Inside Germany’s extraordinary $332,000 ‘Earthship’ house, which is made of 7,500 glass bottles and 1,300 car tires — and is completely self-sufficient.
The house was built on a former goat pasture.
- A community of 20 people from Tempelhof, Germany are living in an “Earthship” that has been made completely out of upcycled materials.
- The self-sufficient housing complex, built on a former goat pasture, is made up of 1,300 used car tires, 7,500 old glass bottles, and a lot of clay.
- The unique structure took just seven weeks to build and has an 82-foot-long glass wall that also acts as a natural heating system and air conditioning system.
- The Earthship’s roof catches rainwater and snow and then channels it into a cistern in the rear wall, so it can then be reused as water for drinking, cooking, and showering.
- The interior is surprisingly cozy. Resident Max Thulè, who lives there with his wife and four children, says it’s like a “relaxing retreat” for him.
A man in a grey cap is standing on a bright yellow wall, which he is using as a podium so that visitors can see and listen to him explain how one of Germany’s most unique homes, the Tempelhof Earthship, came about.
What makes this house so special is that its residents built it with their own hands — using 1,300 used car tires, 7,500 old glass bottles, a lot of clay, and other upcycled materials. The building doesn’t need any heating and is completely self-sufficient, functioning without any external electricity or water supply.
Experimenting with alternative forms of housing
The man with the cap is called Max Thulè, and he has been living on the former goat pasture with his wife and four daughters for more than seven years. Sixteen adults and eight children in total live here, proving that alternative forms of living can work. Next to the Earthship, families have set up caravans, tiny houses, and yurts to live in.
Remembering when they first moved to the site in 2012, Thulè says: “Five days after we settled on the goat pasture with our belongings, residents of the neighboring community asked the local administration whether we were a traveling circus or gypsies.”
Shortly after moving in, local authorities also knocked on the door — twice. It turned out that in Germany, living in caravans on a goat pasture does not come without legal problems. But today, it is legal thanks to a loophole that the residents and an architect from the University of Stuttgart discovered within the year of moving in.
The loophole? The entire car park is registered as a huge, single house. But a central supply building was required for the building permit, so they decided to build the Earthship, which houses several bathrooms, a kitchen, and a common living and dining room. The 14 caravans, tiny houses, and yurts surrounding the Earthship only act as the bedrooms and are not allowed to have their own sanitary facilities or running water.
The Earthship has a natural air conditioning system
But, the small housing units are still supplied with electricity, heat and, wifi via a ring network connected to the neighboring village, which is another community consisting of 150 people.
The Earthship is also not heated using traditional methods, but its special construction, designed by US architect Michael Reynolds, renders it unnecessary.
Thulè explains everything using a blueprint of the house: The unusually long house consists of an 82-foot-long glass wall that is supported at the back and on the sides by a colorfully painted, 13-foot-thick wall, which is filled with 1,300 car tires.
The wall was used by a school in the area that had been demolished. This means the 82-foot-long glass wall is the only part of the entire building that does not consist of upcycled materials. Nonetheless, it is essential for the concept of the Earthship.
The glass front of the Earthship must always face south, as it is the main component of a natural air conditioning system. When the sun is low in winter, the sunlight reaches up to 4 feet high to the rear wall of the living area. A large part of that heat is slowly released into the room after sunset thanks to the dark clay floors and the walls made of car tires and clay.
In the sunlit area, there is a greenhouse with garden beds that are up to 98 inches deep. If it gets too warm in the Earthship during the summer, the pipes in the rear wall and flaps on the roof can be used to draw heat away and cool air from the north.
Drinking water is drained from the roof
The large roof on top of the Earthship catches rainwater and snow and then channels it into a cistern in the rear wall, so it can then be reused for drinking, cooking, and showering.
We enter the building, leave our shoes behind, and walk through the 82-foot-long greenhouse. It’s surprisingly cozy. Beautiful fig and passionfruit shrubs are growing inside and a table and nice chairs create a winter garden atmosphere.
The plants in the greenhouse are not only used for growing food, but some are also part of a grey water plant. The water that is already used in the kitchen and bathroom is filtered through the plants and microorganisms in the soil and is then reused to help run the toilets. And sure enough, to the left of the winter garden is a functioning bathroom and a toilet, and further down even a kitchen complete with a dining and living area.
The heating system is in full swing
It’s 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5C) and there is a light drizzle outside so it’s not very pleasant. But inside the Earthship, it’s nice and warm. According to Thulè, the back walls are 68 degrees Fahrenheit and bathtubs, cooking, and the body temperature of people also brings in some heat. In fact, it gets so warm after about 15 minutes, I have to take my winter jacket off.
The hot water supply in Earthships is usually provided by solar energy. But here, this is done by a compost heater behind the building. Inside the round heater, tree branches rot and chemical reactions produce temperatures of between 104 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. A heat exchanger transfers the heat to the rainwater collected in the cisterns.
Construction in just seven weeks
The Earthship was built in just seven weeks with the help of 70 people. Most of the volunteers were between 25 and 35 years old and had no construction experience whatsoever. For the side walls, 1,300 car tires were used, all of which were donated by local garages. The tires were filled with soil and processed with a sledgehammer.
After the building structure was erected in seven weeks, the residents celebrated Christmas in it. Thulè reports that it had already been “comfortably warm”, but still a construction site. After the Christmas party, they spent four months finishing the interior.
The total construction of the Earthship cost around $332,800.
The construction cost around $332,800 and was mainly financed by donations via a fundraising platform, with some individual supporters contributing very large sums. The rest was covered by private loans.
Living in a relaxing retreat
Thulè loves living there. In his childhood, he spent every holiday on buses he had built himself because that was his parents’ dream. During his mechanical engineering studies with a focus on energy technology, he, and his family lived in a flat-sharing community. After finishing his studies, they thought about what to do next. “We liked the flat-sharing experience very much and we wanted to continue living like this. That’s why we started looking for communities that felt good to us,” he says.
Max Thulè now gives regular tours of the house.
“What is the best thing about living here?” I ask Thulè at the end of the visit. “For me, the Earthship is a place of retreat that charges me,” he responds. “It has the character of an earth cave, warm and comfortable, it is very relaxing.”
The Earthship should also inspire other people to think in new ways. “The fact that we have created something here with a few slides and car tires that accommodate us well is considered unthinkable. But for my four daughters, this is quite normal. It’s their home.”
Read the original article on Business Insider Deutschland. Copyright 2019.