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Posts Tagged ‘PAHS’

PAHS hyperadobe earthbag house by Earthen Hand Natural Building (click to enlarge)

PAHS hyperadobe earthbag house by Earthen Hand Natural Building (click to enlarge)


“Earthen Hand Natural Building recently has created an 800 sf earthbag house on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) design features were used in this building, giving it the ability to heat and cool itself passively using the earth beneath the building and the walls themselves as a battery of heat. This technique has been around a long time and has produced some amazing results. This building will also incorporate a south-facing greenhouse, greywater system, and solar.

A standard rubble trench foundation with gravel-filled poly bags was used, and the mesh bags or ‘hyperadobe’ were used in the majority of the wall. We used individual bags and not continuous bag on this project. These bags are similar to onion bags and they allow the fill to squish out of the tiny holes so that the clay of one bag sticks to the others around it with considerable strength. The hyperadobe technique eliminates the need for using barb wire, and instead we added borax-soaked bamboo stakes in every bag for earthquake insurance.

PAHS design involves the addition of sloping underground sheets of plastic diverting all water away from the base of the building, which keeps the soil around and under the building dry. Because it is dry we can store the excess summertime heat in the soil to be released in winter. Two air tubes wind underneath the berm that is built around the house. The air is moved by convection and the tubes bring in cool fresh air in the summer and warm fresh air in the winter.”

PAHS Principles Explained
PAHS Earthbag House

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Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) diagram

Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) diagram


A simple underground house design uses a novel insulating/water-shedding blanket that covers the structure and surrounding soil. The umbrella creates a huge subterranean thermal reservoir that soaks up the sun’s energy during summertime and stores it for winter heating. In many cases, the clever design makes a heating system unnecessary.
By John Hait

My first earth-sheltered house, an underground geodesic dome was partially complete when the truckload of insulation my colleagues and I had ordered arrived. Right away, we knew we had a problem: How do you put flat, rigid polystyrene insulation on a round house?

We called housing experts all over the country, but no one had any ideas. Finally, Ray Sterling at the University of Minnesota’s Underground Space Center suggested that we place a flat, insulating “umbrella” in the earth above the building. This, he said, would keep the domelike house warm by insulating the soil around it.

“What a marvelous idea!” I thought when I heard his advice. After two weeks of rigorous examination, I realized that the concept was even more promising than I’d supposed. By then I was convinced that the dry earth under an insulating/water-shedding umbrella could store enough free solar heat from the summertime to warm the house through the entire winter (see diagrams above). This meant that a house could actually be constructed with an unchanging built-in temperature, which would make heating and cooling equipment unnecessary. Now, five years later, I still think it’s a marvelous idea. The Geodome, the house we built in the cold and cloudy climate of western Montana, remains at 66 to 68 degrees F, even through the coldest winters.

The success of the Geodome led to the establishment of the Rocky Mountain Research Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of what is now called the passive annual heat storage (PAHS) approach to free year-round passive-solar heating. Four basic points make PAHS different from techniques used in conventional solar-heated earth-sheltered houses:

– The house’s window shades are opened to collect solar heat in summer.
– The umbrella’s laminated sandwich of polystyrene insulation and polyethylene sheeting (about R-20) insulates a huge mass of surrounding dirt instead of just the house.
– The umbrella sheds water to keep the soil around the house dry.
– The natural-convection-driven ventilation tubes (see below) provide very high heat retention efficiency by acting as counter-flow heat exchangers.

Read the full article that was published in Popular Science magazine at the source: Earth Shelters.com (more good diagrams and details)

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Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) earthbag house by Earthen Hand Natural Building. (click to enlarge)

Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) earthbag house by Earthen Hand Natural Building. (click to enlarge)


PAHS design principles can help heat and cool the house. (click to enlarge)

PAHS design principles can help heat and cool the house. (click to enlarge)


Earthen Hand Natural Building recently has created an 800 sf earthbag house on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) design features were used in this building, giving it the ability to heat and cool itself passively using the earth beneath the building and the walls themselves as a battery of heat. This technique has been around a long time and has produced some amazing results. This building will also incorporate a south-facing greenhouse, greywater system, and solar.

A standard rubble trench foundation with gravel-filled poly bags was used, and the mesh bags or ‘hyperadobe’ were used in the majority of the wall. We used individual bags and not continuous bag on this project, perhaps a first for hyperadobe. These bags are similar to onion bags and they allow the fill to squish out of the tiny holes so that the clay of one bag sticks to the others around it with considerable strength. The hyperadobe technique eliminates the need for using barb wire, and instead we added borax-soaked bamboo stakes in every bag for earthquake insurance.

PAHS design involves the addition of sloping underground sheets of plastic diverting all water away from the base of the building, which keeps the soil around and under the building dry. Because it is dry we can store the excess summertime heat in the soil to be released in winter. Two air tubes wind underneath the berm that is built around the house. The air is moved by convection and the tubes bring in cool fresh air in the summer and warm fresh air in the winter.

Construction continues on the finish work. Earthen Hand will host more workshops onsite there during the summer of 2012. Please see www.EarthenHand.com for workshop information.

More PAHS info at Earth Shelters.com

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