BuildingEco-VillagesEnergy SystemsMaterialPeople SystemsVillage DevelopmentWaste Systems & Recycling

Earthships & Permaculture: A Potent Tag-Team

I’ve recently been doing research on Earthships after being formally introduced to them while talking to my friend Paul "Ringo" Kean. For those who don’t check this website often, Ringo is a professional earthmover who is one of our more skilled PC field operators, having worked with the likes of Darren Doherty – definitely one of our most valued, skilled, and experienced people.

Michael Reynolds is the gentleman credited with creating this concept and housing technology. It’s worth a look and is very "permaculture" in its functioning and outlook. Credit also goes to commenter Chloe Wolsey for previously introducing the topic of Earthships on this site:

Earthships 101 parts I & II:

Part I

Part II

And this video makes a good follow-up to the above videos — an excellent step-by-step clip on Earthship construction from Normandy.


Rhamis Kent

Rhamis Kent is a consultant with formal training in mechanical engineering (University of Delaware, B.S.M.E. '95) and permaculture-based regenerative whole systems design. He has previously worked for the renowned American inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen at DEKA Research & Development, with subsequent engineering work ranging from medical device research and development to aerospace oriented mechanical design. After taking an interest in the design science of Permaculture, he sought extended training with permaculture expert and educator Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. This led to his involvement with design work connected to the development of Masdar City in UAE after Mr. Lawton and his consulting company (Permaculture Sustainable Consultancy Pty. Ltd.) were contracted by AECOM/EDAW to identify solutions which fit the challenging zero emissions/carbon neutral design constraint of the project.


  1. Great designs, Love the eco village setups, similar to others im aware of such as the Crystal Waters eco village on the Sunshine coast (Australia). Only problem (if you can call it a problem) is you could probably do without the septic system if composting toilets were used, less black water and less initial infrastructure.
    otherwise cant wait to see these systems replace the current suburbia.

  2. I don’t know about the statement cost nothing to build? Just the glass alone would set you back more than $20,000 in Australia. The double glazing building rules would push the costs even higher.

  3. It’s not without it’s drawbacks (for example – Craig pointed out the use of hydroponics. The septic system, as noted, would be another for most of use).

    But overall, the setup structurally is a brlliant use of materials and arrangement of design.

  4. I agree with Peter, the anecdotal evidence is that an Earthship costs as much as a conventional home, potentially it can cost more as you use higher spec insultation/glazing in support of the tyre walls and invest upfront in services (PV solar panels, water pumps & cisterns etc), which you don’t have to pay during the life of the building. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for an Earthship is less over its lifetime. You need to consider a conventional house could cost $200k and then you pay $5-10k a year in heating and utilities, whereas an Earthship could cost $100 per year. It’s cradle-to-cradle thinking.

  5. Greetings to all,

    thanks Rhamis for posting this and your continued support of my work.
    There will be seminars in Australia early next year by Micheal Reynolds and his team.Look at up coming events at :

    The next thing is how do we get these structures council approved for Australia.If anyone has any dealing with alternative construction in Australia,please point us all in the right direction.

    Obviously the real upside to these building methods is in an aid or emergency housing situation.Simple design can create liveable dwellings very cheaply.Check the Haiti relief post on the above link.

    I have recently obtained all the construction manuals for Earthship construction and would like to get involved with anyone wanting to persue building these types of structures.

    Also if anyone is looking for advice on earthworks design or implementation/supervision anywhere on the planet I am available to engage with your project or offer support.

    My experience stems from 20+ years in mining and civil earthworks and now I apply this skill to Permaculture water harvesting systems.

    [email protected]



  6. Ringo,

    I think you and Cam Wilson should link to trial some of his work on the Keyline/Swale hybrid he wrote about here on the website earlier this year.

    That deserves a thorough investigation.


  7. Mollison has talked about the simple benefits of bulldozing earth up against above ground houses creating earth berms, much faster and simpler and of course this then ties in with the $15 and up Underground House guy (forgot his name), all of these including Earthships and earth bags I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about but have not found energy to consider pushing past an Australian council :) The closest I would see would be the underground housing, having gotten some remote mountainous property to just go rogue and do it and damn the councils!

  8. I was excited about earthships several years ago. After a lot of reading I finally came across a brief mention that they unsuitable to my hot, humid climate. The claim was that ventilation/wind capture is far more important in such climates than thermal mass and winter solar heat gain.

  9. Many Earthships are nice, some very nice, but some look too much like “bunkers.” I think a good choice for Earthships is the Jugend style, or Art Nouveau, because this style is so organic, just like Earthships are.

    Some people claim that Art Nouveau is a form of young modernism, because of the combination of industrial and natural materials. Like in an Earthship. This is of course nonsense, as Art Nouveauincludes the fifteen properties of life:

    * Levels of Scale
    * Strong Centers
    * Thick Boundaries
    * Alternating Repetition
    * Positive Space
    * Good Shape
    * Local Symmetries
    * Deep Interlock and Ambiguity
    * Contrast
    * Gradients
    * Roughness
    * Echoes
    * The Void
    * Simplicity and Inner Calm
    * Not Separateness


    “Different styles competed with each other at the beginning of the twentieth century. Any architectural style that contained traditional elements was doomed to extinction because people now demanded NOVELTY. Styles that had comparable NOVELTY were further selected on the basis of SIMPLICITY, UTILITY, and FORMALITY. Art Nouveau is very high in information content. The convolutions, curves, and complex colors on which the style depends ought not to propagate rapidly, and that’s exactly what happened. Despite an initial flourish, Art Nouveau didn’t last for more than about a decade. Its markedly plainer successor, Expressionism, was equally short-lived because of its curvature. Art Deco abandoned the curves of Art Nouveau and Expressionism, adopting a more rectangular geometry, and was much longer-lived. One could surmise that, by lowering its information content, it acquired greater staying power. Finally, Modernism got rid of the visual richness of Art Deco, reducing its information to an absolute minimum; it won out over its competitors by spreading around the world and surviving until today. These events in architectural history support a memetic theory of architectural styles, with selection on the basis of SIMPLICITY.

