A home that’s sheltered by earth has high protection against the elements and requires little to no maintenance. It can outlast a normal home by decades.
The biggest reason why you’d want to build and earth-sheltered home is to take advantage of the earth’s thermal mass, it will regulate it’s own temperature ( stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer) without needing a lot of energy from auxiliary heating and cooling systems.
Another thing to note is that because of the protection from the earth, a home like this will be very resistant to natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and wild fires.
It’s a tempting and exciting option for all who want to find a more efficient way of living.
There’s two ways to build an earth sheltered home, one is to build them completely below ground level while the other is to use a technique called berming.
Bermed homes are mostly built above ground, after which piles of soil are pushed against the walls, all the way to the roof, effectively forming a protective cover of earth and vegetation that will insulate the inside from the outside open air.
You can also add a roof cover of soil and vegetation to your earth-bermed home, most people actually prefer them since they increase the insulating effect of the soil.
There exist three primary design styles for earth-sheltered homes: atrium, penetrational, and elevational. If you want the maximum protection from the elements the atrium style is the best way to go.
The rooms in an atrium style home are built completely under ground level. in a “town square” arrangement which includes a central atrium space surrounded by rooms. The central space is also used as the home’s entrance from above ground.
The rooms all have spacious windows and possibly glass doors to allow for the most natural light to filter in from above.
A flight of stairs is all that you need to reach the bottom of the atrium. The rooms are usually built about three feet below the surface for the reason that subterranean temperatures are stable at this depth.
The atrium style is very good for protection from the elements and allows for the greatest privacy, this is because it’s open space and the adjacent rooms are all below ground.
This can also cause problems. Because the atrium is a hole in the ground literally, it can very easily fill with snow in case of a blizzard or with rainwater in a storm, which can cause major flooding problems. Therefore it’s advisable to have some sort of drainage systems installed in the home.
In an atrium style home, because it’s fully below ground, the sunlight cannot fully penetrate from a good angle so the rooms might not get enough natural light. The only space in the home that’s filled with ample amounts of natural light is the open atrium space, so to enjoy the best views from a home like this special attention needs to be given to the atrium space.
The elevational style is more of a hybrid approach of building an earth-sheltered home. It’s neither underground or bermed but more or less a combination of the two. Elevational usually are built into hillsides and mountainsides, like they have been inserted into the mountain, deep enough to cover the sides and back of the home.
The front is built facing south, so that it gets the most natural light.
An elevational home usually has a roof cover, these homes are linear rectangular rooms that are arranged in such a way to allow the sun to provide light and heat to the crucial rooms in the home.
Elevetional homes are not as expensive as atrium or penetretional homes, their locations in hillsides are perfect for allowing amazing vistas.
A penetrational home is built fully above ground, after which the walls are fully bermed, the only spaes open are above doors and windows because it allows good cross ventilation, easy entrance and great harvesting of natural light.
Roof cover on a penetrational home is a great finishing touch, even though the home is already very well protected from nature and has great light and air flow.
There are also variations of the penetrational home to consider. A great example is to leave the south side open like in an elevational home and berm the other three sides.
Problems and issues
While in a shell of earth, temperatures in the home generally remain between forty-five and sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit through the entire year, this moderate temperature allows comfort in all seasons.
And because the inside temperature is so stable, an expected reduction of heating and cooling costs of 50-70 percent is not uncommon
This however will require professional insulation, since walls that aren’t protected will reach the same temperature as the surrounding earth unless there is a way to prevent the heat generated in the home to leech away through the walls.