December 9th , 2013 9:47 am Leave a comment

Johnson County home built of tires, cans and dreams


Some days Ken Lebensold can be heard pecking at the keys of his electronic keyboard inside his home, which is often referred to as an Earthship.

Photo by Brandon Hicks Ken Lebensold relies on solar panels to generate most of his electricity.

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Ken Lebensold relies on solar panels to generate most of his electricity.

Before greeting visitors accustomed to a more unsustainable way of living, his prized keyboard may resonate the progression of one of his favorite John Denver songs, called “It’s About Time.”

Lebensold describesd the song as having an environmentally friendly sentiment, which coincidentally describes his way of living.

“The song is about getting ourselves together and figuring out that we can’t keep living the way we have been living,” he said.

There’s one line in the song that sums up Lebensold’s alternative housing choice, and it goes, “It’s about time we start to see it, the earth is our only home.”

A window built into the wall behind his electronic keyboard doesn’t show what is outside his home, but instead provides a glimpse of the plan he and his late wife Etta had to minimize their impact on the Earth.

Whenever Lebensold opens the window for his guests, he reveals some of the 700 recycled tires and countless aluminum cans used to construct the back half of the home.

Each tire was filled with rammed earth using sledgehammers, which creates thermal mass that in turn regulates the temperature inside the home.

“It is a living house,” he said.

Lebensold’s Earthship, which was completed in 2002, is nestled into the side of a Johnson County mountain. It was Etta who lead him to settle into the area.

“My wife already owned land here before I knew her,” Lebensold said. “She always had a dream of someday coming here.”


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