the earthship style hut.


Over the years quite a few people have asked us for advice about the hut module that we built and lived in for five years. I will attempt to provide some answers for the most common queries:

First of all, it is a great idea to tackle a smaller project before committing to a huge house. We, as non-builders, gained invaluable experience, confidence and knowledge with this little project. It also gave us a place to live on-site as we worked on the big house for five years. This was good.

DIGGING IN
Our hut is five metres in diameter. We dug it in to the ground as far as we could but I would most certainly not do that again on our block. You really need to have rock-free, well drained soil to dig in. Apart from the back breaking work of sledge hammering boulders, we have always had a bit of damp on our below-ground level wall surfaces, which would be a royal pain in the bum if the walls were plastered, painted and susceptible to bubbling, but as they are mud, is merely a bit of ugliness that we learnt to cope with but would have avoided if hindsight were foresight.

LAYOUT
Inside the hut we built a semi-circular mezzanine out of old timber which became our bedroom. Of course this is fine when children are either non-existent or young enough to not mind sleeping next to you. An interesting fact: the attractiveness of a larger house with separate bedrooms grows in direct proportion to your offspring. The floor level had a small sofa, a dining table with four chairs, some wine-box bookshelves and a kitchenette with a fridge and work surface. Fine, but...

SPACE
Ours is a simple one room hut. In number three of the Earthship coffee table books, there is a plan for a hut with a greenhouse out front for the kitchen/bathroom area. If I could rewind and re-record, I would definitely build this addition onto the hut. It would have been a lot more work at the time, but I think it would have been worth it to have an indoor loo and a kitchen we could actually cook in. You see, one of the downsides to hot air rising and having a mezzanine bedroom is that everything you cook inside the single-space hut wafts up into the beds. Think curry pillow cases and fishy blankets. If we ever wanted to do anything other than boil water or make aromatic coffee, we had to scoot outside and cook on the BBQ. Oh yes, it's lovely in nice weather. So is strolling fifteen metres through the garden to your bathroom.

FLOOR
The floor is another thing I would like to mention. I don't know about American slate and slabs of paving stones, but over here, they are incredibly varied in size and thickness. We used lovely big black slate slabs and it looked gorgeous but NOTHING was ever level and it was maddening. In fact, once we tiled the big house, we ripped up the slate in the little house and replaced it with left-over ceramic tiles. So nice. So clean.

ROOF
Our hut was one of the ones that used a double rebar birdcage for the roof. I don't think they do that anymore, but I might be wrong. This is where we tied our rebar to the Ls that we had planted in the bond beam. It became impossible to stuff insulation between two bars tied to one post (yes, I know...duh) so there is a big strip of non-insulated roof. I think it would have been better to sink a double row of Ls with enough space for the insulation between them. We should also have used a lot more horizontal rebar to avoid the saggy-baggy-elephant look and make a prettier shaped dome. Speaking of rebar - and this was advice from Tom and Amy well worth paying attention to - you have to cover the metal with either paint or cement before plastering over it. The plaster eats at the iron and you can end up with big rust stains all over the place. We only have a tiny one thanks to the Dukes (and our own slightly-less-than-perfect cover-up job).

Still on the roof, we also included small vents into the air chamber between the two domes to allow ventilation and avoid condensation. They should probably have been a bit bigger, but they seem to do the job pretty well.

AND TYRES
Repeat after me:
All the same size...all the same size...all the same size...

Comments

  1. Me alegro de que le sigas dando vidilla al blog.
    ¿Has leído algo sobre bancales cerámicos?

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  2. Hello!
    Fantastic work!
    We (Isa and Beau) Would love to come visit the earthships as we have never seen one before, and we are very inspired by them.. Our dream is to start a community in southern India with this method of building!
    My website: www.majixmarwari.com
    Would love to keep in touch!
    beaubikker@gmail.com
    With regards, Beau & Isa

