Life is all about getting started. When getting started means building a house get ready for a lot of work! We decided to build a cob earthship as an example of environmentally friendly, low cost building. Earthships use tires packed with dirt as foundations for walls built into hillsides. Cob is a mixture of sand, clay, and fiber used to face the tires to make them beautiful as well as build free standing walls. The benefits of a cob earthship are being dirt cheap, use locally available material, recycle old tires (after the treads are stripped to make shoes), passively heated and cooled, user friendly for inexperienced builders and the organic flow fits in beautifully with a permaculture landscape.
Remember in the developing world everything is done by hard labor. No bob cats and bulldozers to build this house! The tires all cost about $1 which is still considerably less than standard cement and coral block. Step one is digging out the hill and acquiring a load of tires. Step 2 is putting all the dirt you dug back by pounding it into the tires. It is important to have the tires full enough or they will slouch and compromise the integrity of the wall. Some people use sledge hammers however we found using a stick thick as an arm and about as tall as a person worked better. The tires can be pried up with another stick making it easier to pound dirt under the lip. Wetting the medium slightly also helped to pack it in well.
The mangy tires make a wonderful home for rats. Where there are rats there are snakes. YIKES! We have faced the tires with cob for beautiful effect. Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, and fiber. The fiber gives the walls tensile strength so if a crack does form the wall is still connected by the fiber making the patch easy and effective. For fiber we used a mix of sisal, coconut coir, and sticks. I have a high recommendation for using sticks in every section as it gave the cob enough strength to get a good section of wall build every day as well as tie each layer together.
And what is a home without cute friends to share it with?!? Notice the windows. They are 5L water bottles filled with water and a cap full of bleach. I added some pipe glue when I screwed the caps back on. The best thing about them is when the sun shines directly through they cast rainbows across the room.
A home isn’t a home without plants. These plants are wonderful. How many people can eat their house? They also help cool the sweltering the air that passes through the windows. Making our house the coolest around!