Family building sustainable, off-the-grid home from tires, cans and concrete

DORR, Michigan -- Behind their Allegan County home, the Pennington family is building something totally unique to the West Michigan region; a sustainable, off-the-grid home.

"It is called an Earthship, it’s a sustainable eco-home made from mostly recyclable materials, tires and bottles and cans," Shelly Pennington said.

They first heard about 'Earthships' from a friend.

"A friend about 10 years ago said 'hey have you heard about these crazy houses and they are eco-friendly.' The more we learned, the more we realized that not only would we be making housing more affordable, we would use polluting materials to use for something beautiful," Shelly explained.

This summer, tire by tire, they got started.

"You stack them just like bricks," John Pennington said.

"I’ve been building for 20 years and I’ve been waiting for this. I was tired of building square boxes, really. What you can do with rebar, concrete and some tires - the imagination can run wild," John added.

The plan is to have almost 2000 square feet of self-sustaining room.

The tires will eventually be covered but are a key component to heat the home year round.

"Once they are pounded with the dirt they become a thermal battery and when you put all of them together you have such thermal mass that it retains heat from the sunlight and then radiates that all year long so it keeps that constant temperature," Shelly explained.

"It should stay around 68 to 72 degrees all year-round with no help," John added.

The home will also have its own water supply, catching thousands of gallons of rain water in tanks.

The water will be used for the sink, shower, toilet and to water plants in the attached greenhouse, before its sent back through a filtration system.

Wind tunnels buried into the walls will help keep the home cool if its gets too hot.

"This takes it to a different level, not only can we live sustainably, we can farm sustainably, we can live in harmony and not take from the planet but rather use natural means like wind or solar to live," Shelly said.

The Pennington's hope their Earthship home sets the standard for what the future can hold.

"This is going to be a demo model that we can bring to the masses," John said.

One to show future generations how to live sustainably.

"I’m hoping our daughter  doesn’t even remember a conventional house, she’ll be like you have to pay utility bills?" he added.

They hope to have the structure up by the end of winter and finish the build by late spring.

They are also asking for the community's help with the project, click here to find out how to help or to follow along with their build.

 

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