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Media Release

July 22 2009

Earthship founder talks going green in face of red tape

An example EarthshipControversial US eco-architect and founder of Earthship Biotecture, Michael Reynolds believes Australian houses made from recycled materials can be a reality in spite of regulatory barriers and may offer a significant contribution to managing climate change in Australia.

Considered one of the originators of the sustainability movement, Reynolds will deliver a free public lecture hosted by the Hawke Centre at UniSA as part of its sustainability forum series. Already fully booked, the lecture will take place this coming Monday (July 27) at the UniSA City East campus.

The focus of a recent documentary ‘Garbage Warrior’, Reynolds is renowned for development of homes called “earthships” constructed mainly from natural and recycled materials. Self sufficiency in water and electricity, a zero utilities bill and the use of waste products that are difficult to recycle, such as tyres, are among the benefits of the earthship design.

UniSA lecturer in the School of Art, Architecture and Design, Martin Freney, says earthships are a real alternative to traditional housing and a step beyond traditional eco-solutions. “Being self sufficient in water and electricity, and not needing an air conditioner, makes sense financially and environmentally”.

Mr Freney contends that while the public might be open to the idea of this kind of sustainable housing, building regulations in Australia could roadblock progress.

“Look at the opposition we’ve had to grey water systems,” he says.

“The challenge for our regulators is to keep pace with the innovations that are occurring around the world. Reynolds has demonstrated that this idea works in many climates, but if we aren’t allowed to try this out, we won’t benefit from this technology – we’re told to ‘go green’ and then prevented from doing so by red tape.”

Hundreds of earthships have been built in the Northern Hemisphere – mainly in the USA but also in Japan, India, UK, France, Holland and Canada - but they are yet to be rigorously tested under Australian conditions.

“UniSA is in discussion with Michael to build an educational facility in Adelaide,” Freney says.

“This would be a place where people can experience an earthship and see how the grey water and renewable energy systems work. They need to feel the comfort that can be achieved without air-con. From a research point of view, we need to determine how to optimise Michael’s designs for our particular climate.”

Elizabeth Ho, Hawke Centre Director, believes Reynolds’ visit is an important community engagement opportunity for South Australians, especially those considering their next building project.

“Michael was invited to Melbourne to explain why Earthships are a sensible choice for rebuilding areas devastated by bushfires. But this also makes sense for new suburban developments, primarily because they will be self sufficient in water and electricity. This reduces the strain on our resources and encourages people to live more sustainably. We should listen carefully to what he has to say,” she said.

The lecture is part of an Australian tour by Reynolds and is a joint initiative between UniSA, Zero Waste SA, and the State of Design Festival, and is supported by the Hawke Centre.

Event details:

Earthship Biotecture: Sustainable architecture for a changing climate with Michael E Reynolds.

Monday July 27 2009, 6:15pm for a 6:30pm start

Mutual Community Theatre, UniSA City East campus, Basil Hetzel Building, Frome Road, Adelaide

For more information visit www.hawkecentre.unisa.edu.au or phone (08) 8302 0371


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