Earthship Europe

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Europe

The first earhship to be built in Europe was planned in Boingt, Belgium. It's a small municipality in the French speaking region of Belgium.

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Artists impression from the earthship Boingt - Illustration: M. Reynolds, Earthship Biotecture

Josephine, a journalist, had visited Michael Reynolds in New Mexico and had him made a design for an earthship in Belgium. She had convinced the municipality to have it build and had the energy and water systems transported over from the USA to Antwerp.

The design of the earthship is clearly still modular and a cisterns module is still included (we are talking the year 2000).

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Floorplan of the intended earthship at Boingt, Belgium - Design: M. Reynolds, Earthship Biotecture

While the team of Earthship Biotecture was on his way to Europe, the council of the municipality put their veto on the project.

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Artists impression from the earthship Boingt - Illustration: M. Reynolds, Earthship Biotecture

Despite this major setback Josephine did not intend to give up her plans. Michael Reynolds didn't want to return to the US without having done something in Europe.


On the spot, being Josephine's home in Strombeek, it was decided a small demonstration earthship without systems would be build in her backyard. The Biotecture team from the US were housed in Josephine's home.

Earthship Strombeek, Belgium
Walls and woodwork finished - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

The complete tire work was done in 3 days. The cross beams of the roof were manufactured on the spot with slats and fibreboard. They can securely overlap up to 8 meters, and can be created by anyone.

Earthship Strombeek, Belgium
Outer layers of the wall being finished - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

A mixture of sand, small pieces of straw and cement was thrown with the hand from far against the earthship. This is the most effective and also the best way to make the first layer. The following layers gradually became finer until a smooth surface was obtained.

Earthship Strombeek, Belgium
EPDM rubber nearly finished - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

The roof was covered with EPDM rubber, because this kind of rubber produces no harmful substances that would end up in the water, in the event of water reception for use.

After a week of hard work  the first earthship in Belgium and Europe was a fact. Besides the glazing it was completed.


Next was earthship Fife in Scotland initiated by Sustainable Communities Initiatives (SCI).

Building started July 2002. The design was a simple U-module meant as a demonstration and test in the Scottish climate. Reynolds and his team came over for 8 days to do most of the tire work.

Earthship Fife, Scotland
Work in progress

There were some Scottish adaptations done on request of SCI:

  • Vertical glass on the front
  • Second layer of glass on the inside to act as a buffer, creating a double glazed corridor in front of the bulding (later applied by Reynolds in the Global model)
  • A thermal wrap insulation all around the building and a waterproof membrane (later applied by Reynolds in the Global model)
  • Traditional stone facings on the front of the building

Building finished August 2004 and with it 'The Earthship Toolkit. Your Guide to Building a Zero Waste Zero Energy Future' by Susan Kemp and Paula Cowie. In the book you will find a very well documented building process with all its ups and downs and well worth reading. The book can be bought on their website.

Earthship Fife, Scotland
Earthship Fife, Scotland


Next earthship to be designed by Reynolds is the earthship Valencia in Spain. Initiators are Oscar and Lisa. The design is a combination of a U-modules with no glazing in between living space and greenhouse area nor an insulated thermal wrap as in Scotland.

Earthship Valencia, Spain
First U ready - Photo: Earthship Valencia, Spain

Building started in spring of 2003. Reynolds team was there for 2 weeks pounding tires as a workshop. Since Oscar and Lisa did most of the building with the occasional groups of volunteers helping out it took them quite some time to get the building finished.

Earthship Valencia, SpainVolunteers from Belgium and The Netherlands lend a helping hand - Photo: Earthship Valencia, Spain

By 2008 the building was completed.

Earthship Valencia, Spain
Finished earthship - Photo: Earthship Valencia, Spain

In April 2011 Oscar and Lisa did some adaptations to the earthship. Their two main focal points have been the planter and the front face. Too much water in one and too much sun on the other.

