Happy 10th birthday to the Earthship!

The Earthship at Kinghorn
The Earthship at Kinghorn

Kinghorn project celebrates a decade of sustainability

Scotland’s first Earthship built on the banks of Kinghorn Loch is celebrating its tenth birthday this year with a host of fun and educational events and speakers in the coming weeks.

The Earthships's walls are made of recycled tyres

The Earthships's walls are made of recycled tyres

One of the highlights will be a family fun day on July 14 with a whole host of activities.

There will be lots of food and a beer tent; Caro Bridges, Dave’s New Bike and Beatroot are going to provide musical entertainment; and for those wanting to feed their intellects, there will be guest speakers in the Mongolian yurt.

Alastair Dawson, an organic livestock farmer and ecobuilder from Kinross will talk about his experience of building an earthship type house on his farm.

And Becky Little, one of Scotland’s leading experts in earth repair and construction will share some of her 20 years experience of the regional techniques of building with mud.

Louise Andree volunteer co-ordinator with SCI at the Earthship in Kinghorn . Earthship 10th anniversary feature

Louise Andree volunteer co-ordinator with SCI at the Earthship in Kinghorn . Earthship 10th anniversary feature

Since it was built by Sustainable Communities Initiatives, the Earthship has attracted visitors from the world over, as well as schoolchildren from around Fife and further afield wishing to find out how a building can be completely self sustaining.

And Louise Andree, SCI’s volunteer co-ordinator will be hosting a stall aimed at encouraging more volunteers to sign up to help Earthship to open for longer hours - it’s currenntly only open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m.

Paula Cowie, development manager with SCI, who was the pioneer behind the Kinghorn project, said: “Since we opened the Earthship in 2004 it has established itself as an important educational resource, promoting the importance of sustainable lifestyles. Thousands of people of all ages, walks of life and from all corners of the globe, have visited over the years and we hope this will continue to be the case for many more to come.”

Construction of the Earthship Fife Visitor Centre, which was also the very first in the UK, started in July 2002 during an intensive eight-day building programme with American Earthship builders, including pioneer Michael Reynolds, and 11 trainees from across Scotland and England.

From July 2002-2004 more than 200 volunteers completed the Earthship during weekends and work experience days.

It was officially opened on August 21, 2004. It has full planning permission and a permanent building warrant, giving validation to Earthship building techniques in Scotland.

Although the building is used purely as a demonstration centre, housing standards were applied when going through the planning and building warrant processes.

Paula added: “What I have been struck by over the years is that people are still very interested in it and are still coming to visit. Naturally visitor numbers haven’t stayed as high as they were in the beginning, but people are still coming from all over the world.

“The key for me is that we have inspired people to think about how they live. They may not go away from here and build their own Earthships, but they may take parts of it away with them and help make a difference. It has been really rewarding to be inspiring and supporting people in any way we can.”

The Earthship at Kinghorn is largely built into the hillside behind the loch, giving it a “Hobbit” style set-up to keep it warm. The walls are made of earth packed recycled tyres which, if exposed to the sun, retain warmth, creating insulation. The kitchen is recycled and the ceiling is a school’s old wooden floor.

The building is south facing, with large, full-length windows and a front-angled porch area which, in summer, protects it from the overhead mid-day sun, and in winter allows the sun’s rays to reach inside.

The building has a water turbine in a stream as well as a hydro turbine for its electricity, and also solar panels, while rainwater is collected in roof containers for the Earthship’s daily needs.

The rainwater is filtered and cleaned and used for drinking, showering and washing. Once it has been used the “grey water” is run through gravel to filter out most impurities and then used to water plants and flowers.

Underneath, a pump sends the unused water on to the toilet for flushing, after which it becomes “black water” which is pumped on to a greenhouse area and again filtered and used to water plants, fruit and vegetables.

Administrator and volunteer supervisor Louise Andree (42), from Burntisland, said: “It is a simple system which flows from one area to the next and is completely self-sustaining.

“The building here is small and is used for demonstration purposes, but in other areas people do build Earthships to live in.

“There are no energy bills or water costs, but with such buildings comes the responsibility of ensuring you don’t waste anything. For example, if there’s no sun for a period, or no rainfall, then you won’t have a lot of electricity or water, and you have to think carefully about using it.”