Earthships, Straw Bale Homes & Biodomes

Have you always wanted to live in an earthship? How about a straw bale house? Whether you have a great deal of knowledge about these different styles of homes, or you never heard of them before, they are quite interesting to behold. People have been building homes out of natural materials in their pure forms throughout history. There has been a resurgence of interest in alternative housing styles in recent years. People are getting back to the fundamentals of nature, as well as wanting to reduce their carbon footprint in various ways. Recent years have shown more innovative design plans being implemented all of the time.

A close look at the different types of housing that are commonly built today is important. Now that advances have been made in finding materials that are more durable and cost effective, it is an increasingly distinct possibility to have an off-the-grid home. There are many factors that play a part in this trends. Groups are forming to discuss and find solutions to make it a reality for more individuals and families. All around the world, this trend is quickly on its way to skyrocketing.

One Man’s Earthship Story
Stuart Simmons of Durango, Colorado spent $62,000 for 55 acres of land near Durango. He was determined to build a home that was off the grid. The determining factor for the land he ended up choosing was that it was south facing. Having a south facing home is crucial, because it is necessary to have enough sun for heating the home and using solar energy.

His next step was to gather his building components. The main material that he used was dirt-packed tires. It is a strenuous process to pound the earth into the tires. It takes about 15 minutes to a half hour for each one. Once they are packed, they are laid down like bricks in a U-formation facing south. Simmons ended up with 10 rows of tires by the time he and his team had finished. He also collected aluminum cans, another major building component. The internal walls that are non-structural are made using the cans. They must be placed together with concrete in order to hold up well. Electric wiring and plumbing are run through the wall of cans.

An important part of Simmons’ earthship is the Greenhouse. The Greenhouse is kept above a temperature of 60 degrees throughout the entire year, which contributed to the home being kept just as warm. It is necessary for the tires to be stacked at least as high as the frost line for the area.

Earthships have faced much controversy over the past several decades. Michael Reynolds, creator of the earthship home model, has faced many years of frustration with government officials over receiving permits for building earthships. The government does not want to take risks with the newer models instead of sticking with the long established ones. It can take a lot of work to win the officials over and get the go ahead on your building permit. While the list of benefits to the environment and individuals is extremely long, it is not feasible and attractive to the government.

earthshipsStraw Bale Houses – the Canelo Project
Bill and Athena Steen are running The Canelo Project in southeastern Arizona. This project was founded in 1989. This center for learning, research, cultural events, and demonstration has gained a large following. The Steens have developed small scale building designs that consist of straw bale and a clay wall systems, along with clay and lime plasters. The inside houses a beautiful array of natural wonders. Some of these include sculptural wall carvings, clay ovens, and earthen floors.

There is a wide array of housing and other structures that have been built out of these materials. These include guest housing for workshop attendees and other guests, woodworking shops, materials and tool storage sheds, a classroom, paint shed, and outdoor shower. It has all been designed with the utmost beauty, function, and usage of natural resources possible. It is obvious the Steens are people who truly care about the environment and the community. They show considerable passion for creating and preserving beautiful items of cultural and artistic value.

Geodesic Domes Are a Marvel
Geodesic domes are models for housing, greenhouses, storage facilities, and more. Another name that is commonly used for them is biodomes. They are an optimal shape and design, which is virtually indestructible in its basic nature. These structures are ideal for regions in which there is a great deal of seismic activity and other disastrous natural phenomena. They can vary in purpose and the systems that are used. One of the more popular styles features ultraviolet lights pointing upwards into the dome’s inner surface. There also is a water system that maintains optimal humidity conditions to reduce the potential for sickness. Other features include a private computer terminal, and the possibility of high occupancy housing within the biodome.

The crop and farm biodomes are also quite popular. An important features of these is irrigation of nutrient-rich water from composting toilets to the crops. Another is the farm animals such as cows and chickens that produce manure and urine to be included in the fertilizers for the crops. Biodome restaurants are truly a revolutionary type of facility. The usually labor intensive task of dishwashing is turned into a much easier task, due to ultraviolet light ridding the items of bacteria and the ultrasonic waves vibrating to break off the food particles. Another advantage of such restaurants is that it is far more beneficial to prepare food in centralized locations for many homes than it is to outfit the homes with kitchens. All of these designs have been proposed by Slide Lock Systems of Wisconsin, Inc.

