Once you find the perfect spot of land to enjoy a more self-reliant lifestyle, it is time to start building a home. A traditional brick and mortar home or a modular might be the easiest choices, but several types of unconventional dwellings offer far more opportunities to employ more sustainable and defendable systems on the property.
Earth berm homes utilize the architectural process of using soil against multiple walls to garner thermal mass. The practice reduced heat loss and helps sustain a steady temperature inside the home. Earth berm homes have become a favorite among off-the-grid families because they enhance the ability to use passive solar power, even in colder climates. Although the earth berm homes have become extremely popular in the past decade, they have been around since folks started gathering rocks and logs to craft shelters.
Types of earth berm homes
There are basically three different types of earth berm homes: 1) earth-covered, 2) earth-bunded, and 3) subterranean.
- An earth-covered home can have soil solely on the roof or be an extension of earth berm dwelling side projects.
- An earth-bunded home is a dwelling in which a thermal mass element is significantly applied to insulate one or more the sheltered side elevations of the building.
- A subterranean home is a structure where the vast majority of the home is covered by soil.
Earth berm homes are often built into a hillside or slope, but sometime are constructed after land is excavated and the house is set below ground. In addition to generating thermal mass to help reduce energy consumption and costs, the earthen wall coverings also provide added protection for the home. Earthen homes are often touted as being quitter, the soil against the exterior walls help in reduce outside noise. From a defensive standpoint, the home is reportedly easier to defend when one or more walls, or the roof, are pressed against a hillside or slope.
From a fire prevention standpoint, earth berm homes also have distinct advantages. When the homes themselves are built out of storage containers or poured concrete walls, the fire prevention aspect is further enhanced. When designing an earth berm home, concerns regarding lack of light and fire safety should be a top priority during the initial stages of the planning process.
I recently toured an earth berm home in southern Ohio owned by Selena and Randy Yates. Selena and her late husband Frank Pittman built the home about 30 years ago. When Frank was in the process of convincing Selena that an enhanced thermal mass dwelling was the way to, he found an existing earth berm house also located in Vinton County, for her to view. Being an incredibly sweet and giving woman, Selena readily agreed to her husband’s dream home, with one provision – he did not put dirt above her head.
Continue reading at Off The Grid News: Here’s Why An Underground House Is The Ultimate Off-Grid Home