Earth Sheltered Home Design

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I started a new thread here for those that expressed interest in comments I made in the Wooly Pig thread (http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,30963.msg408256.html#msg408256) - so as not to hijack that thread.

The primary goals in underground (or earth sheltered) homes are:
1) use of the earth heat sink to blunt temperature extremes much like a cave does
2) reduce exterior maintenance to zero
3) extreme stability and life cycle
4) blend with the local terrain and minimize impact

In my own case, I added another important (to me) design criteria - make use of existing infrastructure (grid power, etc) but design in backup systems so that the abode remains comfortable in the absence of high tech machinery and the power to run them.

Here is a notional pic of an underground home:

Notional.jpg


There are a number of companies that will build one of these for you on your "prepared" site. They generally offer large domed roof structures for strength and deep burial. The reason for the dome is that they can get away with far less structural steel (rebar only). The problem is that the domes must be large (like a geodesic dome) for strength - limiting home design to cascades of limited size boxes. But the bigger problem with these dome roofs is that they are so big that to bury the structure requires a very large hole in the ground. For this reason, the pic above is deceptive.

Digging out this hole is expensive - and, of course, not their responsibility. And you may have to haul in much earth to bury it and landscape around it. In the end, if you total it all up, the cost per sq ft is ridiculous.

The way around this is to make the roof flat (reinforced concrete) using structural I-beam steel - much like bridge construction. The reason this is cost-feasible is that the demand for new structural steel is low and there are large amounts of it lying in scrap yards awaiting return to foundries. These can be picked up on the cheap in just the sizes and lengths you need for the underground home.

At this point you could opt for a standard roof (unburied) but you will need to pay strict attention to insulation, air seal, and resulting drainage issues (all of which are no issue for a completely buried design).

Here are the drawings that my concrete guy and I agreed to before starting:

SidePlan.jpg


TopPlan.jpg


The interior dimensions of the structure are 74'X29'. The top pic is the side plan view showing the roof slope (for drainage). Walls are 1' thick with #5 rebar on one foot centers. The roof is 7" reinforced concrete on a steel bed resting on 6" rib I-beams on 4' centers.

Currently, earth depth over the roof is about 2.5 feet.

I will follow this post up with pics that show the house going up. Any questions that y'all have will help me not to forget design details.
 

sitting

Dagobah Resident
LQB said:
I will follow this post up with pics that show the house going up. Any questions that y'all have will help me not to forget design details.

Cool!

PS One small thing. Shouldn't that be "with pics that show the house going down?" :)
 

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
sitting said:
Cool!

PS One small thing. Shouldn't that be "with pics that show the house going down?" :)

Yeah, that's a better way to say it. :P
 

Gary

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks for sharing your inspiring home build experience! I am looking at earthbag dome design currently, bermed or buried into the earth. Great to see someone who has designed AND built! :)
 

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
dreamrider said:
Thanks for sharing your inspiring home build experience! I am looking at earthbag dome design currently, bermed or buried into the earth. Great to see someone who has designed AND built! :)

Yes, I've been reading your posts - good deal! That should have great thermal characteristics too.

Before I get my pics up, you can go to my concrete guy's website, page down a little ways, and you'll get to the pics he took of the house going "down" - http://www.mtcwalls.com/

The total cost of the finished shell was about $100K - that includes digging, all concrete/steel including retaining walls (5000 psi), all drains around the foundation, elastomeric paint application, drain lines, water lines, power lines, comm/antenna lines, vent lines, HVAC lines, radiant floor, and refill/grading to bury the structure. If you can get by with about 1000 sq ft, then you could cut that price by about half.

At this point you are ready to finish the interior however you like. The finish work is easier and cheaper with this structure than with stick-frame. Paint the concrete walls and leave them alone. You only need a minimal amount of drywall to create the bed/baths leaving the rest open to the windows on the exposed side. I was surprised how easy it was to finish.
 

sitting

Dagobah Resident
LQB said:
Before I get my pics up, you can go to my concrete guy's website, page down a little ways, and you'll get to the pics he took of the house going "down" - http://www.mtcwalls.com/

All I can say is that it's an amazing structure!

Bring on the comets! But please hold the "sheets of rain". :)
 
Like the house design! Saw several in my lifetime but was never in one. But for those who want to do it on the cheap there is this (and I have not seen the book)...

http://www.undergroundhousing.com/
 

Horseofadifferentcolor

Jedi Council Member
ziggystarlust said:
Like the house design! Saw several in my lifetime but was never in one. But for those who want to do it on the cheap there is this (and I have not seen the book)...

http://www.undergroundhousing.com/


We bought the book and CD set from this company before we ended up finding a great deal on a cabin. They show some really great design ideas. I still dream of one day building one. He has some cool greenhouse designs as well. Its a good amount of info for cheap and its simple to understand.

