Good news for Eurogreens who want a zero impact home but lack the skills to build their own. The man who constructed the mainland continent’s first Earthship, – an off-grid ecohome — has put it up for sale for less than it cost to build.
Surveyor Kevan Trott who finished his 130 square meter home in Normandy, France only a year and a half ago, has been forced to sell after he was hit by the recession. The three bedroom house with 3 foot thick walls constructed from old tyres filled with earth was originally on the market for 317,000 Euros ($465,000). But now he has dropped the price by nearly a quarter to 250,000 Euros. It is the first time an Earthship, has been available on the open market in Europe. “We have two houses, one in Brighton (UK), one in Normandy,” said Trott. “Unfortunately with two mortgages, things are a bit stretched at the moment and we have to choose one or the other. As well as three double bedrooms the accommodation features an open-plan kitchen /dining / living area, with oak beams, a marble and granite floor, a seating area and a “godin” woodburner. Off the kitchen is the systems and utility room housing a washing machine.
Self sufficient home
According to Trott, the house is completely self sufficient in water, power, sewage, cooling and heating. The bathroom has a grey water flushing WC, a basin, a bath and shower within the bath. There is a new gas-fired boiler in the utility room to boost the solar thermal system on dark winter days. “We can’t get enough rent from letting the Normandy house to cover the mortgage, and we can’t uproot from Brighton because of the kids schools, so with great reluctance we have had to put it up for sale.” Free from infrastructure Earthships, so-called because they are built of local earth, “float free” from infrastructure -mains water, gas, electricity and sewerage. Trott’s building is located on the edge of the small village of Ger, midway between Saint Malo and Caen, surrounded by hills, pastures, woods and orchards. Trott took a year to build it with his wife Gillian and a team of volunteers after being inspired to get involved in Brighton five years ago, at a talk given by Mike Reynolds, the American architect. “It’s a wonderful place to live in,” says Trott with real sadness. “It’s fantastic to be in a space that heats and cools itself, that operates completely autonomously and doesn’t have a damaging effect on the environment.”
As the first Earthship in Europe, the house was designed to demonstrate the viability of eco-living first hand and provide a blue-print for large-scale sustainable developments in the future.
Bound by red tape
Demand for earthships has been lower than hoped for admits Thanks to bureaucracy and the recession only 10 have been built in the UK, France and The Netherlands. “Planning and the reluctance of planners to think outside of the book of rules they have is the main obstacle, especially in the UK. The rules do offer a way forward for this type of development but planners are not keen to use them. But of course money is also a big issue,” says Trott. But they do seem to hit a ‘sweet spot’, providing a low carbon lifestyle without compromising modern day standards of convenience. Built of tyres… The rear wall of the building was constructed from 750 tyres and internal walls are made of clay, straw, sand and water. But the south-facing front is fully glazed to maximise thermal gain. It is separated from the rooms by a seven foot wide corridor which functions as a thermal buffer. As a result the bedrooms maintain a constant temperature of 16 degrees C with little or no additional heating. Hot water is provided by a solar heated hot water tank and electricity comes from an array of 10 solar panels and one wind turbine together with 6 batteries for energy storage. Water is harvested from the roof and stored in 10,000 litre cisterns buried under ground.
…and red ink
It’s clearly an inspirational building. But you cant help wondering if an asking price of even E250,000 isn’t, well, a little steep? “Not at all,” says Trott. The house cost E200,000 to construct and Trott and his wife spent six months working on it unpaid. But then he says there are agency commissions of a further E15,000 and capital gains tax and VAT taxes which could amount to another E30,000. “We put a lot of hard work into pushing the boundaries of eco and sustainable design and we will still lose money.”
For more information contact Kevantrott@mac.com or www.ibs-immobilier.net/viewrecord.php?id=144
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