Codes and Laws

40 years of research and development of self-sufficient housing made from recycled materials.

Development of Earth friendly and people friendly community living concepts that require little or no mortgage payment and no utility bills.

This section discusses the art of dealing with those individuals and ultimately crossing the mountain range to the "promised land."

We are here to help you!
We provide consulting services to guide you through the permitting process.

> Earthship Biotecture Consultation

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earthship codes



We are all up against a formidable mountain range ofobsolete dogma inhabited by building code officials and loan officerswho are from a different world than those of us wanting to build and sail in earthships.




Buildings codes and lending institutions basically control the type of housing that is available or possible. This is because building permits and financing must be obtained prior to building. Most new or different concepts have to be rigorously proven to the building code officials as officials are not being paid to take risks on new ideas. they are being paid to enforce existing dogma. Consequently, they tend to go by the existing books regardless of environmental or human issues to make sure they don't lose their jobs.

To further complicate the matter, the lending institutions do not necessarily accept any approvals of new ideas by the building code officials anyway. Their objective is to secure the resale value of the dwelling to cover themselves in case of default by the borrower. Consequently they stick to things that have proven to re-sell over the years regardless of whether they are appropriate for the planet or for the people.

Every state follows the same Uniform Building Code. This code has a clause that allows for alternative methods "not covered in this document." It states that alternative methods must meet requirements and standards of those presented in the UBC. Your objective would, therefore, be to illustrate that Earthship Biotecture meets and exceeds the standards put forth in the UBC. In New Mexico, this has already been done. If you plan to build in New Mexico you are home free as far as the codes and permits go.

Every state has a different policy on how approvals are handled. For example, New Mexico has a statewide policy. If something is approved by the state office it holds true all over the state. Colorado, (where many Earthships have been built), has a county by county policy which means that each county has the power to interpret alternative methods as they see fit. This means that if one county approves, it does not necessarily mean that the next one will. Several counties in Colorado have approved of this concept. No one has rejected it. Some, however, have been more difficult than others to deal with. Thus the first step is to find how your state operates and then you will know where to go to present the concept.


Step 1:
Presenting the Concept

If your particular state or county has not already approved an Earthship, you must first present the concept. Earthship Biotecture has documents and videos that will help this.

Earthship 101 video:
(Part I and II at right) Overview of the basic Earthship systems, types of buildings and Earthship communities in Taos County, New Mexico.


Engineering Report:
Evaluation of the seismic performance of alternative construction materials in New Mexico. Prepared for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also in the Engineer's Report is a portion of the engineering evaluation of the Dennis Weaver Earthship, 10,000 square feet near Ridgeway, Colorado.

Earthship Volume I:
How to Build Your Own $35. The Determining factors of the Earthship Concept. The "Independent Vessel." The primary building blocks. Details and skills. The Greenhouse. Assimilation of Modules. Finishes. How to Operate an Earthship. Prototypes.

Tire Building Code:
A Building Code for bearing and retaining walls made from earth rammed tires.


Step 2:
Presenting Your Project

Now you must evaluate the reception that you got to your initial presentation of the concept. You determine the scope of your initial project based on this reception. If it was overwhelmingly good, you could present a reasonable sized simple "by the book Earthship" as your project that you are requesting a permit for. If the reception was somewhat skeptical then you reduce the scope of what you are asking for.

The point is to not ask for too much at first. Under the worst circumstances, you may only want to ask for a demonstration - permit for one room. A demonstration permit is simply for exhibition. You do not present it as your home. You say you will use it only if they approve of it after physical observation. You may think this is risky. However, when building inspectors whalk into a finished room during the winter, they feel how warm it is with no heating system, and they experience the structure itself. You will have no problem in getting them to allow you to occupy it.

What you are doing here is allowing an official the chance to see the concept before they are asked to risk their job on it. You are asking in small increments. Rarely would a building official refuse a demonstration. This puts the risk on your shoulders not theirs. Officials, engineers and even skeptics, have always been impressed upon actual on site observation of an Earthship room.

The point here is to determine just how small of a 'bite' to ask the inspector to swallow in this phase. It is better to have it too small than too large, for both you and your inspector. One or two rooms is a good demonstration size and can easily be evolved into phase one of your total home.

You present this demonstration as a rammed earth thermal mass dwelling - not a rubber tire house. Rammed earth is a term that many are familiar with. Earthships are in fact rammed earth. The earth is rammed in steel belted casings. This makes rammed earth brick more durable than conventional rammed earth or adobe.

Another factor of your presentation is not to mention all the other systems at first. Get approval on the structural concept of the Earthship first, then go for the systems. If you go to a building inspector and say I want to build a rubber tire house with gray water, catch water, and flush toilet contained sewage treatment systems, and solar electric systems, they will most likely be overwhelmed. That is just too much new stuff to lay on them all at once.

You go and present the concept - get a feeling for his reception to that and then ask to build a small demonstration unit or prototype to illustrate the concept - that is all. Think of the designs for this demonstration as phase one of your total project. After you have structural approval, you begin with the systems.

We are here to help you!
We provide consulting services to guide you through the permitting process.

> Earthship Biotecture Consultation


Global Earthship two bedroom plan

Global Earthship two bedroom plan

Earthship Tire Can Wall








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About Earthship Biotecture

Earthship construction drawings are designed to meet standard building code requirements so you can get a permit no matter where you are. Earthship Biotecture is beyond LEED Architecture. Earthships are green buildings that meet standard building codes. EarthshipBiotecture is based on the work of principal architect, Michael Reynolds. (see: media resume)

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