Way up at the top of Box Canyon overlooking the San Fernando valley is a home built into the side of a mountain called the Earthship. It is the pride and joy of my friends Dr. Scott Bartchy (who teaches early Christianity at UCLA) and his lovely wife Nancy. Scott was assigned the task of being one of the critiquers of my little NT Rhetoric book (his critique will appear on this blog shortly), and since we are also friends of long duration, he invited me to come and see and spend the night at the Earthship. Since my wife teaches biology and environmental science, and since I have been concerned about ecology since I was young, of course I was excited to do this. This post is about what I saw. The big picture above shows the home which was built nine years. Scott tells me they were nearly hassled to death by the authorities in the process, and made to install all sorts of things to satisfy the code dragons, things they didn’t even need, like a hot water heater. Here is a plaque of what was said to Scott by one benighted soul in the process—
Amazing. Undaunted, and bloodied but unbowed, Scott and Nancy built away. There house has 18 solar panels on the roof, which supplies all the heating and cooling they could possibly need, not to mention electricity, a good deal of which they send back to the grid (for which they are paid zippo– I guess virtue really is its own reward). Scott explains to me some of the principles of the building of the house, which among other things includes these conglomerate sort of half concrete half shale blocks built into the dirt of the mountain itself. Some of it was well over my noggin. What was also impressive was the natural lighting created by what are called sun tunnels. These involve little domes on the roof, beneath which are tunnels down into the main part of the upstairs and downstairs which diffuse light and bring in an amazing quantity of it, ensuring even less need for electrical light.
The downstairs of the house has a great room which involves living room dining room, music room kitchen, as well as a fine large guest bedroom and large bathroom. The upstairs has two offices or an office and a study as well as a further bedroom and bath, and of course there are storage rooms, closets etc. Scott is a fine local jazz pianist with a group and he kindly gave me a CD of his latest recordings with the quartet, recorded live in the great room of the Earthship. You will see the exterior wall with the block construction below (and also my friend Scott) and also the long bank of solar panels on the roof. The house is quite fire retardant as well and interestingly there are various fireplaces in the house on both levels, not that they much need them. Scott says the temperature in the house varies from 68 up about 20 degrees or so without air conditioning, but it stays pretty constant. I snapped a shot of the front garden as well, which has some lovely color and flowers. With the solar panels comes a meter which tells you at any given moment how much electricity the sun is generating. Below you will see pictures of the upstairs study of Scott’s and Nancy working away in her upstairs office. Another feature of the house is floor tiles that seem to absorb and radiate heat– warm toes!! You will see both a sun tunnel and a more conventional sunlight at the bottom of the post.
Undoubtedly you will wonder whether this house cost a fortune to build, and the actual answer is no. Scott paid for the lot and all the solar equipment simply by buying four lots, selling off the other three which then paid for such expenses. Not only is the technology good enough to build such a house these days, it is affordable enough as well. No excuses. All homes in the future should be built so that we don’t have to pay heat, water, electrical etc. bills, wasting expensive energy.
Kudos to Scott and Nancy for showing us all the way forward. Jesus would be please. Waste not, want not, less carbon footprint too.