For 18 years, David Craig built conventional homes.
Then, he saw the film Garbage Warrior, a 2007 documentary about Mike Reynolds, who came up with the Earthship style of building. Intrigued, he went to take a course from Reynolds in New Mexico.
When he got back to Canada, he quit his job (“it was a good job,” he said) and began building Earthships. He has two of these completed and sold under his belt.
Craig’s company, Talking Trees Communities, is one of the ‘stakeholders’ in C & T North Frontenac’s One Small Town project.
Craig’s part, and indeed his vision, is to create a community of Earthships.
“Eighty-nine would work, 111 would be nice,” he said.
Currently, Craig is working out of the house beside the liquor store in Plevna that’s serving as the overall project’s headquarters.
“I don’t have any say in this building, I’m just in it,” he said. “It’s all of our offices.”
He’d really rather be out there building Earthships.
“To make the projects viable, we’d need 300 to 500 acres,” he said.
For those unfamiliar with the Earthship design concept, they are based on six principles or human needs:
• thermal/solar heating and cooling
• solar and wind electricity
• self-contained sewage treatment
• building with natural and recycled materials
• water harvesting and long-term storage
• some internal food production capabilities.
Craig’s design is based on Reynolds’ but he’s modified it somewhat. He retains the six principles and recycles tires to create the thermal mass which is a crucial component to the heating/cooling system but he’s scrapped the horseshoe concept which he deemed unnecessary to the functions of the house and added some insulation to the thermal mass.
But it’s essentially still the off-grid, self-sustaining plan Reynolds came up with in the early ’70s.
“The conventional house is a freezing, useless box,” he said. “An Earthship will stay at 15 degrees year ’round.
“Now that’s too cold for most people in the winter so you’ll need an additional heating source but nowhere near as much as you do in a conventional home, regardless of how it’s insulated.”
He said the owner of the home plays a big part in the design in terms of how many solar panels are used, size of the greenhouse and accoutrements as well as actual construction if desired but $150 per square foot is “middle ground” building cost for these homes.
The actual plan for One Small Town is very much still in the planning stages but for Craig location and/or construction of the other components (medical centre, electrical generating plant, aquaculture facility, apiary and wood products) is a non-issue. He’s ready to start building houses as soon as the land is secured and subdivided.
“We (the Earthship component) don’t need the power,” he said.