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Earthships are homes constructed from old rubber tyres. There are two projects on-going in Britain at the moment. One in the South Downs and one in Fife. The South Downs site outside Brighton will form the headquarters and demonstration building for the Low Carbon Network (LCN), the not-for-profit company that is building the Earthships. It is offering training to groups and individuals who want to start their own projects, and shows them how to design a building for their own needs. See its website at

As Daren Howarth, the project manager for Brighton states: "In terms of re-using materials that would otherwise be wasted, saving energy and water, and involving the community, these Earthships win on all counts. I can see no downside."

With 40 million old tyres discarded in the UK every year, this building industry is not going to run out of raw materials any time soon!

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian
Saturday July 20, 2002
Original here

A radical solution to Britain's growing mountain of old tyres is being tried - building houses with them.

Called "earthships", the homes currently under construction may not look like a typical des res but at a cost of £40,000 including solar power, own water supply and sewage system the tyre houses could provide a solution to the UK's low-cost housing crisis.

They are being built in Fife, Scotland and on the South Downs outside Brighton. When finished inside with plaster and outside with solar tiles and modern facing material they look like ultra-modern homes.

Each earthship requires 2,000 tyres and with 40 million being discarded each year in Britain there is enough free building material to construct 20,000 low-cost homes a year, according to Daren Howarth, of the Low Carbon Network, who is in charge of the South Downs project.

"I was both delighted and amazed at the positive attitude of Brighton councillors in giving planning permission," he said. "Sometimes there can be prejudice against new ideas but I said to them the Eden Project in Cornwall would never have got off the ground if the local councillors had not had vision. They decided to give us a chance."

Earthships are already a growing movement in the United States where it is possible to rent them as holiday homes to encourage more people to build them. Estates of hundreds of self-build earthships have been built in New Mexico with names like Dunlopin and Firestone Avenue.

The perfect site for an earthship is on a south-facing slope. Each course of tyres is put down in the same way as bricks and filled with earth. A sledge hammer is used to firm in the earth partially "inflating" the tyres. As each course is added more earth is rammed in, making a virtually industructable dwelling.

The front, south-facing wall of the house is slightly curved in such a way as to make it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Water that falls on the roof is stored and recycled to water the garden.

Mr Howarth said: "Obviously most of the houses are quite small but they can be any size, some are mansions, but obviously the people who go in for these things are environmentalists so they think two or three bedrooms are enough. Ideally, with a little help from regular electricians and carpenters, people will be able to build their own homes. In five years I hope there will be earthship estates all over the country."

He said the two prototypes were being built to overcome any problems with building regulations before large housing estates made of tyres were built.

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