Docking into mother earthship

Brighton Council has given the green light to a development of houses built from tin cans and tyres. But would you pay £400k to live in one?

Constructing Earthship, Brighton

Built from yesterday’s rubbish, the new Earthship housing scheme approved for Brighton on a prime 1.1-hectare site overlooking the marina is property development with a difference.

Because if all goes to plan, motorists arriving in the city from the East will soon get a fine view of 16 remarkable eco homes that could turn out to be the answer to both the UK’s housing and landfill crises.

In allowing such unusual constructions at such a high-profile location the council was doing more than just turning a blind eye to a couple of eccentric eco-activists: it was laying down a gauntlet to the rest of the country.


Earthship, Stanmer Park, Brighton

“This is just the sort of forward thinking scheme that Brighton and Hove should be championing,” enthused Brighton Council’s Head of Sustainability, Thomas Crocket.

“The Earthships are yet another example of the innovative sustainable buildings at which the city excels.”

What’s an Earthship?Earthship interior, America 

 The development, nicknamed ‘the Lizard’, after the site’s current cold-blooded residents, will be the first UK community of innovative Earthship homes, and it represents an audacious challenge to our building industry.

Developed by American Michael Reynolds, architect and founder of Earthship Biotecture, the philosophy behind the Earthship homes is that they should do three things:

1. Firstly, they must be sustainable, reusing materials wherever possible.

2. Secondly, they have to generate their own utilities and be independent from the grid.

3. And thirdly, they should be a home that the average person with no specialist construction skills would be able to build for themselves.

Cans and Mortar – building from the bin 

Building Earthship, Stanmer Park, Brighton

 Earthships look beautiful, but they are actually built largely from rubbish.

The exterior walls are made of old car tyres rammed with earth using a sledgehammer, a method which is cheap, results in a strong load-bearing capacity, and is fire resistant.

Internal, non-supporting walls are made of a honeycomb of recycled cans and bottles separated by concrete, which look stunning in the raw.

But, if you do want plastered walls, the pull-tabs from the cans can be used as a lathe to hold the adobe and stucco.

Off the grid: green and clean 

Earthship interior, Stanmer Park, Brighton

 With a heavily insulated roof and windows on the sunny side to admit the maximum light and heat, the Earthship is designed to work with its environment to create its own utilities.

Independent of mains power and services, the Lizard Earthships will make good use of the sunny coastal position to generate their power requirements from wind turbines and solar panels, while the tyre walls will absorb and store heat.

The scheme should even be independent for its water needs, harvesting rainwater and treating its own waste.


15,000 Tyres

Plan for new Earthship development, Brighton

 As well as producing almost no carbon emissions, the buildings will help keep the air clean for the rest of us by cutting down on the amount of waste going into landfill or incineration.

The Lizard site is expected to require 15,000 used tyres, which, at a time when 40 million may be burned in the UK each year, is a small but encouraging step in the right direction.

And you don’t even need to worry about the reptiles. Plans are in place to enhance the habitats for the lucky lizards that currently live on the site.

Climate Change 

Earthship, Stanmer Park, Brighton

 The Lizard isn’t yet another green experiment. First developed in the 1970s, thousands of Earthships have already been built, mainly in and around Taos, New Mexico.

So far Britain boasts two Earthships, one in Fife and the other, built by the Low Carbon Trust, in Stanmer, near Brighton.

But these are one-off buildings, used as office and community space, rather than the residential dwellings promised at the Lizard development.

A prototype residential Earthship, adapted for the European climate, is currently under construction in Normandy, with a second in Brittany to follow, so hopefully any problems will have been ironed out before work commences this side of the Channel.

Can I have one? 

Earthship interior, America
 The 16-unit Lizard, with one, two and three bedroomed homes, will be the world’s highest density of Earthships, and should be a beacon for further developments worldwide.

Although permission has been granted, the development is still at a very early stage. But, if all goes well, it is hoped that building could start as early as autumn this year.

The Lizard has attracted a lot of interest, and Darren Howarth, co-director of Biotecture, says he has already had hundreds of enquiries from potential buyers.

It is estimated that the homes could go on sale at between £250,000 and £400,000, a very reasonable cost for no-bills housing on a prime location in Brighton. Six homes will also be allocated to housing associations.

Try before you buy 

Tours of the Brighton Stanmer Park Earthship are taking place on the 1st and the 3rd Sunday of every month this year. For Stanmer Park Earthship tours contact Jon Kalviac on

Or, if you happen to be in Taos, New Mexico, you can experience living in an Earthship at the Greater World Earthship Community.

As well as nightly rentals, the community offers seminar weekends and training opportunities on live Earthship developments.

So if you were wondering what to do with that pile of rubbish in your back garden…

For further information about the Lizard scheme, visit  Earthship Development .

Nikki Sheehan



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