Project Description

unm-taos earthship school

Summer 2019: June 3 – July 26
Tuesdays & Thursdays 12pm – 2:30pm
*Syllabus may be subject to change*
Instructor: Jonah Reynolds, Designer, Contractor

COURSE TITLE: Earthship 101
LENGTH OF TIME: This is an 8 week, 3 credit course

This course provides an in-depth, hands-on overview of Earthship designs, systems and construction. Designs, permits, build-site, systems, maintenance and operations are reviewed. Applying Earthship design principles to existing buildings is covered. In the field, hands-on experience and applications are prioritized and required. This course can be viewed as an intensive deep-dive into Earthship design principles, construction and systems toward a certificate in construction management as well as ultimately a certificate and potential job-placement in Earthship Design and Construction opportunities.

Interested? Call or email to register: (575) 737-6215 /
Stop by UNM-Taos and register. UNM Taos 1157 County Road 110, Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
or fill out this form. :

[contact-form-7 id=”9757″ title=”UNM-Taos signup”] We will contact you with registration details.

Upon completion of the course, the student should be able to:

  • Understand the basics of Sustainable Design and Construction and be able to analyze the build-site, materials properties and choices, build-site dynamics, maximize efficiencies and provide analysis thereof.
  • Compile a drawing/construction set with permit application, a basic understanding of construction management dynamics and able to comprehend local building codes and regulations.
  • Understand Earthship structure, design and layout. A solid basis for understanding and implementing tire walls, can walls and bottle walls and other basic build-components for Earthship construction.
  • Have a solid, basic understanding of how to heat and cool Earthships and other building types with little to no fossil fuels, utilizing passive solar and thermal dynamics principles. Able to design and build these systems, in a basic way; i.e., how to install insulation, thermal mass, etc.
  • Have a solid, basic understanding of how to treat liquid waster-water on-site in contained treatment and distribution botanical cells (planters). How to design and plumb these systems, as well as maintenance and other details.
  • Have a solid, basic understanding of how to catch water from the sky, filter it and provide fresh, potable water throughout the building. How to design and plumb these systems as well as maintenance and other details.
  • Have a solid, basic understanding of how harvest electricity from the sun (and any other source), store the electricity in batteries and distribute it throughout the building. How to design and wire the electrical systems as well as maintenance and other details.
  • Conduct a home energy audit, determine where the inefficiencies are and how to improve upon them. How to make recommendations to retrofit the building utilizing the rest of the systems outlined in this course.
  • This course will prepare students for the Construction Management Certificate.

Keep up with reading, discussions and assignments.
Participate fully in classroom and in-the-field discussions.
Complete all assignments by the given due date.
Ask questions when clarification is needed.
Contact your instructor when situations arise that will affect class performance.

This course covers the Earthship design principles, build-site details and design aspects, construction and permit drawings as well as permit applications and codes and regulations. These topics provide a solid foundation and essential beginning for students looking at pursuing careers in any aspect of the sustainable design and construction industry. More in-depth courses on each system and topic will be available as students pursue their educational career and move on after this course.

Pangea Builders Sustainable Design and Construction eTextbooks available at

Additional information will be provided by instructor

Will be provided by instructor

There is a lot of writing required in this course. There is a lot of writing required ‘out in the world’ when designing and building. Essay responses should be at least two (2) full pages and be written or neat and easily legible writing or typed and must be in academic, professional writing. In the business world we are judged by our ability to communicate clearly and efficiently. This will also be a good opportunity for you to become more familiar with APA writing and formatting. Here is a link to more information on APA style

The essay assignment in this course must be supported by either the course textbook or another credible source. Sources must be cited correctly using APA formatting.

You are required to post the essay assignment by the end of the last class for each course segment where an essay is assigned (details and specifics in the course schedule document). Do not wait until the night before or the last day to begin the essay. The essay assignments must be started at the beginning of the course segment. As in the ‘real-world’, projects are started early and worked on throughout, resulting in a solid and impressive project. Treat this as the priority during each course segment. The purpose of the essay assignments are to build on your knowledge of the material on hand.

Essays can be written or typed and must be hand delivered to your professor. No email, no fax no deliver later, no excuses. Turn the essays in on-time. If your essays are not turned in on-time, you may receive zero points.

Essays and tests are designed to be a teaching tool for you to continue to move along in the comprehension of these concepts. Through self-reflection and personal understanding you will understand and be successful in this course and in life.

Do not cheat, you will only cheat yourself and receive a zero points. Write and present clearly and with intention. We are a team and we can help each other. Students are encouraged to help each other with all aspects of this course. The writing of the essay assignments and tests must be done individually. Preparations, study and draft reviews can be done together.

