Earthships: Sustainable & Ethically Designed Buildings

Mischa Hewitt
Friday, 30th October 2015

Earthship Brighton has been key in teaching local communities and schools about sustainability, zero carbon footprint building and permaculture principles. Now it needs your help to keep it open for future generations.

The UN Climate Change Conference, COP21, is geting closer and we need real examples of how we can tackle climate change on a practical level. We need to educate and spread the word about the impact humans have on our environment and how we reduce this as we progress into the 21st century. 

The internationally renowned and award-winning Earthship Brighton does all of these things. The building itself is a source of inspiration for its visitors, and it’s used as a venue for environmental events, eco-education for local schools, and courses in green building and permaculture. It’s a place where people can come and learn about nature and be empowered to make changes to their lives. Since opening its doors in 2006, Earthship Brighton has delighted and educated tens of thousands of visitors for almost a decade. And if that wasn't enough, it’s situated on an organic site on the edge of the South Downs National Park, a beautiful setting!


What are Earthships?

Earthships are buildings made from walls of tyres rammed full of earth and a mix of conventional, salvaged and recycled materials. With a south-facing structure, they are shaped to maximise the sun’s energies as 'stored' heat in the thick walls for a steady internal temperature. All energy used in the building is generated on site from renewable sources. Earthships are made from recycled materials and earth-sheltered, to make use of the earth’s ambient temperature. 

Earthships are about conscious, ethical design. By making use of the natural abundant energies that surround us, Earthships celebrate what we often take for granted. Earthships and Permaculture share much in the way of planetary ethics and principles, design and a keen awareness of the surrounding environment. For example, obtaining multiple yields, the 80:20 principle and ‘stacking’, where the walls serve several purposes; reusing waste, being the main load bearing structure and storing the sun’s energy.


Brighton Earthship

Designed to respect the form, scale and character of the land in Stanmer Park, Earthship Brighton’s siting is paramount in the building's structure and realisation. Its design incorporates rain water catchment, and the workings of a simple yet effective method of cleaning water for use in the building. And once the water has been used to clean the dishes, ‘grey water’ is then transported through an indoor planter before it makes its way to an outdoor black water reed bed to be 'cleaned' further and returned back into the natural world.

Just like our planet, Brighton Earthship needs looking after. By definition, Earthships are experimental and architecturally novel – and that’s why they make great inspiring spaces for learning. After 10 years of hosting many permaculture courses and eco-education events, and receiving thousands of visitors, our off-grid water and power systems need updating.

The building needs a new ultraviolet water filtration system to purify rainwater for use inside the building. We also need to purchase new batteries to store electricity generated by the solar panels, and to build a straw bale unit to securely house the new batteries.

Low Carbon Trust, the Sussex-based not-for-profit organisation, which developed the project and manages the building with its partner Brighton Permaculture Trust, has launched a crowd funding campaign to save Earthship Brighton by replacing its batteries and water filtration systems.


Please support us

Earthships seek to establish a beneficial connection with nature that is not exploitative, but is balanced by using abundant and renewable natural resources that flow on site. Earthships seek to mimic these functions. As a design Earthships sketch a holistic vision of sustainability rather than just a zero carbon footprint.

As one of only two Earthships in the UK we are proud of our position as a community centre, educational space and site for courses in natural building techniques. But now we need to turn to people power to help keep us going and to continue the relationships between humans, the natural world and the built environment.

Please consider donating to our crowd funding appeal and help us spread the word! We can only be as strong as our supporters.



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