Earth Sheltered homes aren’t common but are becoming more so as home builders and buyers become more energy-efficient conscious.
Jack Eidt has written an excellent article on WildUtopia.com which covers the benefits, challenges and the finer points of an earth sheltered home. Below are some highlights from his article.
Earth Sheltered, energy-efficient houses are bright, airy, dry, and quiet. Though popular now among advocates of passive solar and sustainable architecture, Earth Sheltering has been around for nearly as long as humans have been constructing their own homes.
Earth sheltering is the architectural practice of using earth against building walls for external thermal mass, as an insulating blanket to reduce heat loss, and to easily maintain a steady indoor air temperature. Earth sheltered homes protect against temperature extremes, wind, rain and extreme weather events.
Earth sheltering is the architectural practice of using earth against building walls for external thermal mass, as an insulating blanket to reduce heat loss, and to easily maintain a steady indoor air temperature. Earth sheltered homes protect against temperature extremes, wind, rain and extreme weather events. An earth sheltered home is energy-efficient, quiet, freeze-proof and low maintenance. Earth sheltering is popular in modern times among advocates of passive solar and sustainable architecture, but has been around for nearly as long as humans have been constructing their own shelter.
“Earth Sheltered Homes are one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology. These sort of low cost, natural buildings have a place not only in their own sustainability, but also in their potential to provide affordable housing which allows people access to land and the opportunity to lead more simple, sustainable lives.” — Simon Dale
Aesthetically an earth sheltered home blends with the natural environment, leaving more yard space and more space for wildlife. Covering structures with vegetation reduces site erosion, sedimentation and stormwater runoff. Earth shelters also provide privacy from neighbors, as well as soundproofing and reduced light pollution.
Energy use can be reduced up to 50 to 80 percent for underground and an earth-bermed house can reap about 95 percent of those advantages. Adding an earth roof, or living roof, further promotes planetary health by “greening” the house’s footprint.
The Earth does not insulate well, but absorbs and stores heat, with its thermal mass. Fifteen feet below ground the soil maintains a fairly constant temperature equal to the annual average temperature of the area’s surface air. With adequate insulation, assuming an average of about 55 degrees would mean it keeps warm from chilling winds and freezing temperatures in winter and cool during the blazing afternoons of summer. Many earth homes incorporate passive solar designs lessening even further the need for fuel for heating or cooling. An earth-covered concrete roof rather than shingles cuts maintenance and costs.
“Compared to traditional residential houses built on the ground, the aim of building an earth house is another: Not to live under or in the ground, but with it.” — Peter Vetsch