Author Topic: Earth sheltered homes  (Read 29321 times)

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Gresford

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Earth sheltered homes
« on: September 20, 2005, 01:06:39 AM »
Does anyone have any experience with earth sheltered homes.  From what I have read this design seems to provide an optimal living space.  I have heard nothing but pros.  From passive heating/cooling provided by being under the earth to being resistant to man-made or natural disasters, these structures seem like the way to go.


What am I missing?

« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 01:06:39 AM by (unknown) »

Volvo farmer

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2005, 05:07:40 AM »
I think they're neat too. Here's why I think more people don't build them.


Cost of constuction is much more. To do it right, you need a LOT of reinforced concrete. It also has to be sealed up very well to keep water out. Many people with conventional basements have a problem with water infiltration, mold, etc. but they're not generally trying to live down there.


No windows, or possibly windows on only one side. Building codes require a window in every bedroom for fire egress. This complicates the floorplan. People generally like windows too, a house becomes a cave if you can't look outside.


And I'm not so sure burying your house in the earth is a good idea in earthquake country.

« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 05:07:40 AM by Volvo farmer »
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rotornuts

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2005, 03:44:58 PM »
It's not an absolut requirement but you should have sloping property to make it like a daylight basement.


I think it would be cheaper or at least comparable, never priced one out.


Mike

« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 03:44:58 PM by rotornuts »

Breaking Wind

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2005, 03:49:14 PM »
I like the earth shelters as well.  I suggest performing a web search for "subterranean living" to find out more.  I have also been researching monolithic dome homes.  If you're interested, go to www.monolithic.com for more info.  I read on their website that the cost of building a monolithic home is comparable to building a HIGH QUALITY conventional house.  Here is my attempt at paraphrasing their reasoning and difference between low and high quality conventional housing...


When a conventional house is being built, you have two opposing forces that dictate the quality of the house: the home owner trying to get the most house for the least amount of money, and the home builder trying to make the most profit without sacrificing too much quality.  If the home owner decides that he wants the house to be built "cheaper," then the builder will simply "skimp" on either materials or construction method....and you run the risk of ending up with a house like mine....where the skylights leak and the studs are 24" on center.  


With monolithic domes (and I'm sure subterranean structures), the construction method is such that the builder really can't "skimp" on the materials and/or the way it's built.  They are really only built one way.....high quality.


Most people think of domes as simplistic structures that have very little architectural detail but I disagree.  Check out the "Designers" section on the monolithic dome site above.  Here is one specifically that I looked at today that I thought was interesting.  This company has some great artistic vision with concrete domes (www.cloudhidden.org).  You may be able to approach someone in the dome world to help with theh subterranean living idea.


- Side Note:  I shouldn't complain too much about the skylights originally installed in my house.  It's been twenty years since they were installed so they've done their job.  However, when we took them out to replace them, we realized that they were actually sliding glass doors without the hardware (the builder took a shortcut during the construction and saved some money by installing glass doors instead of skylights).  Frankly, I'm shocked they lasted as long as they did.


I hope this info is useful.


Mike

« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 03:49:14 PM by Breaking Wind »

Breaking Wind

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2005, 04:28:28 PM »
FYI...here's a link on the monolithic dome site regarding underground living.


http://www.monolithic.com/plan_design/belowgrade/index.html


Regards,


Mike

« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 04:28:28 PM by Breaking Wind »

Gresford

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2005, 05:39:17 PM »
Mike:


Very helpful insight.  I have been confined to the http://www.earthshelter.com website which sells a kit of varying home sizes.  They are dome shaped but meant to be earth sheltered.  Their prices seems reasonable but it only includes the support beams, compression ring, supports, panels, etc.  In other words, only the outer shell.  I really don't have an idea but I would guess that the bulk of the cost would come with the wood and concrete needed to build such a structure.


Apparently, these structures are disaster proof and designed in such a way that a layman can build the earth shelter in 6 months to a year with minimal help.


I have a friend who is seriously considering the purchase of one of these kits.  I'll probably wait until he tries it out or does a little more research.


