A new chapter began on Monday for Luxembourg’s sustainable construction project, the Äerdschëff, when 20 volunteers started the ground work.

Based on earthship principles, the project in Redange-sur-Attert in western Luxembourg will serve as a showcase for alternative and sustainable construction as well as a public education centre.

Project team member Rodrigo Vergara described the first day as “exciting”. “There lot more people than I thought, which is good. Next week is going to be even more,” he told Delano on Monday.

luxembourg-earthshipThus far some 20 people from all over Europe responded to the call for volunteers put out through the Service Nationale de la Jeunesse to work up to four weeks constructing the building.

First time away from home

For Ariana, an Italian national, it is the first time away from her family. “It’s strange but I have to do things I’d never do at home. I’m living with men and women I don’t know. It’s hard but I want to do something that can change me, change my mind and I want to learn more.”

She adds that she is also thrilled to be part of a landmark project for Luxembourg and the Greater Region and hopes one day to be able to show her children what her hands helped to build.

For 27-year-old Marseille native Ornela, the project is a chance to build on the knowledge she’s gained working in the municipality’s urban planning department. “For me it’s a continuation of my career as a project manager,” she said, adding that she was also at the stage in her life where she’d like to build her own home. “I find it interesting to build my own house with my own ideas that correspond with the era we era we are in […] I also love meeting new people and learning new cultures.”

While Ornela had never considered visiting Luxembourg prior to the project, she said she was pleasantly surprised by how green and wild it was.

The site, on the grounds of the Atert Lycée, was slightly less foreign for Luxembourger Andre, who lives in Luxembourg City. “I’ve known about the earthship project for two years seeing an RTL documentary and then a movie on Netflix. It’s an interesting project,” he said, explaining that he’s gradually changed his lifestyle to reduce his carbon footprint through actions such as making his own bread, using just public transport and travelling by bicycle. “I came here by bus, it took one hour,” he explained. Andre said he hoped to learn from the experience. “Maybe someday I’ll try to build one myself. Since I live in a small flat of 30 square metres,” he said.

luxembourg-earthship

From desert to Luxembourg

Earthships were pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds in the New Mexico desert in the 1970s as a means to live off-the-grid. Today there are over 2,000 Earthships around the world constructed from natural or upcycled materials.

The volunteers will work on ramming earth into repurposed tyres to form part of the wall of the structure. On 5 August, they’ll be joined by the Earthship crew, a team of experts in such projects, as well as some local volunteers. The Äerdschëff will also use glass bottles as bricks, old doors, and use new innovations in sustainability such as miscanthus, a type of grass grown in Luxembourg, for insulation. The roof, meanwhile, will be filled with shredded hemp fibres. It will feature an aquaponics systems for the private quarters, which will serve as a home to two volunteers in future.

Launched in 2015 by the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg (Cell), the project is supported by rural development agency Leader, as well as Oeuvre and the Kyoto Fund. It is expected to be open in 2020.