More than three years ago, a Lower East Side resident came to Community Board 3 with a dramatic idea: to build a fully sustainable single family home on an empty lot at 61 Pitt St. Nothing has been heard publicly about the plan since that time. But this past weekend, we got a look at an updated design and learned that the architect behind the proposal will be presenting his idea for the first “Earthship in the Sky” at a conference in New York City November 1.
In 2011, Ken Ruck, the local resident, showed the initial plans to CB3’s land use committee. While sustainable Earthship homes have been built all over the world, the Lower East Side project would be the first of its kind in an urban environment. Earthships, the brainchild of New Mexico-based architect Michael Reynolds, heat and cool themselves without fossil fuel, harvest their own electricity and water and even treat their own sewage. The homes also include extensive gardens for food.
In a press release, Reynolds said, “the idea here is to make many buildings in the cities reach up to the sun like sunflowers encountering natural phenomena for utilities rather than trying manufacture and deliver utilities at the extreme cost of the health of the planet and the quality of life of the people.” The New York design would entail building a narrow tower, leaving the street level lot “open and light,” while elevating the living space toward the sun.
In response to our questions regarding the delay in the project, Reynolds said their progress was slowed due to concerns about the cost of the original tower and about the sun reflecting mirror. “Then (Hurricane Sandy) happened,” he explained, “and we all saw how much a project like this is needed to stimulate the thinking relative to how vulnerable city dwellers are and how dependent they are on municipal utility systems.”
The proposed home is an adapted version of a design Reynolds has used in many rural locations. “For city dwellers,” Reynolds said, he “decided to simply take this proven unit and elevate it to the proper height for solar gain and energy/water harvest (relative to local structures south of the site).” Reynolds believes the home could help reinvent the way people in cities live. “The statement that this (home) would make to all city developers has the potential to change the scape of modern cities while providing city dwellers with the option of being as independent as rural off grid dwellers,” he said.
Reynolds will lead an all-day Earthship conference at the New School Saturday, November 1. Tickets are $100. Click here for more info.