A Bright Outlook for the Future with Numerous Options
Home designs that are environmentally friendly and people friendly include the traditional earth berm, underground homes, cobb houses, adobe dwelling and many others. It can only be assumed that as time goes by, these existing models will be improved. It is expected that others will join their ranks. We are coming into a new way of thinking and serious changes within society. It is no wonder that where and how people live is changing right along with the times. When we look to our surroundings for how to design our homes and other aspects of our lives, we only stand to benefit.



I can’t tell from this image if it is also the case, but why are most of your images about permaculture showing monoculture? Why not just use images people share with you of their permaculture gardens?

McAlister Williams

only if it is affordable

I’m interested in cord wood construction considering the natural & renewable resources available on my property.

Very interesting info. Good to know.


“Earthships have faced much controversy over the past several decades. Michael Reynolds, creator of the earthship home model, has faced many years of frustration with government officials over receiving permits for building earthships. The government does not want to take risks with the newer models instead of sticking with the long established ones. It can take a lot of work to win the officials over and get the go ahead on your building permit”

You have GOT to be kidding. An agricultural structure on a farm is exempt from permitting. Just tell them it’s a shed, build it, and then start living in it. The only reason you need a permit for a residence is to get a certificate of occupancy, and the only reason you need a C of O is if you want to SELL it as a residence, to someone who needs to get a bank loan to buy it.

If you’re never involving the banks, no need for a C of O, and therefore no need for a permit.

You people haven’t actually done any building in rural areas ever, have you?


WEB DESIGNER – please, please LOOK at the visual contrast of the type face and its color compared to the background of this web page – that is IF you can actually read it at all! I mean, dark grey type color against a light grey background is nearly invisible – and then the width of the type face is a tiny fraction of a millimeter. Stuff that’s too difficult to read (such as this page) looses nearly all of its potential impact. Pity. You can do better, please try. Thank you!

Avery Snipes

There is nothing cost effective about an Earthship unless you design and build it yourself…Biodomes and the Straw Bale homes seem much more “doable” for the average person. With the laws now regulating off-grid living (like in Florida where it is now illegal) and in other states where it is illegal to collect rain water… we need to work on freeing the people from the corps and banks that have us enslaved first before we can make the positive changes we need and want to make. More people need to be on board and fight for our right to live freely and in balance with nature.

earth ship homes should be the goal. have your home provide for you lower cost of living but grid tire in alot of states means the grid could end up paying you for ecletric, or gas depending on the state laws but you the people have the ablity to get those laws past in ways they help you , your comunity , and by proxy your country.

I love Earthships. That said, they are not cheap, much less cheaper, than other off grid options. They require a huge amount of labor to construct unless you can afford to hire a crew of 50 people for 2-3 weeks full time. I want to build an off grid home with a lot of earth ship qualities, but to be truly sustainable earth ships need to be re designed so that a larger number of people can afford to build/use them.

Also, while the built in green house feature is super cool, there is no way in hell you can feed a family of two or three on the quantity of produce one of these built in green houses is capable of producing. It would probably be more efficient to have a separate green house in conjunction with or instead of the green house that a traditional earthship incorporates. It would be great to keep all the water systems the same, but it’s worth investigating what the cost of an earth ship built in green house is, vs. the quantity of food one can realistically grow with one.

I praise Mike Reynolds and his concepts, but in many ways, current Earth ship designs are more conceptual bundled ideals, than practical functional designs. I’m okay with that, but it’s time to take them from a beautiful conceptual state to a more affordable and reliable design. Building one with only two or three people at present (to save money) can take 2-7 years easily! That’s a LOT of time.

Aquaculture growing beds. Hugleculture growing beds. Composting. Getting in touch with all the nature God provides. Instead of shying away from our resources, lean in next to it all.

Protecting cows

Reuse building materials with

Chelsey McCaw, Angela Spain

Organic gardens fed by rainwater that is harvested!!!!

Grow your own garden

Love permaculture!


I have the elephant in the living room idea for making the environment eco-friendly. Start reducing the population of humans on the planet.

Here in Vegas, 70% of our water is used for farm irrigation, and our food is all shipped in. I like these as a solution. They use sunlight, so no pricey lights. Hydroponics grow 2x faster & use 1/10 of the water, so it’s a huge saver. There’s no need for horrific pesticides, and the plants can be given full nutrition so we get full nutrition. With the tower structure and the 2x growing rate, you could grow 40+ heads of lettuce in the same space as 4 with conventional gardening. You could even sell the produce and make a profit!

Slash your electric bill:
LED bulbs, double pane windows, window glazes, extra insulation the attic, use a toaster oven instead of the big one. I have a 3,000 sq foot home with these features, 2 story with a great big vaulted living room. I also have all of these energy saving features. I’ve yet to have an electrical bill break $350 even with these Las Vegas summers. They have more than paid for themselves! I know of home owners with 1,200 homes with $450 bills! It makes a huge difference.

