What is an Earthship?

An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires,
pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.

An Earthship addresses six principles or human needs:

  1. thermal/solar heating and cooling
  2. solar and wind electricity
  3. self-contained sewage treatment
  4. building with natural and recycled materials
  5. water harvesting and long-term storage
  6. some internal food production capability

Earthship structures are intended to be "off-the-grid-ready" homes, with minimal reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. They are constructed to use available natural resources, especially energy from the sun and rainwater.

  • They are designed with thermal mass construction and natural cross-ventilation to regulate indoor temperature.
  • The designs are intentionally uncomplicated and mainly single-story, so that people with little building knowledge can construct them.

- "Earthship" Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2004, July 22). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  - Retrieved August 19, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship

Heating / cooling + systems
Systems detailed


How much does it cost to build?

In comparison to a traditional house building, an Earthship home can cost more or less.  The total cost of building an Earthship will vary based on many factors.  Part of the problem to quantify the cost is due to several key factors that sway the final price tag.  One such factor is permitting, depending on where you build the cost of permitting can add a hefty cost to the total.  Then there's the factor of building it yourself (or with a team) versus hiring a team to build which will increase costs.

We are putting together a comprehensive answer to this common question.  In the meantime please feel free to check out these pages that talk about the cost of building an Earthship.

- Earthship cost presented by Earthship.com

- The 55K 2,900 sq. ft. ES home

- ES cabin for $10k

- Cost breakdown for Manitoba ES build

How can I get a permit to build one of these?

The ease of getting a permit in WA state will vary by county.  We are working on this section to provide a better idea of how to help people with this common question.  We will update when we have a better answer.  In the meantime please check out what Earthship of Taos, NM talks about permitting.

Tire building codes


Do the tires in the wall pose any health risks?

One of the biggest concerns we are faced with is the issue of tires “off-gassing” and whether or not they pose a health risk. First, let’s take a quick look on what tires are made out of; Fiber, textile, and steel cord, and rubber. That’s it. Just those five things. But when you look at the rubber, the list gets much longer (Elastomers (natural and synthetic rubber), reinforcing fillers (carbon black and silica, plasticizers (resins, oils), chemicals (sulfur), metal reinforcements (wires, bead wires), textile reinforcements (rayon, aramid, nylon, polyester).

Over 200 different types of materials just to make one tire! Tires have been improved over many years of manufacturing to make them more efficient and safe to be on the road. What about using them in Earthships? Do they outgas and make it toxic to use as a heat retaining wall?

The answer is: No – they are not toxic.

“ There may be some concern about leachate quality since scrap tires are considered a waste material. Laboratory and field evidence available does not show any likelihood of scrap tires being a hazardous waste or having potential for significant adverse effects on water quality (Edil and Bossscher 1992)."”

The tires when stacked properly, packed with dirt, and sealed behind more dirt, plaster, and other necessary elements are not toxic and do not leach toxic chemicals into groundwater or the soil!

Luckily there have been a number of studies done on tires and any off-gassing that happens when they decompose.
You can read more information about tires in Earthships here:

While performing your own research please keep in mind that studies regarding health risks from decomposing tires will be different then tires in an Earthship wall.  There is a big difference between tests (like tires submerged in water) that are not present in an Earthship.

Short introductory videos

To play video full-screen press play then hit the "full screen" icon.

Short introduction by "the Weather Channel"

Short introduction by "PBS"

Walkthrough of the house and infastructure

Building a tire wall

An Earthship homeowner's story

Visiting an Eearthship rental in Taos, New Mexico

Documentary - "Earthship New Solutions"

To play video full-screen press play then hit the "full screen" icon.

Part 1 of 4

Part 3 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 4 of 4