Here is a ladies blog I came across and although it not underground and is cob it is still a really fun,creative, and cheap structure. Her artwork on the walls is why I am sharing the link.
http://www.cobdreams.blogspot.co.uk/

My plan has been to start small, making dog houses and chicken huts agianst the side of the hill with earth bags and then trying our hand at a shelter mabey at some point.
 
Hi,
nice to see this here..
nice and strong idea LQB, the drawings looks good, and very strong.. I like the green roof.. congratulations :thup:
I like work with earth.. I built superadobe "eco"dome still now..

I am looking at earthbag dome design currently, bermed or buried into the earth. Great to see someone who has designed AND built

.. the earthbags houses buried, can be problematic.. you must take a lot of precaution.. but why not.. if I can help you Dreamrider.. I'm here..

I've built a small dome 3-4 years ago ( my first project, the prototype) who is more of half buried .. but have littles problems .. no drains, no experience with earth.. everything is lesson.
Was a test , a game, a small guest-bungalow.. today is my principal job.
Our main house (project N°4) is also a little bit buried (some part, but just because our property is not flat, and it's ok, but have in this case, 3 french drains, and a lot of precaution on the back side..

So, I built earthbags houses (and design and manage everythings) since 2009, but not really buried.. I will put all my projects on the forum when I finish this "last" one.. the project number 5.. and is already done.. but still 2 month for finish everythings.

This one is our home, (All the construction in 7 min. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNHQK-R5Fqw ) the big dome is dobble bag, in the front, until half high, thick of this wall +'n - 1 meter.. the rest of the wall's dome are 50 cm, it's already cool..
is the only one I've put on line .. (for now)

I work in construction since 22-23 years.. close to 4 years with earth (and donkeys, (viva Ecuador)) If you need my experience LQB I'm here too.

Saludos
 

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Horseofadifferentcolor said:
My plan has been to start small, making dog houses and chicken huts agianst the side of the hill with earth bags and then trying our hand at a shelter mabey at some point.

Horseofadifferentcolor, that is an excellent approach - build storage sheds, out-buildings, animal shelters before starting your home. You will learn a lot and minimize the mistakes and impact on your own abode. Much like freesurfer says above. While building these other structures, it will give you plenty of time to think and meditate on what you want in your own home - lots of ideas will come to you for processing and consideration.
 

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
freesurfer said:
I am looking at earthbag dome design currently, bermed or buried into the earth. Great to see someone who has designed AND built

.. the earthbags houses buried, can be problematic.. you must take a lot of precaution.. but why not.. if I can help you Dreamrider.. I'm here..

I've built a small dome 3-4 years ago ( my first project, the prototype) who is more of half buried .. but have littles problems .. no drains, no experience with earth.. everything is lesson.
Was a test , a game, a small guest-bungalow.. today is my principal job.
Our main house (project N°4) is also a little bit buried (some part, but just because our property is not flat, and it's ok, but have in this case, 3 french drains, and a lot of precaution on the back side..

Yes, drainage issues are crucial and should be one of the first designs once you have settled on a site and foundation configuration. If you are going to bury a structure, you must make sure that all water is whisked away in the appropriate direction. This is harder to do with a dome structure but I could see it working if you buried it into the top side of a hill where the back side slopes well away from the structure.

freesurfer said:
So, I built earthbags houses (and design and manage everythings) since 2009, but not really buried.. I will put all my projects on the forum when I finish this "last" one.. the project number 5.. and is already done.. but still 2 month for finish everythings.

This one is our home, (All the construction in 7 min. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNHQK-R5Fqw ) the big dome is dobble bag, in the front, until half high, thick of this wall +'n - 1 meter.. the rest of the wall's dome are 50 cm, it's already cool..
is the only one I've put on line .. (for now)

Wow! Great video freesurfer! That was fun watching it go up that way. And very nice looking finish - and, I'm sure, very comfortable inside.
 

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
If you are going to bury a structure to gain the benefits of the earth heat sink, the home will be sealed from the outside air, and it is important to control air flow with the outside for fresh air (in) and exhaust air (out). Whether or not you use a fan (powered) system, you need to plan intake and exhaust ports into the structure. You will want strict control of this via dampers or gate valves for extremes of temp/humidity (cool mornings in the summer and warm afternoons in the winter). A vent fan (like a vortex fan in pvc pipe) will exchange the air quickly. You can do it passively (over a longer period) by extending the exhaust vent pipe well above (in height) the intake so that the small pressure difference drives the air flow from in to out.

