1) How did Micheal Reynolds think to add passive solar heat/ventilation and thermal mass when he was designing the Earthship?
Michael Reynolds went to school to study architecture. Part of those studies was to learn about alternatives, history and other cultures. Relating to the sun and physics is part of these studies. Adding Passive House designs and techniques fit right in with producing a building to be as self-sufficient as possible. Passive House originated out of Europe as is designed to have a complete ‘envelope’ of insulation around the building. The perfect wall is thermal mass on the inside (rammed earth) and insulation on the outside. Thermal mass holds temperature and insulation keeps temperature from moving from one side to the other. So the insulation protects the thermal mass, therefore the wall helps to keep the building comfortable. The Earthship design takes passive house many steps further in producing a self-sufficient building. Seeing dogs and other animals lay in the sun on a cold day and in the shade on a hot day helped this kind of thinking with utilizing the warmth of the sun and coolness of the earth to keep living spaces for human comfortable.
Ventilation is a basic principle in building design, conventional or otherwise. Through trial and error and keeping a basic understanding of physics and how heat moves bringing air with it brought about an integration of ventilation (cooling tubes) with passive solar gain and thermal mass. This combination produces a building that will be comfortable in any climate. Following nature and physics both out ‘in nature’ and within buildings helped to bring an awareness of how to integrate these phenomenon of the world into a building to keep it comfortable.
2) What has been found to be the best climate for Earthships, in terms of maximizing heat, electricity, water, and food?
The tropics are the easiest to build in as Earthships are thermal mass buildings first, they hold temperature… passive solar homes second. Any climate is good for Earthships, the tropics are easy to maximize the most amount of comfort, electricity, water and food… but this is true throughout human history, regardless of what type of building is being utilized.
3) Has Earthship Biotecture experienced any problems with any of the Earthships that they’ve built whether it’s during the building process or after (water damage, off-gassing, inconsistent temperatures, etc.)?
Not really. When we try out new designs and techniques we usually run into problems and/or mistakes… it is important to embrace these mis-steps… as this is the best way to produce the most sustainable and best performing buildings. This process of iteration is important with anything… embrace failure, mistakes and problems as these are opportunities to learn and grow and become better.