Living on the Edge
Jacobsen acknowledges that earthships are seen as the “far edge of green and sustainable living.” But a growing awareness in sustainability issues has gone a long way toward making the homes seem less foreign. The cost is slightly higher but still competitive with purchasing a new home; Jacobsen says a small one-bedroom home begins at around $100,000. Of course, the biggest difference is that the earthship won’t be saddled with water and utility bills. Owners can also grow their own food inside the home, cutting back dramatically on what they spend at the grocery store.
“There is definitely more interest now here in the U.S., but our main growth has been international,” she says. “We’re doing a seminar in Ushuaia, Argentina, in January and building a school in Uruguay in February.” They also are building a community center in Malawi, Africa, that will provide health care to local tribes. She says such areas, where access to water and electricity are a challenge, provide the perfect place for earthships to showcase their abilities and efficiency.
The homes can be adapted for any climate, from frigid arctic settings to steamy tropical environments.
Here in the U.S., clients have ranged from single 20-somethings building small homes to the late actor Dennis Weaver building a 10,000-square-foot sustainable mansion in Colorado. The homes have evolved to include more traditionally styled buildings to suit building codes and customer wants. However, the nature of the building materials means that earthships will never be mistaken for a tract home.
“They’re always going to be buried in the earth; the mechanical systems will be apparent; and you’re going to see the solar panels, battery boxes and vent boxes. You’re never going to have an earthship that looks like a normal house,” Jacobsen explains.