By Mary Elizabeth O’Toole
Building an earth-bermed tire home is an adventure that it not without its challenges. In the March issue, Pippa Creery and Bob Kloske shared some of what inspired them to take on this labour-intensive project (“Earthships: A New Way of Building,” March 2019).
One of the early challenges they faced was finding an engineer who was familiar with this type of build – or at least open to considering non-traditional approaches – to provide the necessary engineer’s stamp
They were lucky to have a mentor who had been through the process of designing and building an earth-bermed tire home and was able to offer some guidance. This connection meant that they did not have to start from scratch on their design. “We were able to use our friends’ design, making some adaptations for our own needs and learning from their experience,” Bob said. “We made some improvements, like the approach to ventilation that helped us to meet different codes.”
Planning ahead is critical. The ventilation system includes strategically placed air tubes that will go through the earth berm to circulate air, warming incoming air in winter and cooling the air in summer Gaps are left for the ventilation tubes, which come later in the process. Similarly, pipes must be placed early for future cisterns to hold rainwater.
Gathering materials is daunting. The back wall alone takes more than 800 tires. They’ve had some tires delivered to the site, but have also covered many miles picking up available tires in a wide range of sizes. They used tire chalk to mark each one and organize them by size. They build with similar sizes on each level, getting smaller towards the top.
They agree that you need a good sense of humour when you’re on such a steep learning curve. “When we first laid out the foundation,” Pippa said, “we were baffled that the dimensions were way off from the engineer’s sketched concept – until we realized that he had done the dimensions based on truck tires, which are not as readily available.”
On a practical level, one of the biggest challenges is the weather, especially rain. When the aggregate gets wet, it requires at least 2 days to dry, meaning lost work time and constant covering and uncovering the earth berm.
--Next month, lessons learned and advice for building your own earth-bermed tire structure.
For more resources on this type of structure, visit https://www.earthshipglobal.com/, the official site of Michael Reynolds, originator of the term “Earth Ship”.