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Posts Tagged ‘earth sheltered’

Rob Roy’s earth-sheltered cordwood home

Rob Roy’s earth-sheltered cordwood home


“More than a third of the average American’s after-tax income is devoted to shelter, usually rent or mortgage payments. If a person works from age 20 to age 65, it can be fairly argued that he or she has put in 15 years (20 in California) just to keep a roof over their head. With a piece of land, six months’ work, and — say — $35,000, he (or she) and his family could have built his own home.

To save 14½ years of work, you cannot afford not to build, even if it means losing a job while you do it. Granted, the land (and the $35,000) has to come from somewhere, but this amount is no more (and probably no less) than the down payment on a mortgaged contractor-built home, and about half the cost of a new double-wide mobile home (figuring either option as being about the same square footage as an earth-sheltered home).

So… why don’t more people do it? Is it really worth giving up 15+ years of your life (and I’d say for many people, more) to pay off the house you live in just to save yourself the effort of having to do it yourself? Surely it can’t be that a life of 9-to-5 indentured servitude is so wonderful that one can’t give up a summer or three building a house like the one above, which I believe came in at about $20,000… And with an increasing percentage of people defaulting on their mortgages and losing all of those years, even on a risk management level it seems completely nonsensical.”

Source: I Need More Life

“An earth-sheltered, earth-roofed home has the least impact upon the land of all housing styles, leaving almost zero footprint on the planet.

Earth-Sheltered Houses is a practical guide for those who want to build their own underground home at moderate cost. It describes the benefits of sheltering a home with earth, including the added comfort and energy efficiency from the moderating influence of the earth on the home’s temperature (keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer), along with the benefits of low maintenance and the protection against fire, sound, earthquake, and storm afforded by the earth. Extra benefits from adding an earth or other living roof option include greater longevity of the roof substrate, fine aesthetics, and environmental harmony.”
Earth-Sheltered Houses by Rob Roy

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Kelly and Owen,
I’d like to thank you for all of the wonderful information you have offered for free to the world! I’ve been following along for about a year now and it just keeps getting better and better.

I have a question about insulation and thermal mass. I live in Austin Texas and our summer nights are a lot of times only 20 degrees cooler than the day time high. Which that day time high can get to over 110F. If I build with only earth/adobe filled bags, I don’t think that the house would be very comfortable during the summer months. I’m planning on rebuilding a small dilapidated shed in about a year using the hyperadobe method. The shed will have plumbing and electrical. Basically I’m going to build it just like I would build a house for our family to live in full time. This is going to be a proof of concept to show my lovely wife that it’s not a bad idea and that a house built in this fashion can look professional.

So my question is, how would you go about insulating a building built with the hyperadobe method, or would you build using a different method?

Thank you for any information!
Mike

Hi Michael,
I just looked up what the year-round underground temperature is in Austin, TX, and noticed that it is 71 degrees F. You couldn’t ask for a nicer temperature to live in! A substantially bermed or underground home in that locality could easily become a zero energy home, as far as heating and cooling goes.

You are right that a solid adobe-walled home there would be too hot in the summer for sure. Yes, it can be insulated, either with exterior insulation, or by filling the bags with an insulating material, and this would help keep the interior more comfortable…but you are still going to need air conditioning most likely.

If it were me, I’d go underground!
Kelly

[Owen: This can include building above grade with earth berming/earth sheltering to reduce the risk of flooding.]

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Earthbag construction is a durable and affordable technique for building houses. The system was developed specifically with the goal of making them earthquake resistant, and they are in fact very effective at stopping most common bullet calibers.

See all the best earthbag videos at EarthbagBuilding.com Videos

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Triple Roundhouse Cluster (click to enlarge)

Triple Roundhouse Cluster (click to enlarge)


This 785 sq. ft. interior design connects three sloped roof roundhouses and adjoining closets to create a unique roundhouse cluster design that is earth-sheltered on three sides — east, west and north — with a sunny courtyard on the south. The 16′ bedroom roundhouses on either side can be used as bedrooms, home offices, studios, etc. This design features 6′ French doors, and windows high in the wall in each roundhouse, large walk-in closets, high exposed wood ceilings and exceptional energy performance. With the addition of a few features such as ceiling fans, heat recovery ventilation, solar panels and solar hot water heat, this design would meet zero energy standards. Round earthbag structures are inherently stronger than rectilinear designs, and the heavy timber roof provides exceptional strength as well.

Triple Roundhouse Cluster house plan

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Earthbag Survival Shelter (click to enlarge)

Earthbag Survival Shelter (click to enlarge)


This 20’ DIA (314 sq. ft. interior plus pantry)round earthbag shelter for up to 4-5 individuals is designed for survival through disasters, plague, etc. It is low cost, durable and practical. This shelter is designed for DIYers on a tight budget who will do most everything by hand. Instructions include numerous key details not evident on the plan: venting, roof framing, how to reduce excavation by 50%, drainage, water supply, etc. I have not seen a better, more practical survival shelter plan.

More details at Earthbag House Plans.

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A new article by Arvid Linde in Green Home Design compares typical earth-sheltered homes with structures made of earthbags. Linde raises a number of interesting points. I agree with his assessment that most earth-sheltered designs contain a lot of high embodied energy materials, notably concrete and steel, and therefore are not as ‘green’ as they could be. Earthbag buildings, in contrast, are simpler, lower cost and have much lower embodied energy.

You can read the entire article for free at the Green Home Design website.

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Roof maintenance: Merle Alix mows the roof of his family's undergound house.

Roof maintenance: Merle Alix mows the roof of his family's undergound house.


I came across this great article at Mother Earth News magazine and just had to share it. Merle Alix describes his family’s experiences of living in an underground house for the last decade. They love the energy savings, low maintenance, quietness and privacy.

The biggest downside is the difficulty of obtaining financing for underground houses. According to Alix, “It’s unfortunate. We live in what could be one of the best housing options for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and curbing our carbon footprint at the same time, but banking policies and politics have made it difficult — if not almost impossible — to buy and finance this kind of house. That said, aside from a few stumbling blocks in the beginning, the benefits of living underground far outweigh the few difficulties.”

Their house is made of concrete, but I’m posting about it because you could enjoy the same benefits of underground living by building with earthbags. And since earthbag building is obviously less expensive than concrete, you could build your home without bank financing.

You can read the article for free at Mother Earth News.
Original article by Merle J. Alix, October/November 2010, Mother Earth News
Image credit: Gil Grinsteiner

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