Can You Build An Earthship In Any Environment?

If you are considering building an earthship as your place of residency, then it is crucial to know if it can be built in any environment. Building an earthship is a lot of work, and if you do not have the proper knowledge about where it can be built, you risk wasting a lot of time and money. 

Can You Build An Earthship In Any Environment?

Earthships were originally built to withstand extreme desert temperatures, but they have been built all over the globe, and people can reside in them in any environment. The design of an Earthship allows it to heat and cool in order to keep the internal temperature comfortable. 

An earthship can be a unique and sustainable way to live off-grid and there are many earthship communities across the globe, but it is critical to know how an earthship works so you can be prepared for each environment.

The information that has been provided in this guide has been studied and reviewed by experts in building and maintaining earthships in order to provide you with accurate information. 

What Is An Earthship?

Earthships are a type of shelter that is made from upcycled and natural materials. The earthship was originally designed by Michael Reynolds during the energy crisis in the 1970s in hopes of creating structures that did not need nonrenewable resources. Earthships were designed to be solar earth shelters that could withstand the temperatures of the desert.

When the idea of an earthship first began, the earthship communities were being created in New Mexico in many desert areas. Since that time, earthships have been built all over the globe and there are over 3,000 earthships that have been built. 

Earthships can be created as completely off grid housing or partially off grid housing. Typically, they are created in a horseshoe shape with plenty of windows to let in natural light in order for the earthship to heat and cool as needed. 

How Does An Earthship Work?

Those that build an earthship have the ability to live entirely off grid if they choose to do so. Some people will choose to live partially off grid and still utilize some resources to live comfortably. 


The process of gathering water from the earthship begins when the earthship is built. The roof on the earthship will be designed in such a way that it can catch any amount of rainfall so it can be used. 

As the rain falls, the water is captured and runs into cisterns. The water from the cistern will then typically be moved into a water system that has a pump and filter. The filter will clean the water so it is safe for consumption and usage and the pump will move the water into a pressure tank in order to get the appropriate amount of water pressure. 


Most earthships will use photovoltaics to make electricity from sunlight. Since earthships are solar powered, the sun is going to provide all solar heating and electricity for the earthship. 

The modules that photovoltaic use will sit in the sun and they will run your appliances, charge your batteries, and provide the energy that is needed. 

Heating and Cooling

The heating and cooling of an earthship are done through thermal mass and solar power. An earthship is typically created with three sides being walls made of tires, which are considered the “thermal mass,” and then the south facing side is full of windows. 

The tires are solid enough that they store heat or cold inside the earthship. The sun will enter the earthship through the windows and then heat the floor and walls. If the temperature drops then the heat will naturally be released into the earthship.

In the hot summer months, the building stays cool due to buried cooling tubes that are installed when the earthship is built as well as operable vent boxes. 


Earthships are designed to contain and reuse sewage waste. This helps with food production and landscaping. 

The basis behind this is a wetlands concept, which has been used by people for thousands of years. However, the earthships are designed to treat gray water within the house, but will treat sewage outside of the house. 

These two systems allow the earthship to fully function on its own and require less water than a typical household would need.    

Can An Earthship Be Built In Any Environment?

Due to earthships being originally created in the desert, they are able to be built in many environments. 

Due to the earthship being a passive solar residence they will do best in dry and warm environments so you can utilize them to the fullest extent. Even in the hottest desert climates, earthships can maintain temperatures around 70 degrees fahrenheit inside.

However, if you build an earthship in a freezing cold environment, it will be harder for the earthship to warm up so you must be prepared for a colder internal temperature. If you build an earthship in a colder environment, but with plenty of sun then the earthship will heat up slightly faster due to the warmth from the sun. 

In extreme circumstances, some people will use wood stoves or propane heaters if needed in freezing temperatures. 

How Is An Earthship Built?

An earthship is built from all natural and upcycled materials. The walls of earthships are typically created using tires filled with dirt or sand. You may also see the use of aluminum cans and mortar to help in the building of the interior walls. 

Once the main walls of the earthship have been created, then stucco or adobe will be used to cover the entire earthship. This will allow the earthship to better regulate the internal temperature and keep it comfortable for those residing inside.  

The roof of an earthship is typically made from insulated concrete and then metal sheets that will catch the rainwater so that it can be used as a water source. 

What Issues Can Arise When Trying to Build An Earthship?

Although earthships can be built in any environment, certain states may have some legal considerations that need to be taken into account when choosing where to build.

It is important to research zoning laws and building codes before determining where you want to build your earthship. Building codes are the typical safety standards that are put in place when building a normal home. However, due to earthships being off grid and being built in a very different manner, they may not be up to building codes in certain areas. 

The zoning regulations in your area will let you know where you can actually build an earthship. If you are considering a very rural area where there are already earthships then you should not have much of an issue. 

If you are wanting to be the first in a new earthship community then you need to find out what the zoning regulations are for that area so you do not begin the process and are forced to shut it down. 

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