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From urbanity to an earthship
Couple set to build off-the-grid home, be self-sufficient
Kris Plantz and Nicole Bennett are moving closer to their groundbreaking dream of living entirely off the land.
The Fort Rouge-based couple, who currently own a house on McMillan Avenue, hope to soon start building an off-the-grid home — otherwise known as an earthship — in the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews.
An earthship is built with tires rammed with earth, which are stacked like bricks to form a dense, structural wall that provides a thermal mass for energy efficiency. Thermal mass stores heat, releasing it slowly, which keeps the indoor temperature constant as outdoor conditions change.
That means the pair can expect an indoor temperature of 14 or 15 C on a brutal -30 C Manitoba winter’s day, said Plantz, noting a berm will also be built around part of the property.
The couple was inspired after watching a documentary called Garbage Warrior, and after attending various seminars, bought a 66-acre, former farm lot in the RM in February.
Plantz, an environmental technologist, said construction could begin in early June if the couple’s application for a building permit is rubber-stamped.
"We want to live off the land and be farmers and grow our own food," said Plantz, who believes the house will be the first of its kind in Manitoba. "We want to be totally self-sufficient."
He said the design also includes harnessing solar power for electricity, an indoor greenhouse for food production and the collection of rainwater for domestic use.
"The whole premise is reusing and recycling as many materials as possible for our build and living in an almost completely zero footprint way," Plantz said.
Bennett, a software project manager, hopes it won’t be long before she can start building her dream.
"I just love the idea, as it seems magical. I want to pick my own tomatoes in my room in the middle of winter. It seems like the right way to live," she said.
Bennett said the couple has already been contacted by up to 100 individuals volunteering to help build the house this summer and learn about its systems.
"We’d love to hear from more people, as this type of project is interesting but hard work. Some people will hang around longer and mentor new volunteers," Bennett said.
"We want to develop and foster a community. Hopefully this won’t be the last earthship in Manitoba," she said, noting the house will take "about a year to build if we’re on top of things."
Southwestern U.S. architect Michael Reynolds, founder of Earthship Biotecture, is credited with building the first earthship in the 1970s.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or search for Manitoba Earthship Project on Facebook.
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