth-sheltered home has a way of forcing a direct connection with diurnal rhythms and the processes of nature,’ Mr Bode said.
‘You acutely observe the sun moving across the sky each day from east to west, with the penetration of direct solar gain increasing as the days get shorter and the temperatures colder.
‘The sun provides your warmth, your light, your electricity. You feel that warmth absorbed by the floors and walls when it is desired, and conversely, you feel the cool, cave-like environment providing comfort on hot summer days.
‘In a world where we often struggle to see beyond the screen of our smart phone or tablet, living in an earthship-style house offers a constant reminder that land and nature is our life-supporting community, one in which we are privileged to be a part of.’