The policy of the University of New Mexico-Taos is that academic honesty is one of the basic steps toward personal and academic development. All University policies regarding academic honesty apply to this course. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating or copying, plagiarism (claiming credit for the words or works of another from any type of source such as print, Internet or electronic database, or failing to cite the source), fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. The University’s full statement on academic honesty and the consequences for failure to comply is available in the college catalog or online at

In accordance with UNM Policy 2310 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), academic adjustments may be made for students with disabilities.  Accessibility Services, at the Center for Academic Success and Achievement (CASA), coordinates accommodations and services.  If you have a disability for which you may request academic adjustments and have not registered with their office, please do so as soon as possible. Also meet with Director, Diego Trujillo privately to discuss your specific accommodations needs and how they relate to course expectations and assignments. CASA is located on the Klauer Campus and can be reached at (575) 737-3695.

In an effort to meet obligations under Title IX, UNM faculty, Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Assistants are considered “responsible employees” by the Department of Education (see pg 15 –   This designation requires that any report of gender discrimination which includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence made to a faculty member, TA, or GA must be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at the Office of Equal Opportunity ( For more information on the campus policy regarding sexual misconduct, see:

Even in an online course, students are expected to know and abide by the Student Code of Conduct. Here is the link for your knowledge and review:

You may earn a maximum of 720 points in the class:

6 Essays at 44 points each
8 Tests at 44 points each

8 In the field sessions at 13 points each

720 to 700 = A+
699 to 679 = A
678 to 658 = A-
657 to 647 = B+
646 to 626 = B
625 to 605 = B-
604 to 584 = C+
583 to 563 = C
562 to 542 = C-
541 to 521 = D
520 and below = F

Any grade below a C- according to UNM policy is considered a non-passing grade.

Grading is done every Sunday!

It is very important that you check your UNM email on a regular basis as this in the main method of communication utilized by the University. Instructors will not respond to email if it does not come from your address. You can forward or connect your UNM email to another email address – please see the link below: 

Students should always first work with their instructor regarding issues or situations with the course. If the issue is not resolved, students and/or instructors should contact the appropriate Department Chair at UNM-Taos (refer to Schedule of Classes). The Area Coordinator is the next person in the chain of command with the Dean of Instruction having final say in unresolved issues.

A primer: Sustainable Design & Construction 

Optimize Site Potential
Optimize Energy Use
Protect & Conserve Water
Embodied Energy
Optimize Building Space
Optimize Material Use
Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality
Optimize Operational & Maintenance Practices
Design Objectives
Guided by Design: Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, Regenerate
Functional / Operational
Historic Preservation
Secure / Safe

Build Site, Permits, Construction

The Building Site

    • Qualities & Features of the site
    • Site Development Layout

Permission to Build

    • Codes & Laws
    • Drawings: Construction Set & Permit Set
    • Submit for a Building Permit
    • Inspections

The Construction Site

    • 8 Characteristics of a great construction manager.
    • Tools
    • Organize Materials & Components
    • Materials Awareness

Example Permit Application

Earthship & Tire Wall Construction


    • Building Layout
    • Pythagorean theorem
    • Orientation

Tire Work

    • Setup, Start Properly
    • Pounding Tires
    • Codes & Tire Walls
    • Harvesting Tires

Can & Bottle Work

    • How to Make Bottle Bricks
    • Concrete Mix
    • Building Walls
    • Harvesting Materials

Buttresses & Footings

Doors & Window Boxes
Plates & Beams

Vaulted Arches
Vapor Barriers

Heating & Cooling

Passive Solar

    • Heat Flow & Energy Gain
    • Capturing and Holding Heat
    • Space & Designs

Climate & Culture: Physics & Humanity

    • Climate Types
    • Locally Aware


    • R-Value, Air Leaks
    • Thermal Wrap
    • How to Install

Thermal Mass

    • How it Works
    • Materials Properties
    • How to Install


    • Four Types
    • Venting & Shading

Thermal Envelope

    • Heat Loss/Gain
    • Barriers & Venting


    • Retrofits
    • Designs & Installation
    • Thermographic Inspections

Liquid Waste Water Treatment

Greywater Planter

Blackwater Planter


    • Kitchen
    • Bathroom

How to Build the Planters

    • Components & Connections
    • Layout and Digout
    • Reception & Pre-Treatment
    • Plumbing
    • Observation Stems
    • Filling the Planter
    • Recirculation
    • Pumps and Filters


    • Reception
    • Filters
    • Pumps


Catch Water


    • Reduce Leaks
    • Reduce Use
    • Calculations

Catching the Water

    • Roofs & Materials
    • Slopes & Designs
    • Silt Catch & Gutters

Storing the Water

    • Cisterns Types
    • Size & Capacity
    • Plumbing
    • Insulation & Burial

Water Organizing Module

    • Installing the WOM
    • Plumbing the WOM
    • Drinking Water
    • Maintenance

Heating Water


Energy Use

    • Reduce Use
    • Monitor Use
    • Calculations

Solar & Wind

    • Roofs & Materials
    • Slopes & Designs
    • Silt Catch & Gutters

How to

    • Wiring panels, batteries
    • DC vs AC
    • Grid-Tie
    • Set-Up, Design, Install

Power Organizing Module

    • Installing the POM
    • Wiring the POM
    • Maintenance

Best Practices

Home Energy Audit