Story #14: Building off the grid houses in New Mexico

Story #14: I built off the grid houses with Earthship Biotecture in New Mexico for 3 months in 2011.

I was part of the first ever Earthship Biotecture Academy program. I did a full on review by interviewing all the students afterwards. I regularly get emails from people interested in the program and send out FAQ emails.

It was a long time dream of mine to work on sustainable housing projects. While I was still in school at Western Washington University, I took a sustainable design class. We had a group project and my partner introduced me to Earthship Biotecture. This company has been around a long time and has some very interesting history. They build houses out of trash, traditional building materials, and sustainable housing techniques.

The used materials they use are old car tires headed for the dump. They also use glass bottles and aluminum cans. They do use fresh concrete and mix their own adobe mud. Thermal mass and passive solar are two of the main design concepts that determine where a house will be situated and how the project will be directed.

The program started in August of 2011. I took this opportunity to plan another bike trip. I spent two weeks cycling from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah to Taos, New Mexico (Earthship headquarters). My dad and I spent 8 days on the road together cycling through Southwestern Utah to Durango, CO. After we parted ways, I continued solo from Durango to Taos, also completing the Enchanted Circle around the mountains.

The FAQ of Earthship Academy

  • What’s the program like?

The program is designed to be a blend of their casual internship program and a more structured academic approach to learning and understanding the theories behind the construction. Since I was ground zero for the program, I can’t speak to what it is like today. It was 3 months when I did it. It looks like it’s about 1 month long now. That said, if you want experience building Earthships and you want the academic understanding of all the principles, then this is a program you should look into. You could do self directed learning and simply participate on builds with the company. This might be to your advantage if you can’t commit to the full duration of the Academy program or can’t afford it.

It’s nice to be able to work so closely with the staff and build a community during your time there. The Academy makes it easy to do that. It’s a very hands on program. Be prepared for the intense New Mexican summer (hot, hot, hot, and then suddenly freezing). Also be prepared for intense physical labor. Pounding tires in the sun is no joke. Learn good form and listen to your body.

  • Is it hard?

Yes, it’s strenuous. It’s also really fun!

  • What do I recommend doing?

I would recommend considering what you really want. The Academy program is a great immersion program into the world of Earthships. You not only learn the in’s and out’s of the Earthship sustainable building theories, you also get a lot of hands on experience building cool stuff. You meet amazing people and get to experience a beautiful part of the world.

Weigh your options. If an intense program for a dedicated time period sounds like a good fit for you, go for it! If you don’t like the sound of that – consider their internship program or attending an out of town build. The out of town builds are great hands on experience. You get to travel to cool places, meet their amazing crew, and see an Earthship come together. You can learn a lot of the theory on your own and talk to the crew while you are there. It’s an amazing experience to share with Earthship Biotecture.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Earthships! And New Mexico. It was a powerful experience that I’ll never forget.

Do you have construction experience? Have you ever participated in Habitat for Humanity or similar program? What was it like?

Thanks Hotties ❤ LB



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