Earthships: The Power of Unconventional Ideas


Arizona Earthship HomeIn his book, A Coming of Wizards, Michael Reynolds said four mystical beings, whom he called “wizards,” appeared to him in psychedelic visions and gave him ideas that have guided his work. He wrote that the wizards taught him to “de-normalize” his thinking and tap into his own, personal “energy band.”

The source of his vision was unconventional. The results of his mystical inspiration, however, have been practical successes in the real world.

Mike is the inventor of the Earthship, a home design that uses recycled materials and nature’s own solar machinery to create snug, self-sufficient houses. When I met him in 1982, he’d already been building Earthships for the better part of a decade. They were scattered across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

They weren’t like any other houses in the world. Mike had spontaneously — maybe instinctively — set out to solve several different puzzles at the same time. He wanted his houses to be energy independent, comfortable and beautiful, and he wanted to reutilize waste materials in their construction.

Mike Reynolds half-buried his houses in south-facing hillsides and created their south walls entirely from high-quality insulated glass so they would capture the heating energy of the sun. He built durable, moisture-proof roofs, buried them in insulating soil, and planted native plants on them so the roof could grow its own summer shade, which naturally thinned and let the sun warm the roof in winter. He invented a unique ventilation system that pulled cool air from outside and pushed overheated air out through skylights during warm weather.

The Earthships needed to store solar energy to use overnight and during cold, dark weather. Mike designed massive, 4-foot-thick interior walls and positioned them in the sunlight streaming in from the south-facing windows. He constructed thick floors of concrete and adobe that soaked up sunshine all day and then radiated warmth at night.

John Williams
2/20/2012 12:38:43 AM

First time to comment and get involved in this blog… I’ve been Mother Earth News reader sense the 70’s and In 1979 on I have designed and built several Earth Sheltered Homes. (rebuilding web site now due to web host dropping all) But check it out if you like as it is being built. I’m also into Off The Grid Earth Sheltered Housing and ECO-PODS and alternates Thinking Outside The Box. I’m presently building several types of these units on a lot behind my present home. Earth Sheltered Container with Solar Passive and other off grid accessories like Solar Cooking, Parabolic Mirror from 10’ and a 6’ satellite dish, and implementation of many other things. Much going on that I should be sharing with all who are interested. I have always used Solar Passive and mass in my Earth Sheltered Homes… 2’ of earth over top and southern exposure and back in 1979-80 installed fire places with plenum circulation and/or heat stoves for homes… NOT NEEDED… and owners couldn’t use due to no need and overheating home. The homes have not used heat or cooling sense built in 79 and 80… houses paid from themselves via savings.

John Williams
2/20/2012 12:37:47 AM

I live in Winston-Salem, NC and doing off grid ECO-PODS on back lot from Earth Sheltered Container, and Oldcastle 8' ID storm culverts and and implementing many OFF GRID devices but mostly the Solar Passive Designs. being rebuilt but you can check it out if you like.

2/19/2012 12:57:42 AM

Susan, please email me at and I will share my information with you. My wife and I welcome visitors. ........Neil

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