Jason Pedigo Joey Long

Save your own seeds & grow some of your own food

Patrick this is what i was talking about

Compostable dwellings… Build it simple and natural using sweat lodge techniques, stomp it down after living in it for a season… Then drop a bomb of seeds and mushroom cultures on the site to help life explode….

I think the folks handling GMO’s are attempting this.

Cleaning with baking soda and vinegar instead of other cleaning supplies, also use Natural products to get rid of bugs,like pepper cinnamon, etc

Using Orange TKO to clean with, Organic and totally safe with pets and fumes.

Been reading Mother Earth News for better than 30 years. They have been professing many of these ideas and more for years. You can find them on most magazine racks.

Gordon , you can add to this!! Su too…

Coffee grounds…

You take the worlds organic garbage, compost it with care, and there you have the soil to feed the world. Simple!

We tear up boxes, newspaper, kitchen waste, egg shells, coffee grounds, sticks, leaves, branches, wood ash from rocket mass heater, chicken manure then add red wiggler worms & let them do the work to make new soil!

If you’re going to “Hot Compost”, you don’t need the worms. It cooks them. Hot composting ( 170 f for 72hrs) kills pathogens and weed seeds. It requires additional green or nitrogen.

Purchase less

Got a worm bin just mix the castings in with the regular soil.

Building what you need not what you want…

Landscape with all local flora and leave a small patch somewhere wild to grow as it will ….see Findhorn gardens as a reference

I make and add high microbe compost tea and use it weekly.

How about requiring all new construction to make a percentage of the energy needed.

Straw houses are great! There are several on Salt Spring that I have visited. They always leave a little ‘window’ in a wall so you can see it is actually made of straw!

Got manure?!

Horse manure – next only to bird/bat droppings.

Organic matter, don’t add it to the kitchen garbage, add it to the kitchen garden. Compost is key. Yard waste is second, bag the grass clipping to keep down the thatch and compost them for the garden.

all that above and miracle grow… miracle grow… every other week…

Seaweed !! 🙂

carbon (like dead charred wood, bio char etc) and lots of healthy happy micro organisms! 😀

Trying out mulched leaves covering the garden over winter. Also tried cover crops in the fall. We’ll see what happens this spring!

My wife and I are planning on building a green house this summer a Huge one so we can be less dependent on buying Organic vegetable because of their outrages cost ! We both love gardening and have 13 Flower beds , flowers are beautiful but beauty does not feed you ? My concern if you are even aware of it is Geo – Engineering Toxic Chemical that fall from our skies like Aluminum Nano Particles , Barium , Chromium , Desiccated Mold Spores , Yellow Fungal Mycotoxins , Thorium , Polymer Fibers , Strontium , Arsenic , Mercury , Viruse’s of Unknown Nature and of course the Fukushima Radioactive fallout that falls with our Rains … !!! How does one grow Organic safe foods with all this bombarding our Gardens and our lungs … !!! Anyone … ??? No unintelligent response please … ???

Learn how to compost?

Composting is essential, but keeping the soil covered and adding rich quality manure (we have chickens) will truly enrich the soil.

coffie grounds

Earthworms and food waste!

Joanie Olin Robert J Shore

Old straw bales and horse manure… put on the garden in the fall and ready for planting in the spring.

Check out the Gardens of Avena Botanicals in Rockport, ME. It is the first farm in Maine to be certified as a permaculture site. The gardens are open to the public on weekdays. It is also the largest producer of medicinal herb products in Maine.

This has been of concern for me too; ‘some say’ that all the rain & snow that’s blessed us these past few weeks have been sent to “Clean and Clear” all that away. I’d love to believe this to be true! Along with all the other marvelous suggestions, I’d like to add that ‘BLESSING’ the ground, earth, and seeds being planted, with the INTENTION of Goodness and Wholeness/Wellness; truly does add significantly to your purpose. Daily doses of LOVE also recommended.

humanure the greatest most abundant resource available

We have pet bunnies and guinea pigs that take care of a lot of our kitchen scraps. When we clean out their pen, the waste goes into the garden beds. The spoilt timothy hay will often sprout and create a fresh snack we can pick for them! On nice summer days, they “mow and fertilize” the lawn in a covered pen that we move around the yard. We grow organic, heirloom veggies and herbs in the beds they fertilized all winter long: then they get to enjoy some of the treats that they helped grow! Everyone wins! 😉

get a compost pile going and mix it in with the soil

oh free wheeling has a few tips up his sleeve.

also, dehydrate and grind your banana skins to add potasium.

