Earthships are houses that use walls of recycled automobile tires packed with soil to retain a berm on three sides of the home while glazing on the sunny side (south in the Northern Hemisphere, north in the Southern Hemisphere) allows solar heat into the home’s interior. This paper discusses the design and application of earthships and assesses the feasibility of earthships as sustainable and healthy places of residence. The paper begins by describing the aspects of earthship design which contribute to sustainability, including the construction of the thermal envelope and its effect on the thermal comfort of the occupants; the building’s ability to harness renewable energy; and the catchwater and water reuse system. Each of these aspects is analyzed with computer models that simulate homes in four distinct climate zones to determine (a) whether the design meets the comfort, electrical, and water demand for each location, and (b) the financial implications for construction and operation of an earthship in each location in comparison with a standard wood-frame house. The study shows that earthships are a financially feasible design alternative for dry/arid, humid continental, and continental sub-arctic climates; but are not feasible for tropical wet/dry climates.

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