Before the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, pollution and litter plagued America.
Despite the obvious problems, architect Michael Reynolds saw an opportunity — making houses out of what he calls “garbage.”
“These materials are indigenous to the entire planet,” he tells Business Insider. “Everywhere you go, they’re present.”
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1969, Reynolds became a proponent of “radically sustainable” living. In ’72, he built his first house, made almost entirely from beer and pop cans.
Using a process Reynolds calls “earthship biotecture,” a two-bedroom home, requiring about 70,000 cans, would cost $US25,000 to $US30,000 — 20% less expensive than traditional building at the time.
“The beer can houses kind of started everything,” he recalls. Reynolds now runs Earthship Biotecture, a global architecture firm focused on creating self-sustaining homes.
Documerica, a photo project in the 1970s from the newly established EPA, captured Reynolds’ humble beginnings in Taos, New Mexico, the location of the first beer can houses.
Today, Reynolds runs Earthship Biotecture, a sustainable architecture firm founded on the same principles as the can houses. 'The buildings are completely self-sustaining,' he says.
'Earthships,' like this design in Phoenix, heat and cool themselves naturally, produce their own electricity, collect their own water from rain and snow, treat their own sewage, and grow a significant amount of their own food.
At this point, Reynolds and his team have built a few thousand earthships in almost every country around the world. Celebrities like Dennis Weaver have even commissioned Reynolds to build them million-dollar homes.
'It's a structure that will absolutely take care of you without any infrastructure,' Reynolds says. 'And in today's day in age, that's in high demand.'
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