By Michael Simon on August 11, 2010

Not only is this a sustainable, recycled home, but it also embodies Fibonacci's Golden Ratio!

Image used by permission of Earthship

Made from recycled materials and running on renewable energy, the astonishing buildings known as Earthships offer an extraordinarily green form of domestic living. Perhaps the strangest of them all is the Nautilus Earthship, a design based on the Fibonacci sequence, as seen in the Nautilus sea shell!

Image used by permission of Earthship

In the Fibonacci series, each number is the sum of the two that preceded it. What this means is that when mapped as a grid it forms an endless spiral — a form seen throughout nature, whether in sea shells, sunflower heads or artichoke flowers. Derived from this is the Golden Ratio, employed by artists and architects to achieve aesthetically pleasing compositions, which have included mankind's greatest works of art.

Image used by permission of Earthship

The Nautilus Earthship, built in 1995 in New Mexico, took its inspiration from this form, embodying the beauty, wonder and interrelation of nature. In fact, the Earthships, built from unwanted materials and running on sustainable power, are constructed so that their inhabitants will have almost no impact on their environment. It is a structure that adapts the needs of its inhabitants to suit those that the planet can amply provide for.

Image used by permission of Earthship

The creators of the Nautilus explain on their website: “We must realize that we, the users of the vessel (the home), are part of the vessel. This is much the same as we, the users of the earth, are part of the earth. The Earthship is a participant in the prevailing systems of planet earth. It causes no conflict, no stress, no depletion, no trauma to the planet earth.

Image used by permission of Earthship

“Just as the human body is a result of the various systems that support it — (circulatory systems, nervous systems, respiratory systems, etc....) so must the Earthship be a product of the systems that support it. In view of this, we have made the Earthship systems both understandable and available to the common everyday human.”

Image used by permission of Earthship

The Earthships are, in fact, surprisingly cheap. Because of the way they run, living costs are extremely inexpensive while the materials with which they are built are secondhand — however, they are built in such a way as to be extremely sturdy and hence require little maintenance.

An annotated diagram of a Global Model Earthship. Image used by permission of Earthship

The basic building blocks of the Earthships are recycled rubber car tires, which are packed with compacted earth and sealed in steel-belted rubber to form thick, solid walls. Also used in the process are bottles and cans, while shredded plastic is used alongside gravel in the sewage systems.

Image used by permission of Earthship

The building catches rain water and allows it to be used up to four times. All the energy needed for the house is captured by solar panels and wind turbines, while all sewage produced can be treated and reused for food production. Through these means the mystery as to how water, electricity and sewage arrive and depart from the home vanishes, reconnecting the inhabitants with the environment — something that the Earthship community calls “direct living,” as people are put back into synchrony with the planet's rhythm.

Image used by permission of Earthship

Earthships can be placed anywhere in the world, in any climate, and they can be adapted so that they will meet all building codes.

Image used by permission of Earthship

Many of the Earthships are built into the ground, meaning that living in them is comparable to living in a cave. However, whereas a cave is insulated by its mass, the Earthships are also heated by the sun. Unlike most designs, the Nautilus is entirely above ground, as it sits on lava rock. Because of this, it is veneered with straw bales for extra insulation.

Image used by permission of Earthship

In an interview with, Michael Reynolds, the primary architect of the Earthships, described the reactions that the Nautilus receives: “Some people are scared off by the Nautilus. It looks too fairytale and too strange. Some people want just a simple-looking house that makes no statement at all. Some want their house to look like everyone else's. And for a long time we didn't care what they looked like — we just wanted them to work.

Image used by permission of Earthship

“But there are quite a few people — more than half — who are moved by the shapes of the Nautilus. It's a castle. It's a fairytale. And we have a lot of designs that are like that. It's not limited, it can go any way you want it to. If you're trying to cross the ocean in a boat, your main concern is that it will float.”

Perhaps these strange vessels really are the best way to sustainably survive upon the shifting seas of our world.

Sources: 1, 2

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