Couple Reuses Cans, Tires to Make Sustainable B&B
Feature from Paula Felps
The common room at the Dobson House B&B includes an area for dining and has walls made from discarded materials such as tires and aluminum cans. Photo: Cindy Baldhoff
High atop a 100-foot hill overlooking the gorgeous Rio Grande Gorge, the Dobson House is surrounded by the kind of stark natural beauty that only the desert can offer. Surrounded by mountains and close to scenic rivers and natural hot springs, it’s the kind of place where a couple like Joan and John Dobson could build their dream house and retire.
But as anyone who has met the Dobsons will tell you, they’re not exactly the retiring type. So when they moved to the Taos area — after John ended his career as an engineer and Joan finished her tenure as a librarian — it made sense to them to start a bed and breakfast.
Inspired by the eco-friendly, completely sustainable earthships that began springing up in Taos in the late 1980s, the Dobsons used many of the same techniques to build their B&B. Michael Reynolds, the Taos architect who pioneered the earthship movement, used discarded materials such as tires and aluminum cans, along with earth berms, thick ceilings and lots of south-facing glass to optimize use of natural resources. The self-sustaining buildings use solar power and collect rain water for use in the home.
A spacious kitchen is both a place for preparing food and for gathering. Photo: Cindy Baldhoff
Attracted by the combination of its small environmental footprint and the soft curves of the interior, the Dobsons decided to build their own interpretation of an earthship. “I liked the curves you could do with bottles and cans that you can’t do with a frame wall,” John Dobson explains. “It is pretty hard to get that kind of look with sheetrock.”
The Dobson House, which opened in 1995, is not considered a traditional earthship. Because the well is located at the bottom of the hill, the owners have added traditional plumbing and must use electricity to pump the water to their hilltop location. Even with its modifications, the Dobson House remains an example of sustainability that has gained worldwide attention — and just happens to be one of the most unique B&B experiences you can enjoy on this planet.