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  3. Hello
    We are Dutch and have a share in a little house in Oliva where we escape to as often as we can.
    Your episodes are not only interesting but have stimulated us to consider living in an earthship ourselves, in Spain, after Riny retires next year.
    We will be over from 14 till 25 Nov and would appreciate being able to meet you.
    Are there other like-minded souls busy around Valencia?
    Regards
    Riny & Santokh
    ssmaan44@yahoo.com

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  4. Hi! I'm Dani from Barcelona and I'm now on the process of evaluating the possibilitie on building an earthship in Catalunya. Actually I try to read and learn as much as I can but I realized that before advance too much I should check the legal stuff and burocracy aspects here on Spain, and its here where I'm totally lost and don't know were should I start from. So could you please direct me to any info or your burocracy experience?

    Gràcies per avançat! Encara us faria moltes més preguntes... per`per això he començat avui a llegir sistemàticament tot el vostre blog xD

    Salut.

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  5. Dani, no en tenim d'experiència legal amb la casa. vam decidir fer-la i punt. hi ha una parella anglesa a Murcia Laura i Dave - link ací en el meu blog - que tenen permis per una xicoteta. Ho senc.

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  6. Santokh - you are welcome to come and see us and the house. Morings are best for us - I will email you our details.
    lisa

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  7. Gràcies per respondre'm! Havia aparcat aquest tema esperant la vostra resposta però el reprendré tot seguit. Els preguntaré als "murcians" a vore que diuen. Ara estic aprenent sobre pneumàtics i sobre "Rainwater Harvesting"... xP
    Gràcies de nou!!

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  8. Your blog has inspired me so much! Now, if only I can convince the boy that it's a good plan, too... ;p

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  9. Hola Lisa y Oscar,
    Feliz Año! Me ha encantado vuestro blog! Llevo un par de años interesado en earthships y en la permacultura y por fin me he propuesto efectuar la transición.
    My girlfriend Kelsey and I will be in Valencia staying at Granja La Peira in Benifaió next weekend (Jan 8 - 10), and would absolutely love to meet you guys and see how it's all done!
    Si estais ocupados, no pasa nada... otra vez será!
    Un abrazo,
    Ivar

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  10. Ivar, send me your email and I will give you our phone number and directions to get here from Benifaio.
    Lisa

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  11. Sweeeeeeeet! It's ivar.hannikainen@gmail.com. Thanks a bunch.
    - Ivar

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  12. Hi, I am David from Barcelona and like many others would love to come and see your earthship and have a little chat before we start our own construction in the Girona area. a little advice will be helpful, specially on the permits and regulations before we purchase the land.

    please drop me an email info@infocefalia.com and let me know if you have some other people gathering when i can join. i can just drive from barcelona any time is convenient for you.

    Thanks in advance for the time you offer to newbies like me. your blog has become a excelent guide & motivation for us.

    David, Yin & Leo see who we are and what we do here:
    http://www.infocefalia.com/introduccion_deformidades_craneales.php

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  13. Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog. I am doing the same thing you've done! Neat! I am also blogging about it. We are building a 4 U'ed earthship right now, in Norther New Mexico (not in Taos). I'm glad to know you survived. We are one U down, and some of our techniques our different, but for the most part, we are doing nearly the exact same thing you did! Nice to know. My blog is raisehightheroofbeamcarpenters.blogspot.com

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  14. Hi Lisa & Oscar.

    My name's Kevin Telfer. I'm writing a book about European earthships with Mischa Hewitt from Earthship Brighton and I'd like to get in touch with you.

    Please contact me on email here:

    kevin at kevintelfer.com

    Or call me on 0044 1725 514643

    Thanks,
    Kevin

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  15. Hello Oscar and Lisa!
    I found your blog through the Earthship Europe website and am really interested in your project because my partner and I are also considering trying to build an earthship in Spain (Granada). Thank you for documenting your journey so well - I'm going to enjoy reading through the rest of your site. If I had more questions about Spanish issues (especially how you got planning permission etc) how could I get in touch with you?
    Many thanks, and hope you're enjoying the summer,
    Sally :)

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  16. Alex Wright9:45 am

    Hi Guys,

    Have loved reading your blog; sounds like a great adventure! I'm based in the UK but have just bought some land in Ghana, West Africa and plan to open a beach front eco-lodge out there towards the end of this year/early next year. The building would be mostly huts along the lines of the one you built whilst building your bigger, main house. In fact they'd probably be a little smaller if anything. Any chance of picking your brains over skype/e-mail? If you could let me know by e-mailing me at alex_wright8484@hotmail.com I'd be really grateful; I'm sure you get a lot of requests like this but would be really helpful!

