Nov 172010
 
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Image by stereogab via Flickr

Could sustainable architecture address pollution, climate change and resource depletion by helping us build self-sufficient, off-grid, housing from “waste”, including vehicle tires and metal drinks containers? That’s the question researchers at the University of South Australia address in a new paper appearing in the International Journal of Sustainable Design.

Martin Freney of the department of Art, Architecture and Design has taken a critical look at the work of architect, Michael Reynolds of Taos, New Mexico, USA, who has experimented with radical house designs, and construction techniques over the past three and half decades. Reynolds designs incorporate passive heating and cooling, water catchment and sewage treatment, renewable energy, and even food production. These houses, which Reynolds calls “Earthships” are essentially independent of external utilities and waste disposal. On the face of it, they offer, an environmentally benign approach to housing.

A common method of responding to unsustainable housing is to design an energy-efficient home using “natural building” methods, Freney points out. He adds that Reynolds has already demonstrated that essentially free building materials resulted in greater financial independence for the owner-occupiers of his houses and when he added off-the-grid power and water systems he found that it was possible to reduce his utilities bills to practically zero.

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