Learning from ‘Earthship’ based on monitoring and thermal simulation

    Freney, Martin
    Soebarto, Veronica
    Williamson, Terry
    Buildings and energy


This paper describes research which investigates the thermal performance of Earthship, an autonomous, earth-sheltered housing concept that claims to require no active heating or cooling systems despite extreme climatic conditions. This research aims to test these claims through monitoring and thermal simulations. The study involves monitoring the indoor conditions in an Earthship home in New Mexico USA and uses the measured data to calibrate a computer model used to simulate the thermal performance of the home. A second part of the study compares Earthship thermal performance located in a temperate climate in Australia with that of buildings incorporating different wall construction materials such as strawbale, rammed earth, and brick veneer. Results from both of these studies substantiate the claims. The effect of including a greenhouse, earth-berm, and internal wall material is also explored and quantified. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the scope for reducing home energy use through the use of Earthship design principles and construction methods and the viability for building these houses in the Australian suburbs.

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