Little did I know when I started responding to private emails that we get about our posts that I would be posting again so soon …
We have been exchanging email recently with some of the folks at Earthship Botecture about a post (removed by them) that they received on their website (www.earthship.org) on January 3. The content of the post is still available (cached in Google), and follows:
TOPIC: I would like to share my Earthship Building plans
I would like to share my Earthship Building plans with you, for free.
I am also VERY curious why Michael is too lazy to share them with everyone and why he doesn’t update us on the status of the DIY book.
One of the emails from Earthship Biotecture noted that they were unhappy both with someone stating that Michael Reynolds was lazy, and with someone further offering up free, alternative plans on their site. They were curious to know if we knew anything about the contents of this post. I must admit I share their curiosity.
Now … those are indeed MY plans and MY Picasso photo album. I posted the plans for our Earthship home to our blog, just as we have posted virtually every step of our construction process. I used Picasso for this purpose as it was a convenient vehicle for showcasing a gallery of plan pages, and all photos were automatically stored in Picasso on the original version of our blog when it was hosted on Blogger. I did NOT post to the Earthship Biotecture web site, and I do NOT know who the user ‘earthshipcommunity’ is on their site.
I actually had a brief opportunity to meet Michael Reynolds while he was on-site working on an Earthship in British Columbia last summer. I introduced myself by saying that I had never had the opportunity to tell someone before that I had read all of their books … I thought it was kind of a funny ice breaker. He took it in stride, asked me a little bit about our construction project, and went back to work. Watching him and his crew work for a few hours that day I would be hard pressed to call him lazy … he was all over the site and did not stop. Really, I do not think I have ever met a lazy housing contractor, they simply do not stay in business. After 12 years of operating my own custom built log house company, providing the plans for these buildings (I am a licensed engineer) and working in the field to build some of these same houses, my hat goes off to Michael Reynolds. He has been in the house construction business for decades and his house designs are all over the world.
I would say that I know the writer Michael Reynolds much more intimately. I have read most (if not all) of his books and more recently have watched some of the DVD’s he has assembled. My first reading of the Earthship Volumes was more about philosophy than house construction. Over a decade of building log houses had left me VERY dissatisfied. Conventional home construction is expensive and unsustainable. Rather than feeling good about providing people with the basic need of shelter, I felt that I was contributing (both as an engineer and a home builder) to unsustainable trends that are rampantly out of control. Michael Reynold’s books present a paradigm shift in addressing shelter that vocalized my own discontented musings on the topic. Literally, I felt compelled to act after reading these books.
While laying out my own construction plans I perused the Earthship volumes repetitively. No good relationship is without its fights, and I admit I alternatively cursed and praised Michael Reynolds; praise for his approach, and curses for his occasional lack of detail. Regardless, I found Michael Reynolds to be an inspirational author, and used his books extensively as the basis for my plans.
We were motivated to post our house plans on-line for a few reasons. I wanted feedback on my approach; I had never designed or built a sustainable dwelling before, and I figured the more eyes that saw the plans the better. We also wanted to give back; we have benefited enormously from volunteers and the on-line community during this project, we saw the opportunity to share some of our learning experience as a fair trade and a way to promote a more sustainable life style. Posting the plan set on-line was a logical extension of sharing our experience, and consistent with numerous other owner-built earthship projects that have also posted their plans.
To use my on-line plan set as an argument that Michael Reynolds should offer his work for free is ludicrous. I do not have four decades of experience in earthship design and construction. Innovation is expensive; time is required to experiment, and money is needed to turn new designs into practical products. The potential for litigation against any design professional who works ‘outside’ of the box cannot be ignored. If a house fails to meet the stringent requirements of the building code, being sued is a distinct possibility. If you do not wish to purchase someone’s product then don’t, but don’t turn around and insist that because you want his experience and skills for free you are entitled. I purchased all of Michael Reynold’s books that I have read, and consider them more than fairly priced for the knowledge imparted. Nothing is stopping you from starting construction tomorrow and learning on your own … it is an excellent though often painful way to learn!
I would like to point out that something obtained for free (like my plans) is worth what it cost you. My plans are by no means static; we have revised them on the fly, and my understanding of earthship construction has evolved significantly since those plans were written. I would definitely do some things differently (and already have), and still do not know how some of the things shown on those plans (like gray water, electrical, water collection and finishing) will look at the end of the project. I did not post those plans so that people could duplicate them; they are specific to my location, my building authority, my budget and my preferences.
I completely understand that the people at Earthship Biotecture might be upset that someone would call Michael Reynolds lazy, and insist that he share his work for free. I would like to extend my sincere apology to the crew of Earthship Biotecture and Michael Reynolds specifically as it was my online plan set that was used to justify this attack. I would not be where I am today without the input and indirect guidance of Michael Reynolds.
Further, to the person who claimed to be me (I guess I am talking to the on-line avatar ‘earthshipcommunity’ from the Earthship Biotecture web site) … I am more than unhappy. You have misrepresented my work as yours, and impersonated me on-line to further your agenda. Both of these activities are illegal, and more importantly immoral. Your actions and statements represent the worst of the on-line community, and are reprehensible. The anonymity of the on-line world allows people to say and do things that they would not imagine doing in the real world. I have no doubt that your behaviour will one day catch up to you.
PS – Michael, if you read this and anything about it moves you (or even brings a tear to your eye), a better drawing and description of the gray water planters would be much appreciated!