    Looking at both UTILITY and FORMALITY leads to the same conclusion. Unless there is a strong societal demand for information-rich buildings and environments, the construction industry will select those that are visually plain (since they are often cheaper to build, though not to maintain). As far as FORMALITY is concerned, a set of context-independent rules was never given for either Art Nouveau or Art Deco. We have no formal set of symbols that can generate an Art Nouveau building. The style depended upon the individual creative genius of say, Louis Sullivan or Victor Horta, who drew their inspiration freshly from each new architectural context. It is worthwhile noting that a highly successful style in architectural history, the Classical Style, also depends on rather precise formal rules that can be applied in any situation regardless of context. Nevertheless, its much higher complexity compared to modernism allows adaptive design.

    A large number of Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings were built in the early decades of the twentieth century, before the modernist selection criteria took hold. Many of those buildings did not survive, precisely because the selection criteria used in the 1960s for preserving buildings were the same as those for designing new buildings. The stereotyped visual template of a glass box determined which buildings to save from demolition, and those buildings that did not match were destroyed. In effect, structures were categorized according to modernist images, thus providing a mandate to eliminate those judged to be “misfits”. One reads that the architecture of the twentieth century is founded on rational laws as opposed to base emotions, which is quite true. Nevertheless, this statement ignores the incredible persistence of modernist memes, which is fundamentally emotion-based. This emotional dimension of memetic transmission will be discussed next.”


    I repast my first link with original source:

    These kind of ancient Earthships used by native Norwegians are called “gamme,” a Sami word. They had several of these to use when they moved around with their reindeers. We have four tribes of “Lapps,” or “samer” in Norwegian. At least three of these tribes have completely different languages, and cannot understand each other. Anyway, the language of the most southern tribe, which used to live as far south as down to Lake Mjøsa, almost Oslo, is now spoken by just a handful of people, and will soon be a dead language.

  10. I really like the idea of recycling tyres, but could anyone tell me if there is a danger of chemicals leaching from them?

  11. Earthships are really great, seem to be one of the most practical forms of habitation for people who do not want to live in slavery to a mortgage and utillity bills, they fit in very well indeed with permiculture. But they are just so dam fugly! I know the true belivers will say that that is just not the point, but to be a happy healthy human being you need to look at where you live and smile and feel good. When I see an old well cared for farm house or cottage for whatever reasons these places athetic and lay out make me feel warm and and happy, its like looking at nature. When I look at an earth ship I see a rectangular box with a front wall made of glass. SUPER FUGLY! surely some one has tacken this fine idea and has re-designed the athetics a little and built an earthship which is a thing of beauty ? so my question is has anyone got the link so I can see it?

    Plus anyone got any ideas on incorporating some of the earth ship tech into a more standard rammed earth buildings or something similar.

  12. Ahh Patrick – you’ve possibly never actually been inside one of these beautiful dwellings. They are lovely, organic and warm. I couldn’t help but drag my hand along its walls and saying “she has a soul”. Disclaimer: I am no tree hugging hippy easily found to be doing things like that, but the building had such a profund affect on me. The adobe walls are so visually soft yet strong and reminiscent of Gaudi architecture in Barcelona.
    I recall coming over the hill and seeing the one in Brighton, UK -IMHO they look amazing. Also the use of bottles in the walls to allow in colured light is fantastic. I also stayed in one in France and found the same feeling. Equally being able to wander from your bedroom in the morning, in bare feet on the warm solar-heated floor out into the atrium of plants is so serene; I can’t think of a better start to anyone’s day. Equally being subconsciously aware that the building you are in is working with the environment to take other people’s waste and reuse it, gives it a claming beauty all its own.
    There are some poor examples out there but generally the professionally constructed ones are first class buildings in their own right. But at the end of the day its a personal thing and if you don’t get it, you don’t get it and that’s OK.

  13. Thanks for your input Rob, your right I haven’t physically been inside an earthship yet and believe me I hope I will be bold over by the experience when I get into one but from a this side of the computer monitor I’m not going to hold my breath for it, not to fond of Gaudi ither.
    The next time I’m in blighty I will head down to Brighton and check it out.

    On a practical note, a interesting earthship link for anyone interested is two articles in particular caught my eye ‘Evolving the Water Organising Module’ and ‘The beauty of a Homewood Stove (in your Earthship)’. Practical useful information for those considering an earthship home.

  14. Good Day ,My name is Yuval ,
    I wanted to make contact and say that I am very interested in assisting an Earthship construction – I would like to learn about them,and Acquire some skills at that.
    So I’m putting the word out. I am currently based in Melbourne :)
    Thanks for reading thus far.
    All the best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button