Click Here for Flickr slide show of the present visitor's center, and the new one still under construction.
The Earthships are built from recycled materials, nestled and bermed into the ground on all but the south side, with stacks of earth filled tires forming the retaining walls. The south side has a continuous expanse of glass, directly inside of which are green house planters. The sun's energy is captured by the glass and stored in the mass of the heavy construction of the floor and the back of the house. The roof catches rain water, which flows to a large interior cistern for storage. Water is used in the kitchen and for bathing, and is then reused to water the plants, which clean the air and provide food. The water then flows to the toilets and ends up in a spetic tank, which has a solar window to help the breakdown proceed. Photovoltaic panels charge the house batteries. For cooling, air is pumped through underground ducts where it drops to the ground's natural temperature of about 55 degrees, and then it is then blown into the house.
The designs are ingenious. The models built by volunteers working for architect Michael Reynolds, have a hippie-dippy feel to their appearance, but the technology is made freely available to those who want to give it expression in a truer form. I talked with another local architect, Ken Anderson, who is doing wonderful work along these lines at his firm, Edge
The next day, I found some young people building their own Earthship out on the Mesa, a truly lawless realm of Mad Max characters living in the interstices of Taos. More on that later...
I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.