Indonesia’s first of many Earthships resorts is under construction on the island of Gili Kenawa, in West Sumbawa. Like neighbouring islands in the West Nusa Tenggara region of Indonesia, it’s covered by green hills and a perfect location for the construction of Earthships – sustainable, off-grid homes built of recycled materials. A bit like pets – you have to maintain and nurture them – this one began construction late last year, marking the beginning of a planned Earthship resort on the so-called “Earthship Island”.
The pilot project is part of Eco Regions Indonesia, a sustainable development program covering more than 20,000 hectares of island forest, reefs and beaches in Lombok and Sumbawa. The ambitious plan aims to create Asia’s largest eco-region – addressing eco-tourism, environmental performance, the needs of the local community and sustainable development.
The partnership between Eco Regions and Earthship Biotecture in Gili Kenawa will jointly develop Southeast Asia’s first Earthship academy and Earthship resort. The project began in late 2016 and includes a minimum of 44 Earthships, to be built in three years.
The Earthship team comprises more than 50 people and includes a specialised construction team and a group of local workers and volunteers, who will train other local teams for future construction. Agus, a local worker from nearby Poto Tano and one of the first to be trained in Earthship construction, is proud to be involved.
“This is the first of such buildings in Indonesia,” Agus told the Jakarta Post. “There are old tires and plastic bottles everywhere, so it’s good to learn how to make strong buildings with this.”
Sustainable warrior Brooke said the heat on the beautiful island was a bit of a shock when she first arrived, but the team – which includes volunteers from across the world – was settling in to learn from eco-legend Mike Reynolds, who leads the project.
Mike, a 72-year-old architect who has been named the ‘father of the global Earthship movement’, has been living in and building these passive, off-the-grid homes for almost 40 years, adapting their design to use in various weather conditions and locations.
“I think real sustainability involves six aspects of humanity,” Mike told The Jakarta Post.
“First, humans need comfortable shelter that doesn’t use fuel. We all need electricity and water, and all societies need to do something with sewage and the garbage they produce. Last but not least, everybody needs food.”
He said that in order to live sustainably, all of humanity needs to address these six aspects of living.
“We’re trying to make a building that addresses all of these six things, all the time, all over the world. That’s what this building will be,” Mike said.
Building an Earthship
The Earthship is built using tires stuffed with compressed soil, tin, mud, plastic, and bottles for insulation and decoration. Energy is captured from the sun and wind, and rain is gathered for water. Grey water is treated to water gardens around the Earthship.
The building under construction is less than 20 degree Celsius inside, while the outdoor temperature is unbearable. The insulation system of recycled bottles circulates and cools the air as it enters and moves within the building, creating a natural airflow without the use of conventional air-conditioning or fans.
Mike said the off-grid systems are sustainable and easy to adapt to.
“I have been living in an Earthship for more than 40 years,” he said. “My office is an Earthship, my house is an Earthship. When I am hungry, I just go into the Earthships, pick bananas, grapes and I eat. I don’t have utility bills; when it rains, I am happy because I have water. But when it’s not raining I am happy too because I have the sun and sun makes electricity. I know that when I use the toilet, I am making soil for the plants. Every part of your daily life routine is contributing to your daily life routine and the Earth.”