Earth to Yellow Springs

Earth to Yellow Springs

Building their own home, one tire at a time

By Melissa Markham

Photo: Workers lay the foundational layers of the earth ship’s back wall; photo: Brian Page

As residents of the Dayton area, our reliance on others for survival is uncanny. We depend on grocery stores and restaurants for our food, service providers for our electricity, our heat, our clean water and sewage companies to treat our waste. When even one of these providers malfunctions or shuts down, most of us are all but helpless. There is a concept, however, of a home that takes care of you – as opposed to you constantly taking care of it. Lauren and Zac Craig are in the process of building such a home just outside of Yellow Springs.

Together, the Craigs have decided to free themselves from the restrictions, dependence and limitations of already existing homes and build their very own “earth ship.”

The Craigs’ concept for their home derived from Michael Reynolds’ idea of an earth ship – or “stand alone” home. An architect turned biotech, Reynolds told CNN an earth ship, built from recycled or discarded materials will “make its own energy, harvest its own water, contain and treat its own sewage.” Used tires, cans and glass bottles are staples in building such homes, providing a new use for things otherwise considered as garbage.

“We thought about the world we live in and how dependent we are on others for what we need, and decided we wanted something different for our child,” Lauren said, referring to their son Elliot, born in 2012.

In addition to creating a self-sustained home, Lauren and Zac plan on planting gardens around the property, which will serve as the family’s primary food source.

Upon completion, the Craigs will live in a home they own outright, and as such, hope to no longer need to meet the demands of a 40-hour work week. By eliminating monthly bills and greatly reducing the need for things from the outside, they will have more time to spend as a family, raising their son together instead of switching off while the other is at work.

“An earth ship met all of our needs at once,” Lauren said. “It allows us to choose when we want to work and to focus on directly providing for ourselves. We want our son to learn where things come from.”

Four miles from Yellow Springs lies the Craigs’ 5-acre plot, where the perimeter of their 1,700 square-foot home is presently lined with old tires. The home will be composed of 700-800 tires by its completion, all filled and packed with dirt. Its south-facing windows will allow sunlight to heat the tires throughout the day. Even after sunset, the tires will continue to omit heat, ensuring the home stays at least 55 degrees inside year-round. Many of the walls will also be made of earth bags, as they often retain more heat than the dirt-packed tires alone. Bottle bricks will also be used for some of the walls, namely in Elliot’s playroom, and will create a stained-glass effect. Cisterns in the back of the house will store the home’s water, provided by snow and rain run-off, and a wood-burning stove in the kitchen combined with radiant floor heating will ensure the climate inside is comfortable. The Craigs began building in April of this year and hope to have the outside completed by winter, leaving the cold winter months for work on the interior of the home.

“Right now we’re trying to keep our completion date flexible,” Lauren said. “We’re working on water-proofing things now and need to make sure every step is completed correctly and approved by the county. The last thing we want is to rush to finish something and end up having to undo it.”

A common misconception of man-made shelters like earth ships is they may be unstable or unable to endure strong weather conditions; Lauren assured this is not the case. Reynolds first began building earth ships in the Philippines and made sure they were not only able to survive hurricanes, but were also bullet proof, Lauren said.

“A lot of conventional homes are really just stick frame work,” Lauren said. “Homes like this are made to survive such things. It’s important to show people this is possible.”

To further involve the community and provide tangible resources for anyone curious about earth ships or sustainable living, the Craigs have begun hosting weekend workshops, starting around 9 a.m., at their property. The workshops are free and open to the public. During the workshops, people are welcome to come with questions and help participate in the build. Lauren has also started a blog, Secondhand Home Project, to document her family’s journey and provide access for anyone with questions about the process.

“The first weekend, we had 35 volunteers, which was amazing,” Lauren said. “We want to empower the average person and help others feel like they can take more control over their future.”

“We’re normal people,” Zac said. “This is just the next logical step for our family and our son.”

For more information about the Craigs’ earth home, please email secondhandhomeproject@gmail.com or visit secondhandhomeproject.blogspote.com. Workshops are held at the site located at 2687 S. River Road in Cedarville. Anyone interested in attending a workshop is asked to contact Lauren via the e-mail address above. Please bring lunch and water, and dress to get dirty. Work days typically begin around 9 a.m. and end around 5 p.m., though drop-ins are always welcome.

Reach DCP freelance writer Melissa Markham at MelissaMarkham@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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