So off-the-grid... is that even possible?
Ideally we would like go completely off-the-grid. There are a lot of choices to be made in every aspect of building a house when it comes to energy and water management. A good place to start I think is looking at existing examples. Undoubtedly one of the best examples is the concept of an Earthship. It is based on three ideas:
- recycling of waste products and locally available products
- autonomy of the residents
- application of sustainable technology
The main structure of most Earthships is built with earth-rammed car tyres. Often aluminium cans or wine bottles are used too in combination with cement. The rest of the construction is finished off with wood and glass. The building is oriented towards the sun to maximise natural light and solar-gain during the winter months.
To me the most interesting part to me is their autonomy. Earthships are not connected to the usual grids of electricity, water, gas or even the sewage system.
As expected, electricity is generated using solar cells and wind turbines. A little harder is water which is collected from rain, snow and condensation. It is then guided through various filtering systems to remove bacteria and contaminants, making it suitable for drinking. Greywater is also captured, filtered again and reused to flush toilets for example.
In most Eartships no electricity or fuel is required for heating or cooling. They are earth-sheltered buildings which automatically protects them from extreme temperatures. In summer, cooled air is pulled in using a convective air flow. In winter, warmth of the sun is kept in thanks to greenhouse in front of the building.
While the Earthship concept uses a lot of interesting systems and techniques, it is not something for me. And I know I can speak for the both of us. Living in a house primarily constructed from other people’s waste is not an appealing idea. Also the whole aesthetic aspect is, to be polite, not at all what I’m after. But it’s a good place to shop for the technical aspects.