Couple build Earthship home near Ashburton

With building supplies becoming more expensive and scarce, constructing a home from the earth is a solution some people are embracing.

Dawn and husband Lance Kirtlan started building their eco-friendly home - called an "Earthship" - five years ago after reading an article about American architect Mike Reynolds, who came up with the Earthship concept.

The Earthships New Zealand website describes an Earthship as a building with soul "designed as a self-contained, low impact  land-based ‘ship’ constructed largely from what others throw away and designed to work in harmony with the environment using simple physics and common sense design".

"It just interested us,’’ Dawn said, ‘‘and we thought we could actually build one."

The couple researched the construction of Earthships, reading Mike Reynolds’ books and hiring an architect and engineer.

"None of us knew about Earthships, the guy that designed it, the engineer, the building inspector and us, It was a learning experience for everyone, and bless the council, they said ‘you bring all the appropriate information back, and we’ll treat it like any other house'."

With the main material being clay the insulating properties are one of the main advantages of the home.

"In the winter the last house we had was like an icebox, it was so cold. This house is beautiful, you come home at night after it has been shut up all day and you walk in the door and it's warm! So we love it."

Utility bills are almost non existent with the house being solar powered, and the water is heated by the pizza oven.

Dawn describes an Earthship as a house that is built in the earth, not on the earth, and for anyone thinking of building their own Earthship  there are mainly pluses - "the only minus is a bit of hard work, the end result is a home that looks after you and will stand for years with little or no maintenance," she said.

Old tyres are used to build the houses.

"Basically you turn a tyre into a brick, by pounding clay into the tyre until it is tight, then that tyre becomes a brick, it's a very solid house."

Bottles are also used in the walls as a decorative feature and to bring more light into the rooms.

The house is made up of three rooms; a bedroom, kitchen/lounge and spare room with bathroom.

Dawn said that the build was satisfying and a little bit different, "and we have a home that will look after us for years to come".

The Kirtlans are keen to share their knowledge and experience of the construction process with anyone interested in building their own Earthship home.

 - Daniel Tobin


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