Home > Green Buildings > A Sustainable Architect, Michael Reynolds: Case Study

A Sustainable Architect, Michael Reynolds: Case Study

By: James Murray-White - Updated: 12 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Eco Architect Versatile Sustainable

Michael Reynolds is a highly versatile and prolific eco-architect, based In New Mexico, USA. He believes in the sustainable use of materials and the earth’s precious resources, and designs wonderful houses, offices and habitats of all kinds on this abiding principle. Reynolds has received increased worldwide attention due to being the focus of a documentary, ‘Garbage Warrior’, that follows his work and methods.

He is known as “radically sustainable” due to his criticism of the profession of architecture worldwide as being wasteful, and in his ability to design from an understanding of self-sustainability, i.e. that the building and the humans who use it should be able to support themselves energy-wise and resource-wise (water and food) using the structure as the principal resource.

His background: Education & Early Ideas

Reynolds graduated in 1969 in architecture from the University of Cincinatti. His thesis on building from unconventional materials was published in an architectural journal, and he started building structures for himself, and then for clients.

He realised during his studies and early designs that any so-called object of waste, be it a car tyre or an empty plastic or glass bottle, becomes as powerful and as important as a brick or any other conventional building material, if handled as such. His way of working is to fill the ‘waste’ object with sand or earth, and see it as an essential part of a bigger structure.

One of his earliest projects, the ‘Thumb House’, was completed in 1972, and used wired-together beer bottles. These then had a layer of mortar, and then plaster overlay. This gave rise to his term ‘Earthship Biotecture’, which has become the key term for his way of working, which has in turn inspired many others to build structures in this way, around the world.

Later Projects and Growing Support

Reynolds has continued to improve upon his idea, and each new project develops the work further. Solar panels and geothermal heating of the walls, also from the daily heat of the sun, are now a standard part of each projects design. Reynolds was given valuable support in the 1980’s when several high-profile American actors commissioned Earthship houses from him. He become known as a ‘Green Hero’, and has published at least 5 books on sustainable architecture and specifically the Earthship style.

Buying an ‘Earthship’

Reynolds has pioneered Earthships being bought and built from a kit, with instruction from supplied materials, designs and plans. They can be shipped from his practise anywhere in the world, and can be tailor-made to local conditions, and then finished to the client’s specification. They are to be lived in and enjoyed around the Globe, in a variety of hot and cold living conditions, and are very beautiful, totally sustainable, ultimate ‘eco’ homes.

Reynolds on Reynolds

Speaking about one of his new projects, The Phoenix, in the documentary film about him (Garbage Warrior), Reynolds said: "There's nothing coming into this house, no power lines, no gas lines, no sewage lines coming out, no water lines coming in, no energy being used.

The house uses water from a well - approximately 6,000 gallons worth. It also have internal space designed for growing food, with drip irrigation systems.

"What these kind of houses are doing is taking every aspect of your life and putting it into your own hands... a family of four could totally survive here without having to go to the store."

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