You can consider a filter on the input to stop particulates in the air. A fan works much better and can be easily and cheaply powered by a 12V battery. Removing the filter will allow the passive approach to work as a backup so long as you get the exhaust pipe outlet well above the intake (or have the option to do so).

Another thing you want to do (really with any structure) is plan for all service lines you want, and extra open conduits for all the things you forgot about or might want in the future. Finding a way in "after the fact" is usually not easy or fun. For example, you may want a graywater drain to feed a pond and a blackwater drain (from toilets). Its also a good idea to centralize your service entrance around and into a small utility room area from which all house systems can be controlled and distributed.
 

Gary

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
freesurfer said:
Hi,
nice to see this here..
nice and strong idea LQB, the drawings looks good, and very strong.. I like the green roof.. congratulations :thup:
I like work with earth.. I built superadobe "eco"dome still now..

I am looking at earthbag dome design currently, bermed or buried into the earth. Great to see someone who has designed AND built

.. the earthbags houses buried, can be problematic.. you must take a lot of precaution.. but why not.. if I can help you Dreamrider.. I'm here..

I've built a small dome 3-4 years ago ( my first project, the prototype) who is more of half buried .. but have littles problems .. no drains, no experience with earth.. everything is lesson.
Was a test , a game, a small guest-bungalow.. today is my principal job.
Our main house (project N°4) is also a little bit buried (some part, but just because our property is not flat, and it's ok, but have in this case, 3 french drains, and a lot of precaution on the back side..

So, I built earthbags houses (and design and manage everythings) since 2009, but not really buried.. I will put all my projects on the forum when I finish this "last" one.. the project number 5.. and is already done.. but still 2 month for finish everythings.

This one is our home, (All the construction in 7 min. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNHQK-R5Fqw ) the big dome is dobble bag, in the front, until half high, thick of this wall +'n - 1 meter.. the rest of the wall's dome are 50 cm, it's already cool..
is the only one I've put on line .. (for now)

I work in construction since 22-23 years.. close to 4 years with earth (and donkeys, (viva Ecuador)) If you need my experience LQB I'm here too.

Saludos

Hi Freesurfer,

Wow! I loved watching the video - it has really inspired me, thank you for sharing!! It would be great to see your other projects when you finish your current one :)

I have a couple of earthbag books, and have been on a weekend course, but will start with a very small meditation dome to get used to the building process. I have bought a few thousand cheap misprinted bags already to get going! My 'earth ark' (future home) will be quite small compared to yours, and I wondered if I could send you the design when I have finished it for your advice/guidance? (before I start building it!)

As LQB has mentioned, drainage is crucial especially when berming or burying it. I will berm mine into the south facing slope of my land in Portugal.

This is a great thread, it would be fantastic to have a projects section perhaps with designs, construction costs and techniques, photos etc to share with others. One of the main aspects of this building method that I like is that is 'labour intensive' - maybe it will inspire groups/communities to come together and help eachother to build their homes like in the old days :)
 

MK Scarlett

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
freesurfer said:
[...]
This one is our home, (All the construction in 7 min. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNHQK-R5Fqw ) the big dome is dobble bag, in the front, until half high, thick of this wall +'n - 1 meter.. the rest of the wall's dome are 50 cm, it's already cool..
is the only one I've put on line .. (for now)
[...]

Wow! This is a fantastic video freesurfer, and congrats for your finished home ! Looks so... natural... :clap:

And many thanks LQB for sharing your own experiment with this thread, very interesting even if I do nothing about constructions. ;)
 

Skyfarmr

Jedi Master
Ever since watching the Lord of Rings trilogy and currently, The Hobbit, I've always craved living in a "hobbit house" (earth bermed), with lots of curves and roundness, instead of sharp corners and angled pitched roofing.
Came across a website/blog by a guy who built a hobbit house for under $5000 mostly by himself, except for help lifting some of heavy rafters.
His home is so adorable and cozy; i just love it!
He provides more images of his home in different phases of construction, with brief instructions on building his home.
http://www.simondale.net/hobbit.htm

front.jpg


candle.jpg


I'd imagine you could incorporate some cob-type construction for interior walls, floors and hearth into an earth-bermed home, too. Something that could satisfy someone's creative side as well as housing needs.

The following link has images of cob homes to show just how delightful and charming this type of dwelling is. They have many of the advantages of earth shelters(earthened walls), but sometimes a building site doesn't allow for underground dwelling and excavation cost can add to the cost tremendously, as already mentioned.

http://sustainablebydesign.wikispaces.com/Cob+Housing
Building with cob allows people to use common materials to erect houses in a more sustainable way. Cob can be used to build a variety of other things as well, making it valuable for more than just houses.

Oh, if I were 20-something again...
 
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