Saturday, 12 February 2011

Michael Reynolds: Architect extraordinaire!

There are people who aren’t driven by the profit motive and who care enough about the
environment to want to make a positive difference to the way it is nourished. Sometimes they are striving against the mainstream to bring their vision of a better and saner world to wider attention. These people by their foresight and vision are offering us opportunities to move away from the usual conditions that govern our lives. Such a person, in my eyes is Architect extraordinaire Michael Reynolds.

If we are to successfully make the transition to low carbon future, and become in dependent of oil supplies. We have to change every aspect of our present wasteful lifestyles, then I would say that our homes are the one of the prime places for us to begin.

If you were to think of a house built entirely out of waste products, the chances are that you would visualise a rickety, contraption help together with bits of rusting metal. However, the homes that Michael Reynolds constructs couldn’t be further from that nightmare scenario. His homes look like and are, state of the art places anyone would be delighted to live in. These houses are fully integrated sustainable structures that look fantastic and are aesthetically pleasing on the eye 

What is amazing is that Reynolds builds houses out of what other people call junk; tyres, cans and plastic bottles and clay are all features. And each house only uses renewable energy.  Water is collected from the roof and used four times. Electricity is produced with by a photovoltaic / wind power system. This energy is stored in batteries and supplied to electrical outlets. And the houses reuse all household sewage in indoor and outdoor treatment cells resulting in food production and landscaping with no pollution of aquifers. Toilets flush with greywater that does not smell.
So, not only are these houses made of things that would otherwise be thrown away. 
Because these homes are able to produce all of their own water and power from natural sources, the occupants are fully independent of all utility charges, whilst knowing they aren’t dependent upon limited outside resources such as water as well as carbon producing electricity. Even sewage doesn’t have to be flushed away but is recycled into the land to be used as a fertiliser.

Michael Reynolds is a self-described "guy who's trying to do some sustainable housing for the future." He is a passionate advocate for sustainable living. He believes our consumerist society is destroying our natural resources and eco-systems and that the only "logical" thing to do is to use the discards of our currently unsustainable lifestyle to create sustainable housing. When asked about the common misconceptions of his work, he replied, "When we started, some people just thought we were building out of recycled materials. Then others began to see we were building sustainable buildings out of recycled materials." It is this "logical" paradigm for building that Reynolds has been advocating for more than thirty years. "We need to live in an entirely different way and that is what we are hoping to find and present to people.

He created the alternative word Biotecture to describe "the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. A combination of biology and architecture." Michael Reynolds builds Earthships and teaches anyone who wants to learn how to build them, too. He describes an Earthship as "a fully sustainable building made with biproducts of our society. It is a building that will take care of you in every way: food (year round green house), heating, water, air and sewage disposal. "Earthships are the living model of the future that goes far beyond house and architecture."


Tyres are the foundations

“Everything we are doing is a response to the mess we find ourselves in. We know that we were running out of fuel and water. I was inspired to create a way of life that responds to those problems. There are mountains of tyres around the world, and no one knows what to do with them. Hawaii actually ships its used tires to California." Michael's Earthship designs use discarded tyres to create incredibly strong foundations. After filling the tires with earth and stacking them like bricks, the resulting walls are so thick, they aid in temperature retention. Coupling this feature with year-round greenhouses allows each earthship to maintain a temperature of 72 degrees, regardless of where it's located. "Once I added the concept of thermal mass by beating dirt into a tyre I created a low-tech, readily available and easy-to-learn method of building. I couldn't have conceived of a better material than tires to build with."

Although he trained as an architect, his way of doing things was, for many years anathema to the powers that be, the petty regulators with their blinkered vision, could not understand why he would wish to build houses made of what they saw as rubbish, for many years he was stripped of his architect certificate by the American Architectural Society

His earthships can be built anywhere in the world and don’t cost a lot to make either. The homes use totally sustainable methods to generate energy. His home State of New Mexico too, stopped his company from building the Earth ship, even at one point sending police with guns to enforce their orders. Happily Reynolds has now both had his licence reinstated (after the Orchestra Society learnt about the amazing word he and some of his crew did, to help rebuild homes in the Indian Arrdman Islands after the Tsunami disaster of 2005. Her has also convinced the New Mexico legislature to pass new laws allowing his amazing homes to be built for everyone who has the foresight to want to live in one. 

More information  about these amazing homes can be seen at the Earthships website

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