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Matt Tebbit
Posts: 35
Location: Cusco, Peru
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Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum and was hoping that I could get some advice.

I'm thinking of trying to build my own earthship, with no construction experience is this a good idea? From what I can see the construction itself isn't anything complicated, at least it looks that way.

So a few questions to get me started:

From the building code it says walls shouldn't be more than 10ft high (I may do them lower than that) without an architect - to get around that I was thinking of combining the earthship with another traditional technique here in Peru which is adobe bricks. I'd probably only want to add say another 3ft or so on so as to be able to have a second floor. I'm guessing that as the adobe bricks would be significantly smaller than the tires this wouldn't be a structural issue, opinions anyone? Another option would be to use logs to add additional height to create a high enough second floor.

An issue that I am concerned about is that the land I have isn't sloping, do the earth walls need to have earth built up behind them or is this something more for thermal mass than structure?

How much of a curve does each module need to have? I'm thinking to have 2 modules, one for the main room say 6 meters wide and another for the kitchen say 4 meters wide. From what I can see on videos and a brief glance at the Earthship manual it appears that they're not full U's but only curved corners with straight walls in between. Is that a correct assumption?

I'm not jumping in to anything right now, the wet season is just setting in and won't be clear until mid Feb so I have plenty of time to muse this over. Am I right that the earth needs to be dry for packing? I don't actually know how much rainfall the area will be getting, it's an hour South of where I live right now and is substantially dryer so maybe it will be dry enough to start work earlier than Feb.

Thanks for your time and advice.

Inglorious
 
Simon Johnson
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Posts: 202
Location: S Ontario, Zone 6/7
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I would say the first thing you should do is to build a small shed type to get experience pounding tires. Make lots of mistakes doing the test model before getting into a large house sized project. Building an earthship is A LOT of work.

I would also suggest getting the Earthship Vol 1 book and reading through that. Lots of good stuff in there.

But please attempt to build a prototype before jumping into anything. Check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph3RaGa_IHQ . It is a good example of a small project to start on.

I would also suggest watching all the videos on youtube and doing an in depth search on the net for people's blogs about their builds. Lots of good info on those usually.

 
Simon Johnson
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Location: S Ontario, Zone 6/7
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Matt Tebbit wrote:
From the building code it says walls shouldn't be more than 10ft high (I may do them lower than that) without an architect - to get around that I was thinking of combining the earthship with another traditional technique here in Peru which is adobe bricks. I'd probably only want to add say another 3ft or so on so as to be able to have a second floor. I'm guessing that as the adobe bricks would be significantly smaller than the tires this wouldn't be a structural issue, opinions anyone? Another option would be to use logs to add additional height to create a high enough second floor.


Building up high can be tricky business. Earthships are meant to be ground level so as to be totally encased in a thermal wrap as well. That's not to say you can't have a two story one, but it makes things a lot more complicated.

I would recommend not switching from tires to adobe bricks part way through the building of a wall. The when packing the tires, they really seat themselves into the tires below and become very stable. If you were to stack bricks on top of tires, I'm not sure you could get them to sit there very nicely and be load bearing at the same time. The tire wall is a monolith wall, making it load bearing.

Anyway, I again will say, build a small test structure and you can experiment with ideas and let us know what works or doesn't work. Make the mistakes on a prototype first.

I will be happy to answer any other questions you have to the best of my ability
 
Matt Tebbit
Posts: 35
Location: Cusco, Peru
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Hi Simon,

Thanks for the link to that video and for your answers. I've been browsing Earthship Vol 1, will give it a good read through before I begin anything. I've also got hold of some of the others as well.

I'm opting to stick to one floor after advice from others as well as here, maybe in the future I'll try a second but not adobes - maybe just a simple wood construct sat on top.

What are some typical problems people run in to when building earthships, other than being exhausted and having a bad back? I'm preparing myself for this by doing as much backbreaking manual labour as I can fit in. Instead of hiring a bulldozer to level the land I'm doing it by hand, it's cheaper than going to the gym and it means by the time I start on the house my hands will be so calloused I won't notice the pain (so much).

One question, people mention putting an inch and a half lean on each level of the tire. What's the purpose of this? Is it to compensate for the weight of the earth built up on the other side?

Thanks

Matt.
 
