Alternative building construction can take many forms, and one of them is the earthship.

Pioneered by American architect Michael Reynolds more than 40 years ago, earthships are made of natural and repurposed materials such as tyres packed with earth.

According to Appropedia the first earthship in Mzansi was constructed near Hermanus in the Western Cape by Angel and Yvonne Kamp between 1996 and 1998.

It used 1 500 tyres for the very thick walls, which helps make the home energy efficient.

The use of ecobricks, glass and plastic bottles, as well as natural materials such as maize cobs, reduces cost as well as our impact on the environment.

Khayelitsha in Cape Town boasts the second earthship that was constructed in 2010 with the aim of it being run as a swop shop for the community.

Although building regulations are strict, it is possible to get planning and building permission to go the earthship route.

Further afield, pioneer Reynolds and a team of interns built two classrooms using the earthship principles at the Goderich Waldorf School in Sierra Leone in 2011. Through training in Reynolds’ building techniques, most of the building was undertaken by members of the community.

Reynolds believes earthships bring together architecture, biology and physics and create living spaces that are carbon free through the clever use of sunlight, air and water and the upcycling of materials that would otherwise go to landfills or end up in our rivers.

Reynolds is still active in the earthship arena, having designed and built structures in many parts of the world.

The philosophy behind the earthship concept is that nothing should go to waste, and that by going this route you are doing good for nature and people, and contributing to a sustainable economy.