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  17. This earthip style hut seems like it's so close to nature! The idea is definitely eco-friendly - it even has a roof where the sun can shine down inside, which can help in saving electricity. I admire your ideas when it comes to building these huts. Their simplicity and functionality give them a distinctly appealing design.

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  18. Hi Lisa and Oscar, I recently found your blog and ABSOLUTELY love your little earthship hut. I'm looking to build one myself to live in for about a year or two while I invest time in intensively farming a half acre of land. I'm looking to build one of roughly similar size to yours, and would love to speak further with you about some detail regarding the build and cost. I can't find a 'contact' link anywhere on here, and was wondering if you'd be kind enought to email me: miggymiester@gmail.com.

    thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you!!

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  19. Anonymous12:29 pm

    Where in book 3 does it give the plan for building the hut with its kitchen/bathroom/greenhouse attachment?

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  20. I love your hut!

    Did you ever have leaking issues with the roof? I've heard that cement is not 100% waterproof over the long term.

    Also, how does the hut do in the summer heat? Does the temperature stay decent all year long?

    I'm interested in building a hut style earthship with a greenhouse on front, but its hard to find good information on them. I live in a hot, humid environment.

    Also, you should post pics of the finished inside with the loft. I'm interested in putting a loft in mine as well.

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  21. Thanks TR,
    no problems with leaking roof so far, and it's been nearly 10 years now. The hut is much cooler in summer than the big house because it has so much less glass. However, as it is small, just having people in it tends to warm things up.
    Now in winter, because we are not living in it, it gets pretty cold.
    If I could do it again I would definitely put the green house on the front and add a bathroom/kitchen. For one or two people you really don't need much more.
    regards
    lisa

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  22. Aupa bikote!!

    Well done with your earthship, it looks great.

    I am trying to build a simple version of the hut, just a shed. Basically because the legislation here(Basque country) does not allow me to live in it.

    I have been reading about earthships and so but still got a question. How do you isolate the walls from the wet floor. The place I live is pretty wet and I fear walls' mud sucking up the dump from the floor.

    Would a simple plastic do the job? is it not necessary?

    Thanks for the advice. All the best, Sergio

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  23. Tambien pedir a esos catalanes que estan recopilando informacion legal que se pongan en contacto conmigo. Tengo interes en conocer la situacion legal de estas edificaciones.

    Gracias

    n3k0rA@hotmail.com

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  24. Aupa Sergio!
    If you live in a wet area I would definitely NOT dig the earthship down into the ground, but build up from ground level and bring in dirt to make your berm. We learnt this with our hut - damp seeps through the lower walls when it is very wet and although with mud it dries out pretty quickly leaving no trace, it isn't ideal.
    Also, use plastic in the berm like they do in the books. You put a layer of thick, well overlapping plastic down and put a final covering of dirt over the top.
    As they say here, and as experience has taught me, el agua es muy fina and anything you can do to stop it getting to your walls is worth it.
    I don't know about the catalan people you mentioned - sorry.
    Hope to have been of help.
    Agur.
    Lisa

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  25. Thanks Lisa for your quick and helpful reply. However, I am not sure if the project is gonna be possible.

    We got a 1000m2 land where we want to build a 16m2 shed out of tyre walls. The problem is that apparently in rainy days the ground water level is just 0.5m deep. So, there is no much room to dig out dirt in order to fill the 180approx tyres that will be required.

    To get dirt from outside will require money and put some trees down to let a lorry/van in. I am not sure if I like that.

    :-(

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