Simon Johnson
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Posts: 202
Location: S Ontario, Zone 6/7
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Matt Tebbit wrote:
What are some typical problems people run in to when building earthships, other than being exhausted and having a bad back? I'm preparing myself for this by doing as much backbreaking manual labour as I can fit in. Instead of hiring a bulldozer to level the land I'm doing it by hand, it's cheaper than going to the gym and it means by the time I start on the house my hands will be so calloused I won't notice the pain (so much).


I would say the main problem people run into when building an earthship is lack of planning. This can encompass many aspects of the building process.

Some of the main issues associated with bad planning can be running out of money part way through because all costs were not factored in.

Running out of time and energy to build because too large of a project was taken on with little or no prior experience. This might be the biggest one.

Inexperience in building leading to poor construction, leading to issues with the building not functioning properly later on.

Lack of observation and understanding of the building location and environment. This can lead to all sorts of design problems.

Most of the issues encountered when building an earthship are pretty standard issues people would encounter when taking on the task of constructing any building.

Matt Tebbit wrote:
One question, people mention putting an inch and a half lean on each level of the tire. What's the purpose of this? Is it to compensate for the weight of the earth built up on the other side?


Yes. They mostly do this to appease the building inspectors though. I don't think the earth piled behind the tires on a relatively flat surface will really push them in, unless you are on a pretty steep slope and the hill is pushing down on the back wall. But it doesn't hurt to lean the tires out a bit anyway just to be safe.
 
Tom OHern
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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Simon Johnson wrote:
Matt Tebbit wrote:
One question, people mention putting an inch and a half lean on each level of the tire. What's the purpose of this? Is it to compensate for the weight of the earth built up on the other side?

Yes. They mostly do this to appease the building inspectors though. I don't think the earth piled behind the tires on a relatively flat surface will really push them in, unless you are on a pretty steep slope and the hill is pushing down on the back wall. But it doesn't hurt to lean the tires out a bit anyway just to be safe.


Whoa!!! No, this is not just to appease the building inspectors!!! This is a really important step. I spent several years working as a geotechnical engineer and I've seen more than a few failures due to poor retaining wall construction. You do not want this happening inside your house. This will happen even on a flat surface. This is one of those things that I would say, if you don't understand, you really should not be deigning your own earth bermed house.

Matt, I know you are trying to save money, but if you really want to build an earthship with no prior building experience, I think it is worth it to buy the plans from Earthship Biotecture. The amount of headaches you will avoid and costly mistakes that you will have to go back and correct, will be more than worth the cost of the plans. At the least, volunteer to go work on a build before you start your own. The amount you will learn there will be more save you in the long run.
 
Simon Johnson
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Posts: 202
Location: S Ontario, Zone 6/7
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Tom OHern wrote:
This is a really important step. I spent several years working as a geotechnical engineer and I've seen more than a few failures due to poor retaining wall construction. You do not want this happening inside your house. This will happen even on a flat surface. This is one of those things that I would say, if you don't understand, you really should not be deigning your own earth bermed house.


There you have it from someone who has seen first hand failures from bad planning. Make sure have a solid plan and understand of all aspects of the build.
 
Rob Lougas
Posts: 44
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Hey guys just another thought on the stepping rows of tires back. I think height of the wall plays a big part but I think if one was to lay a length of something like say snow fencing down across the tires and sticking out 4 or 5 feet into the back fill and the next row of tire on top sandwiching the fencing between the rows of tires and the back fill packed on top of the fencing i'm sure you could eliminate issues of the wall shifting same as you would with a brick retaining wall I guess you would call it legging. Im not discounting putting a lean on the wall probably a good idea in all reality
 
Tom OHern
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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There are ways to create anchoring systems in retaining walls so you can build them without a back slope, but you would need something more rigid than snow fencing to do this. Here is an example. With typical soils, you can build a vertical wall up to three feet high without any sort of back slope or anchoring system. Anything above that, the pressure from the bermed walls will become great enough that you need to do something to stabilize the wall.
 
Rob Lougas
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So I deffinatly agree with simon that lack of planning seems to be one of the major issues people face when trying to build them selfs an earthship or any structure for that matter. I would say keep doing your research there is a lot of info out there. I would also suggest build a small space earthship to really get the hang of things and see what issues come up. It can really help you plan out your final build. I would also suggest thinking about building a smaĺl section of the house that you can get closed in and be living in while you build the rest. Its a lot less daunting if you dont have to build a 1800sqft house in one go just something to think about
 
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