Re: Summarizing - Affordability and Living Cheaper in Coho
From: rpdowds (
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2013 16:42:05 -0800 (PST)
Fair enough: The Earthships website is less convincing than it should be (but 
thanks for looking). Even so, this eco-village is great to visit -- I've been 
there twice -- and it provides a number of publications and videos that are 
very engaging. 

The basic architectural idea is: Rammed earth dwellings backed into dirt mounds 
stabilized by old tires and thrown-out beverage containers ... plus 
south-facing glazing for supporting everything from passive solar to hot house 
gardening. The enclosures are rude and rough ... but the interiors are 
amazingly artful, beautiful, and crafty-unique. The floor plans — a sequence of 
half-buried rooms strung out along a south-facing circulation gallery, often 
planted out -- are really quite simple and standardized, even if the interiors 
look elaborately decorated. Do not insist that "simple" must equal plain, 
impersonal or austere. 

Proprietary technology provides everything from three-stage water management to 
hyper-efficient refrigerators and photovoltaic electricity. But ... in order to 
cook ... they still must bring in energy concentrated in the form of propane in 
tanks. It's very hard to get 100% off the grid and still live a modern life. 

Socially, it has all ended up survivalist, I'm-all-right-Jack, leave me be with 
my family in my Earthship. Cohousing, and community, it's not. Cheap and 
elegant living, it is.* Partly because much of this housing is built 
sweat-equity. Point? Cohousing is clearly a particular kind of social 
innovation, which can prosper and succeed perfectly well in almost any built 
context. Cohousing is a sociological, not architectural, adventure. 
Eco-villages are often technologically -- and sometimes culturally -- far out 
... but are not necessarily cohousing. There is no deterministic correlation 
between "cheap housing", and cohousing. 


* Well, cash-cheap for the pioneers who pounded sand for months, creating their 
own house. Open market, these customized, one-of-a-kind dwellings carry 
surprisingly high price tags, especially for New Mexico. 

PS: Good quote from Architect Mr McDonough. But I would go further. Ability to 
imagine a future is the foundation of human intention. Imagining a future is 
what separates us from all the fish of the sea, birds of the air, and beasts of 
the field. Maybe a little after that, we figure out how to design something ... 

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]> 
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]> 
Sent: Saturday, January 5, 2013 6:06:13 PM 
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Summarizing - Affordability and Living Cheaper in Coho 

On Jan 5, 2013, at 4:27 PM, rpdowds [at] wrote: 

> Taos Earthships (yes, I know, single family, but lots of other redeeming 
> characteristics). Go find 

But they are built into the earth. A similar effect is simulated by joining and 
stacking units so they share the insulating qualities. 

I found this site to be not well designed. The photographs are there but 
grouped in ways that I didn't come away with a clear vision and certainly not 
one of simplicity. They seemed complicated. 

Sharon Villines, Historic Takoma Park, Washington DC 
"Design is the first sign of human intention." William McDonough 

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