Monday, July 6, 2015

Earthship Biotecture Tour!!!!!

Riding down US Highway 64 west of Taos and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge if you are looking you might just see the strange sight show below...

...or if by chance you pull off on a dirt road a half or mile or so on down the road you might just see a sight like the one below.

No, you're neither in the "Twilight Zone" nor have you been transported to another planet. You're in the Earthship Biotecture Community west of Taos.

Three years ago Evin and I first saw our first "Earthship" by chance. We had been kayaking on the Rio Grande near Pilar and decided to drive up the west rim of the Gorge. When we got to US 64 we turned left or west instead of heading back east to Taos. In a mile or so we saw the Earthship Visitor Center shown above and the unique building shown below...

...and I was enthralled. I have since made it a point to visit the community each time we have been anywhere near Taos while RVing in New Mexico. Yesterday was very, very special experience for Evin and me. We were invited by Ashton, the Visitor Center's Director, to join one of their extended tours of several of the rental homes in the community.

The extended tour usually requires a two weeks advance reservation and the tour takes approximately two hours. Our guide for our group's tour was Ashley. She began by sharing some of the history of Earthship Biotecture and explaining some of the home's construction features as well as the electrical, water and sewage systems.

In the early 1970s, Mike Reynolds, a young architectural graduate from the University of Cincinnati, started on his quest to specifically design and built homes that would:

  • Heat and cool themselves naturally via solar/thermal dynamics
  • Collect their own power from the sun and wind
  • Harvest their own water from rain and snow melt
  • Contain and treat their own sewage on site
  • Produce a significant amount of food
  • Are constructed using the byproducts of modern society like cans, bottles and tires.

                                                                          Earthship Biotecture Website

Earthship Homes are fully sustained off-grid. They are built with windows facing south with a greenhouse buffer zone and the northern side is built into a hillside or man-made berm as shown in the two photos below. The berm walls are re-enforced with tires and compacted dirt and weigh between 200-400 pounds as shown in the third photo. Consequently footings do not have to be poured and the walls are fireproof, earthquake proof and don't deteriorate. Cave-like, the homes maintain a thermal temperature of between 56 - 58 degrees.

Nasturtium is an edible flower that is often used in salads.

A wonderful snack after a great tour!!
Evin says that it tastes like a radish.

Rain and snow-melt water is collected from the roof and stored in waterproof lined cisterns. The Visitor Center has four-1,700 gallon cisterns. Mike Reynolds has developed a 4X-use greywater system. Consequently, the average Earthship inhabitant uses only 18 gallons of fresh water per day versus the conventional home inhabitant using 70-90 gallons per day.

The tour continued at across the street where Earthship Academy students will soon reside.

We had our own little caravan to the first of three rental properties that we would visit. It was more like a normal contemporary Southwestern home architecturally, as you will see below...

In the far distance you can see our next stop. "The Phoenix House". I could hardly wait. During the tour Ashley pointed out that there are three Earthship communities in the Taos area, at least one Earthship house in every state and Earthships in twenty-five countries.

The Phoenix!!

We parked on the berm side...

...and then entered from one of the side doors.

Our tour was over and I took a few photos as we drove through the community....

Two hours later Evin and I had an even greater appreciation for the work of Mike Reynolds. We both agreed that Earthship Biotecture is underrated on the TripAdvisor list of attractions in the Taos area of the Enchanted Circle. 

We truly enjoyed our experience and are very thankful to Ashton and Ashley. During our travels Evin and I have been on many guided tours. Ashley's enthusiasm for the tour attraction and her ability to engage both the younger and older tour group members was exemplary. Ashton, by far, was the most welcoming and professional visitor center director we have worked with in our travels. Other visitor center and tour directors on the Enchanted Circle could do well to follow Ashton's example.

1 comment:

  1. We need to stop by this place the next time we are near Taos. Looks interesting.