Earthships

“The dream is this: envisage a building that is, without exaggeration, a passport to freedom, where it is not necessary to work to pay utility bills, because there are none.”

Earthship Brighton certainly does satisfy the dream as set out in Earthships – Building a zero carbon future for homes by Mischa Hewitt and Kevin Tefler. And anybody who has visited this thrilling eco-building in Stanmer Park will testify as such. For those not in the know, Earthships might be defined as autonomous tyre and glass eco-structures but all sorts of definitions exist. Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs firmly supports the concept which can, ultimately, be traced back to the first which was built by Michael Renolds in New Mexico 30 years ago. Indeed, McCloud himself has provided a compelling foreword to the book (published in 2007 by HIS BRE Press).

I met Mischa and his colleague, Bryn Thomas, when I wrote a piece on Earthship Brighton some time back. Each was heavily involved with the complicated administration of the project and also helped out the army of volunteers with some of the actual building work. A complicated web of planet-friendly organisations has been involved from the outset, spear-headed by, principally, the Low Carbon Trust and Brighton Permaculture Trust.

The purpose of my latest visit to Earthship Brighton was to attend part of a course on building Earthships. The idea is that it should be possible for fairly normal people to build their own versions which makes it all the more disappointing that only three have so far been built in the UK. I imagine that the idea would be far more appealing if the planning system was more engaging and land cheaper. I met a number of people on the course though who hope to start their own soon and I wish them the best of luck.

Despite our obvious shared interest in buildings, I thoroughly enjoy speaking with Mischa about politics and society generally. Earthships are more than just homes – they represent a vision for the future. Those involved are pioneers; the modern equivalents of Eugenius Birch and Magnus Volk.

Earthships (the book) highlights how often journalists use spacecraft analogies in their pieces so there will be none of that today. Instead, I will ask anybody who is remotely interested in the idea to boldly go to www.lowcarbon.co.uk and seek out the sections on tours, courses and Mischa’s book.