A three way valve was placed to send the kitchen and washing machine water directly out to our septic. This made the whole thing smell better, the water is cleaner looking in the toilet, and there is no overflow whatsoever and no revolting grease trap to clean.

Awnings were installed which have kept the temperature at 22ºC when it got up over 30ºC outside and summer shades were put over the enormous skylights to stop the heat coming through.

Earthship Valencia, Spain
Awnings to keep the sun out in summer - Photo: Earthship Valencia, Spain

The three way valve is one of the evolutions Michael Reynolds did as well in his grey water system. At the time he designed earthship Valencia and even Brighton all water went to the planter and gave trouble with the particle filters getting greased up and the system sometimes produced a nasty smell, as was experienced in earthship Valencia.


In spring 2004 another project kicked of in Brighton, UK. The design by Reynolds was a modular one, a combination of a nest model and a hut model with a conservatory in front.

Earthship Brighton, UK
Earthship Brighton floorplan - Design: M. Reynolds, Earthship Biotecture

As in Scotland a thermal wrap insulation was applied. The team of Reynolds was yet again involved in the tire pounding part. The rest was build by volunteers from UK and the rest of Europe, as where all the other projects.

Earthship Brighton, UK
Earthship Brighton view from the West - Photo: Mischa Hewitt, Low Carbon Trust, UK

By autumn 2006 the earthship was finished.

Earthship Brighton, UK
Earthship Brighton in the clouds - Photo: Mischa Hewitt

One point of interest in the Brighton earthship is the fact that the University of Brighton placed sensors in the wall to research the thermal build up in the wall. These where placed when the building wasn't even quite finished. Some of the results can be found in 'Earthships. Building a zero carbon futures for homes' by Mischa Hewitt and Kevin Telfer. The book can be bought on the website of Low Carbon Trust, UK


Next earthship to be designed by Reynolds in Europe is the earthship Ger in France. This is the first Global model built in Europe and included the thermal wrap insulation. The project was initiated by Kevin and Julian Trott.

Earthship Ger, France
August 2007 and almost finished on the outside - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

Building started April 2007. Again a team of Reynolds came over to do the tire pounding and a bit more this time. Because of having the Biotecture team there for a longer period and the model being a Global model, the walls, wood construction, roof and windows where done in about 6 weeks.

Earthship Ger, France
Plastering of the inner walls with a small group of volunteers - Photo: Earthship Ger, France

The remaining time work progressed more slowly and with a smaller number of volunteers, mainly focusing on finishing the inside.

Earthship Ger, France
The end result - Photo: Earthship Ger, France

By spring 2008 the earthship was finished and rented as a gîte.


After France, the next project Reynolds designed was earthship Zwolle in The Netherlands. This project was initiated by Woningcoöperatie Zwolle and was a gift to Doepark Nooterhof in Zwolle.

Earthship Zwolle, The Netherlands
Interior of the greenhouse with planter cells - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

The design was a Global model, but with an entrance in the North wall. Building started summer 2008.

Earthship Zwolle, The Netherlands
Interior of the kitchen - Photo: David Verstappen

Because of the high ground water levels and a lack of stable ground a big concrete foundation was poured and the earthship was lifted up instead of dug into the ground.

Earthship Zwolle, The Netherlands
Interior of the tea room - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

The Reynolds team came in for the usual tire pounding and the building was finished with the help of the Biotecture Euro crew, local contractors and volunteers. The earthship isn't off grid either but connected to sewage, water and electricity. The strict laws for a building with a public function in the Netherlands didn't allow differently.

Earthship Zwolle, The Netherlands
Outside view on the earthship - Photo: David Verstappen, Earthship Belgium

The building was finished in the summer of 2009 and has since then been used as a tea house for the park.

More earthships where built in Europe that where not designed by Reynolds. Earthships where build in countries like Sweden, Portugal and Estonia.

An overview can be found on the European earthships map on the EEBU website