If we compost do we put GMOs into the soil. I would like to think there are no GMOs in my food. I am sure there are.

That’s right brother but we must be careful about not allowing any GMO in the mix..

Try to be diligent about not buying GMO products as these are dangerous to have in your food supplies..

Bought a soil pH kit to determine what will be needed this year in the soil…. way back, Dad and I went to a maple hardwood forest and filled up three or four big sacks with the forest floor soil..what a beautiful garden dad had that year.. also used old composted sheep manure…he could tell what was needed by tasting the garden dirt!

Compost everything, grass leaves, all kitchen scraps, clean put your neighbors rabbit hutch or chicken coop. buy some llama beans from ME.

cow chips moistened.lmao

Best fertilizer is green fertilizer. Plant buckwheat, amaranth, etc. mow, spread, repeat.

Coffee grinds and eggshells!

Consider repurposing an existing structure instead of adding another new construction.

all of the above. I moved into sandy soil of Northern FL and am trying to reclaim, amend and build up the soil with leaf mulch, bone meal and organic fertilizer when I plant something new. I’ve mulched with pine grounds & needles but I already have Live Oak leaves falling pretty much all year. Acid loving plants are happy. But mostly, my grandchildren fructify the soil with their rich imaginations & lovely relations with the garden fairies….

If you have room start a compost pile. we had a garden in Albuquerque in the sandy back yard. we composted almost everything organic. our neighbor was a midwife. she added a placenta from a delivery she had done, with the permission of the mother. our garden came back great that summer.. Just to show that anything organic decomposes and can be tilled into the garden improving the soil twofold

I second HEMP as well!!!! Isochanvre was discovered in Paris France by Madame Pierre Paris back in the mid 90’s! I watched a hemp documentary in 1997 which she was on, demonstrating how she built 1500sq ft homes for only $15,000 using Isochanvre or hemp cement!!! Since 1997 I have researched it and have come across several recipes for it. But this woman figured out that the Roman aqueducts were made from her same mixture, so I’m going with hers! Its really simple!!!!
Water, lime, and hemp hurds or hemp shiv (chanvre)
The water is a binder. Lime is calcium hydroxide. Hemp Hurd is high silica content. Silica and calcium hydroxide, when mixed, become calciumated and basically fossilize. The cement hardens over time! Its also supposed to be 7 times lighter than conventional cement!! Pest and rodent resistant! Self insulating! Fire resistant! Can be poured into molds! Molds can be formed next to and on top of one another to have a seamless joint! (Reason why I believe the pyramids were built this way!! I’ve made this claim since 1997!)
And homes are already being built here in the US as well!!!!
Google US hemp home!
With Colorado now about to start growing hemp as a cash crop, we’ll soon be able to acquire hemp hurds for far less than it costs to pay to have it imported from Canada, Germany, China, Hungary, or all the many other countries around the world!
It makes no sense we haven’t grown hemp here til now!!!
(Well, unless you consider all the monetary gains some business men and government officials are earning, then it makes perfect sense from their perspective!)
And that’s just the cement I’m talking about! So many more benefits we could all enjou from hemp!!!
I’m a hemp expert and advocate since 1994. I helped produce HempTv CH 27 from 1997-2000.
I also gave this exact information, and more, in a 3 ring binder to Governor Gary Johnson when he was Governor of NM around 99.
I don’t think he is actually serious about legalizing it or allowed to, or else he would’ve turned it into a huge construction operation being that he used to own Big J Construction in New Mexico!
So like I said…… in second HEMP!!!!!!!

Not wearing any underwear, for starters.

The best way to be more eco-friendly is to be vegan. Factory farming is extremely detrimental to the environment on many levels. Even more importantly, billions of farm animals suffer because people want to eat them. If we grow crops for human consumption, instead of crops for animal consumption so that people can eat animals, the Earth would be better off.

1) I am switching to purchasing grains in bulk to reduce the need for packaging. 2) I water my plants primarily with water that I comes out while I am waiting for the water to heat up for showering etc.

Love, Love, Love Earthships. Woulde love to have one.

Ban the sale of beans for human consumption. That will cut down on methane

Worst part is you live in Vegas, we’ve been trying to sell that shit hole back to CA for years, sincerely a real NEVADAN

Don’t vote in my state please.

I’ve always said it’s the vegetarians fault for too much methane! We need to eat more cows!

Rebecca Edler can we get this

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