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On the Good Earthship: Sustainable Design in Michael Reynolds’s Biotecture

Earthship Phoenix, courtesty of earthshipglobal.com

By Gary Schwartz

I love to garden, but people with no knowledge of this skill only see an ugly backyard during the winter. They see piles of composting leaves, vegetable waste, empty patches with weeds growing on top, and bare bushes. My empty roundhouse makes them scratch their heads and wonder, “What is going on back there?” This is not an uncommon event in today’s world. Where most people see old tires, glass bottles, and repurposed materials as garbage, some gifted individuals see it as the vital ingredients to construction. It is an idea that holds the key to human survival on planet Earth: Biotecture!

Architect Michael Reynolds created a sustainable design for dwellings that uses both natural and reclaimed materials along with active and passive solar power. Reynolds’s design focuses on six principles of human needs:

  1. Thermo-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

Earthships are designed to be “off-the-grid” homes with little need for public utilities and fossil fuels. Michael Reynolds’s idea for a Biotecture home began to take shape in 1970. He started out by focusing on three things: sustainable architecture, the use of recycled materials, and being off-the-grid. Over time, the u-shaped, earth-filled tire design was adopted, as it was the most efficient construction method.

Today, Reynolds’s company, Biotecture, has Earthships for rent out to the public, an academy where they teach people how to construct Earthships, and even a youth program to teach young people about sustainable living and design. Michael Reynolds is currently in Puerto Rico finishing construction of an Earthship uniquely designed for the island. This project demonstrates how far Biotecture has come. Earthships started out as a design for arid New Mexico, but this newest Biotecture project is specifically designed for living off-the-grid on an Atlantic island.

The video below explains the business of Biotecture and why it is so crucial today. Reynolds also goes into detail about why he does not consider himself an architect anymore, and discusses what he believes is the future of Biotecture and Earthships.

The video also shows various beautiful Earthship designs and how the process has developed over the years.


UK-based glamping agency, QualityUnearthed, interviewed Michael Reynolds about his current activities, where he spoke about the origins of the term “Earthship” and how to reconcile our six human needs with the issues that impact daily life.

This second video from the Biotecture site explains how Earthships work, using graphics that show the details of Biotecture design.

Video courtesy of earthshipglobal.com

The Biotecture website features information about renting Earthships for the night, how to attend a workshop, or how to take part in a “build.” 

Earthshipglobal.com is the result of Michael Reynolds’s dedication to a revolutionary way of thinking and living. Biotecture builds and teaches how to build autonomous and sustainable housing, with a mission to organize sustainable development and poverty relief projects worldwide.

To learn more about Earthship Biotecture and for additional videos, visit earthshipglobal.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Based on Long Island, Gary Schwartz is the owner and creator of the bestselling cannabis-themed game Roll-a-Bong, as well as owner and chief designer of Quantum RPGs-3D Tabletop Gaming. He has over 25 years of experience in the game design industry. Gary is also a writer, comics artist, and science educator. For more information, visit roll-a-bong.com or follow on Instagram at @roll_abong

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