PS - Your skylights were sliding glass doors?!  I'm surprised they lasted beyond 5 years.


Thanks again,


Gresford Thomas

« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 05:39:17 PM by Gresford »

RP

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2005, 08:02:41 PM »
For what it's worth I plan to build a monolithic dome in a couple years.  Already bought the land with a big windy hill and a southern exposure to put it on.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2005, 08:02:41 PM by RP »

Gresford

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2005, 03:31:03 AM »
Southern exposure?  Will you be off-grid with a PV system being your primary power source?


How long do you anticipate it will take you to build?

« Last Edit: September 21, 2005, 03:31:03 AM by Gresford »

RP

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2005, 03:54:18 PM »
No, I'll be on the grid but I plan to build a solar heat collector for the radiant in-floor heat and I've always wanted to build windmills but didn't have a place to fly them.


I'll contract the dome shell construction but I plan to do the interior myself.  I figure about 9-12 months from foundation to move in.

« Last Edit: September 21, 2005, 03:54:18 PM by RP »

Breaking Wind

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2005, 04:26:40 PM »
Hi Gresford,


Thank you for the link to earthshelter.com.  That was one that I haven't seen before.  It looks interesting and I bookmarked it to read more about it later tonight.  


Geodesic domes are another type of dome home that come in kit form.  These are created by assembling pre-fabricated triangular concrete panels.  some of them already come with insulation and drywall attached.  The only reason I point them out is because I believe that they really seam to be aimed at the do-it-yourselfer.  While you may not want to go with this style of dome (since it really isn't designed for subterranean living), you may be able to find some tips and techniques on how to put a dome together.  A site that I've used is aidomes.com.  While the site and pictures may seem a little dated, the technology and information is still valid and educational.


I personally don't have much building experience and while I think it may be a fun project, I think I would always be wondering if I missed something....like adding the rebar...hahahaha.  I would probably have to go with a recommended and experienced builder, especially since it's going to need to be structurally sound considering the load it will have to take from the ground material that will be on top of the dome.


The monolithic dome site stated that about 50% of the cost of the entire structure is the concrete shell (materials and labor) and the other 50% of the cost is on the internal wall construction, plumbing, electrical, etc.  Of course this could vary depending on the type of fixtures you put in your house.


Good idea to wait for someone else to try it.  I would even offer to help out a little if you can to get some experience and discover those "gotcha" items before you do it yourself.


Good luck.

« Last Edit: September 21, 2005, 04:26:40 PM by Breaking Wind »

DanG

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2005, 07:04:27 AM »
http://www.monolithic.com/construction/ecoii/


This looks do-able - A dome utility shed-cabin-garage...

« Last Edit: September 22, 2005, 07:04:27 AM by DanG »

nwilke

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2006, 12:29:06 PM »
i was looking at domes a while ago. here's a guy who built one underground in montana....didn't need heat or air conditioning. the house was insulated under an umbrella of insulation and polystyrene.


http://www.axwoodfarm.com/PAHS/UmbrellaHouse.html


i also saw a guy's website (forgot where it was) but he invented the whole airform idea. he sewed his own (connected plastic triangles) and inflated them with multiple bathroom ventilation fans. vacuum blowers burn out. bathroom ventilation fans can withstand extended usage.


i thought of a cheap method of building a monolithic dome:


dig a hole big enough for the dome footprint (it has to be deep enough for a concrete truck to pour on it later).

bend some conduit to a shallow angle, cover it in concrete (except for the ends) and push rebar through it. it will bend the rebar to a consistent angle throughout. these are your vertical pieces that you will stand up in a circle, converging at the top of the dome. then, wrap rebar around the outside of this dome frame. now you have your frame. backup a concrete truck and pour several inches on top of the frame (don't back it up too far, or you'd have to make the soil is up for it). once its cured, just lay a sandwich of plastic/insulation/plastic above the dome. this will insulate soil beyond the dome's footprint. that's your new thermal mass...much bigger. domes can be buried underground because of their compressive strength. it would be much harder to bury a box and keep it standing. if you need waterproofing (which you shouldn't because the plastic insulation umbrella keeps the soil bone dry), you can always use grancrete. waterproof, it mixes like concrete. pretty sweet product. any ideas?

