Authors: Aymeric D. & Anna B.

The city of Olst (North East Netherlands) has witnessed the development of 23 earthships in 2011.

Here is the concept of an earthship, applied to the “Aardhuis” of Olst (Earthship in Dutch).

The idea initially came from Michael Reynolds, an American architect. The goal was to build an ecological and self-sufficient house fulfilling these six criteria:

1. Temperature must stay constant thanks to solar and thermal energy (insulation)

2. Solar and wind electricity

3. Independent sewage system

4. Construction with natural and recycled materials

5. Water recovery

6. Food production

One can build one on their own as there is no knowledge needed : construction is accessible to all, just requiring support from others for construction. Workshops and instruction manuals are available through websites for construction provision and knowledge. Building time can vary from 30 days to many years, depending on the assistance and motivation. Aardehuis of Olst have build 23 houses within two years, with the help of more than a thousand volunteers from around the world.

 Picture Credit : Le Journal Terre Native & Aardehuis Olst

The Earthship is built with ecological, sustainable, and recycled materials. By using natural local materials such as earth, straw, wood, and stones and giving life to used objects such as bottles, cans, or tires, the construction of the Earthship is extremely beneficial to our planet. At Aardehuis, the construction doesn’t follow the exact Earthship architecture as several houses don’t have the typical “tire-wall” of the Earthship.

These houses are made of straw and earth, but only half of the walls are composed of tires. Tires acts as amazing insulation, although hard to recycle. Some walls are also composed of bottled glass, which allow light to pass through.

 Picture Credit : Le Journal Terra Native & Aardehuis Olst

An earthship is willing to be as self-sufficient as possible through energy, water use, and waste. The goal is to be as independent as possible from the state services (electricity, water, sewage), where each house at Aardehuis has composting toilets, groundwater pumps, and solar heating.

For the water they pump it straight from the groundwater then, when used, they process it themselves on the spot through a natural filter system (stones, reeds,…) so it can be given back to nature (which leads to the groundwater again). For electricity, they use solar panels.

​Picture Credit : Le Journal Terre Native & Aardehuis Olst

Houses are built in a way that doesn’t waste energy, with great south facing windows, where the sun is strongest year-round. Heat is stocked by the walls during the day time and spread over the night time. Wouter, our guide, has got a revolutionary stove which spread the heat in the water pipes to heat the water, and on stones which will keep the warmth for a long time. When it is very cold, wood is burnt for heat. Heat waste is very low, although occurs through the chimney.

North facing where there is no sun-heat, there are no windows, and no energy lost. Some mirrors are placed around the roof windows to bring in brightness!

​Picture Credit : Le Journal Terre Native & Aardehuis Olst

These 23 houses have been built within the same project, through owners themselves and volunteers. These houses had one common architect who worked together with helpers throughout construction.

The inhabitants have built a communal building which can be used by all to give workshops, parties, and to gather. A community spirit rules over this little village where people know each others and help each others.

Ultimately, this way of living offers a soft reconnection to simplify life concerning all natural needs of a human being.

Few links to visit:

– An interview of Michael Reynold in 2013 by Vice (5′ to read)

– The Aardehuis of Olst (Official Website)

Sources for this article : Journal Terre Native, Aardehuis & Vice

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