Our Home: The Touch the Earth Ranch House Story
Energy Efficient, Off the Grid, Self-Sustaining & Comfortable!
Our Home: The Touch the Earth Ranch House Story
Our Tire-House Story
We started in 1989, by wanting to build an earth-friendly house in which to retire. We had inherited the property, now we needed the house. I had started the drawings for a one-fifth sphere geodesic dome with a bermed wall on the north side, very similar in function to an "Earthship", and when the tire idea came by way of a friend who loaned us the "Earthship" book, we both loved it.
We bought the book, and went to a Michael Reynolds DIY seminar. We put the house in town up for sale, it sold in a week. We moved our 23 ft. travel trailer onto the property, and forty-five days later we moved out there ourselves. I started drawing the plans for the "Tire-House" on my PC-CAD system, now housed in the trailer.
My first set of tire-house plans was on five sheets. With them in hand and the books and some pictures, along with the Engineering Report created for the Dennis Weaver house in Ridgeway, Colorado, we made our way to the El Paso County Regional Building Department Plans Examiner's office for our first handshake and presentation of our plans. He hated the idea, just sat and shook his head. His first comment was; "No way you'll build that house in this county!"
Lucky for me, having an engineering background (aerospace; for 25 years), I knew that he couldn't just "not like" the concept. I asked, why and he said, "I don't like those walls". So, I showed him the Dennis Weaver House Engineering Study done by Tom Griepentrog of Buckhorn Geotech in Montrose, CO. He hated that, .. it was too good.
The truth was, he really didnt have the time to digest all the necessary new concepts to really evaluate the drawings. So, he stalled, picked out one thing he didn’t like and sent me off to correct it. Only to come back and find another thing he didn’t like. This took six months in total, culminated by the examiner throwing my plan set (now 10 sheets, into the air) and me out of his office, in front of eight or ten local slack-jawed contractors, ouch. This all over the final barrier, his interpretation of the calculations on the "earth-cliff". What a scene! With some added ink by Tom Griepentrog, the "earth-cliff" finally proved out structurally (on paper), and he had to approve the plan set for permitting.
We spent many hours in the trailer "construction office" for 4 1/2 years. Through four winters in Colorado at 7,500' altitude. We learned a lot about just plain survival. While I pounded tires (never with frozen dirt, though... it just won't compact), cut & peeled trees from our over-forested property, framed and roofed, etc. We also learned an appreciation for space to move, fresh air to breathe, condensation, and warmth (or lack of it, in the trailer). The things we would have the most of when we would move into our tire-house.
Yes, that's a tomato, and yes, that's snow outside. Tomatoes in February in Colorado?!?!?!
The house works better than we had imagined, in spite of M.R.'s oversights in detail. The concept is excellent, in our opinions. On the coldest of winter days the temperature inside never goes below 63ºF, even when it's been very cold (-27ºF our coldest night) and with no additional heat in the house, it was still 60ºF. On the hottest of summer days (95ºF outside) inside temperatures don't go over 80ºF in the shade. It's always quite warm under the solar array windows, when the sun is shining.
Turns out, we were the first people in our area to get a building permit for one of these houses. People started coming down our driveway to see the "strange house". Eventually, someone asked me to draw them a set of plans, and off we went. Touch the Earth Construction was born, providing site evaluation, consulting, and plan sets. Since then, I have been involved as the "Architectural Designer" (your personal Architectural Draftsman and Tire-building Consultant), in over forty projects, using tire-wall construction. The last ten of twelve being tire-bale residences.
Despite being in engineering for more than 25 years, many things were learned during the construction of this type of unique home. Our house was built as seen in the "Earthship" books, so we made the mistakes inherent therein. Of course, we didn't know that then. It is my intention to openly share this knowledge, and help others avoid some of the same issues that will occur during tire-construction.
Please see the "Helpful Hints" page for more detailed information!
" Mike Shealy was of great help in the design and completion of our earth/tire house. We had many questions as our project progressed and Mike was always available to answer them and share new ideas. We highly recommend his many talents and patient assistance."
by: Laura & Santi, Home Owners/Builders
About Michael Shealy
As an Architectural Designer, Michael provides residential designs using hybridized practical building techniques. These methods are beneficial to the Earth and the end user, employing used tires that are a highly durable, easily obtainable/free building material that removes problem waste from the eco-cycle.