It’s finally time for Grow Calgary to plant seeds.

Delayed over a year from it’s June 2014 construction date, the earthship green house is finally breaking ground again, to grow crops year-round and support more than 20 social agencies and food access organizations with fresh produce.

But it wasn’t an easy path for Grow Calgary to get here.

Grow Calgary

Months after the project was started in April 2015, the City of Calgary called for the demolition of their DIY structure. Grow Calgary didn’t have the development permits to put up the earthship, and as the city said, the materials used weren’t a part of the Alberta building code, so it had to come down.

Then, the city was stopped in its tracks as Grow Calgary opted to have the demolition order appealed. They were safe for another ten weeks and had been granted that time to seek the development permits from the city, as per the Alberta Safety Code Council appeal board ruling.

Finally, in May 2016, the city approved development permits for the earthship.

In Sept. Scottie Davidson, who is coordinating the build, began holding workshops again to complete the earthship. Sunday, finishing touches were put in place.

“I’m impressed that the city of Calgary is open to ideas such as the completion of the Econerds earthship greenhouse,” said Scottie. “With a building like this in place, it will give a true proof of concept to the earthship design in the Calgary area.”

Davidson said once it’s finished, the earthship could start producing food this year, with a steady flow of produce in 2017.

After a rocky start, Paul Hughes, with Grow Calgary, said finishing the earthship is a weight off the shoulders of hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly to make it happen. According to him, this is one of the most urban earthships currently on the books, and it sets a precedent for the city.

Grow Calgary

“For those Calgarians who want to embrace alternative materials and methods, I think this is a big win for all of us,” said Hughes. “We set out with best intentions…we learned a lot, and quite frankly I think the City of Calgary and the province also learned a lot.”

Hughes said they hope to grow the classic veggies, but are also toying with more exotic experiments like coconut.

“We’re going to use the earthship as a demonstration, experimental greenhouse and kickstart our season,” said Hughes. “It’s going to give us a myriad of options as far as germination is concerned.”
What’s an earthship?

Earthships are normally known as housing concepts. They are built up to be self-sufficient, using the suns rays to heat a packed-soil retaining wall. They gather rainwater instead of tapping into city pipes. And rely on passive energy. The Grow Calgary structure borrows from the traditional earthship builds, but adds a greenhouse element to the mix.

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