« Last Edit: May 31, 2006, 12:29:06 PM by nwilke »

nwilke

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2006, 03:40:30 PM »
found it...here's the guy that made his own airforms


http://www.geocities.com/flyingconcrete/lloyd-turner.htm


     there's some confusion here and there about where the insulation should be. i advise putting it on the outside of the concrete so your concrete is thermal mass, stabilizing temperatures better. i've read some stories where people put sprayed foam insulation (which is high quality stuff) on the inside of their domes. with climate control, its very easy to maintain a temperature, but the moment someone uses the oven, they're turning up the AC and opening the windows in the kitchen. no good.

     one problem people have with insulation on the outside of the concrete is water vapor getting in the foam between the concrete and the dome cover. if you're underground and your dome is covered with plastic, no worries. if you're above ground, get some grancrete to seal the insulation. it must be completely sealed, or else the insulation could get soggy and stop working.

« Last Edit: May 31, 2006, 03:40:30 PM by nwilke »

don1

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2010, 10:49:43 PM »
I have a friend that built an earth sheltered home and I have some thoughts.
  One you will spend a lot to build one that is water tight and not musty. The one my friend built  is post and beam construction and the wall is rock. the least expensive way to go.
  If to took the money you would need to build in the ground and build a typical home above ground  with 12" thick wall ie, an inner and outer wall spaced apart to be 12" thick and fill it with spray foam.  do the same with the ceiling and you would have a house like a thermos bottle. and spend way less than for an in the ground home.  With an air to air exchange you have a warmer house and dryer and no moisture issues. And with the new supper insulated windows it would be a great candidate for total solar heating.

 Just some thoughts. don.

kevbo

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2011, 04:02:59 PM »
Take care to plan early for radon mitigation.  One of the Extreme Makeover houses was an earth sheltered house that was a total loss due to high radon levels.  Beyond that, the whole house is essentially a basement.  Basements can be dry and pleasant when done right, and dark and wet when done wrong.

BigBreaker

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2011, 11:05:08 AM »
Heat recovery ventilators and 12" walls are a much more practical solution.  Most people like windows and natural light.  Most people like humidity controlled spaces.  The stable temperature of sub soil can be used with a heat pump without living in a basement and without worrying about water infiltration.  If anything the trend is going the other direction: insulated slab on grade.

That said, if you want to live in a hobbit house give a few things a lot of thought: How will you keep water and humidity out of your living space, how much or little thermal coupling do you want, how will you provide sufficient fresh air.

sunbelt57

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2011, 05:44:13 AM »

bend some conduit to a shallow angle, cover it in concrete (except for the ends) and push rebar through it. it will bend the rebar to a consistent angle throughout. these are your vertical pieces that you will stand up in a circle, converging at the top of the dome. then, wrap rebar around the outside of this dome frame. now you have your frame. backup a concrete truck and pour several inches on top of the frame (don't back it up too far, or you'd have to make the soil is up for it). once its cured, just lay a sandwich of plastic/insulation/plastic above the dome. this will insulate soil beyond the dome's footprint. that's your new thermal mass...much bigger. domes can be buried underground because of their compressive strength. it would be much harder to bury a box and keep it standing. if you need waterproofing (which you shouldn't because the plastic insulation umbrella keeps the soil bone dry), you can always use grancrete. waterproof, it mixes like concrete. pretty sweet product. any ideas?
So have you tried this or is this just a pipe-dream? (pun-intended)

TomW

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2011, 06:12:48 AM »

So have you tried this or is this just a pipe-dream? (pun-intended)


This post is well over 5 years old. so don't expect much of a response.



Tom
« Last Edit: July 01, 2011, 06:14:55 AM by TomW »
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jlsoaz

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2011, 01:41:38 PM »
: September 20, 2005, 01:06:39 AM
Does anyone have any experience with earth sheltered homes.  
[...]

I thought maybe I posted here a few weeks ago, as my first post to fieldlines, but somehow I think it got taken down, or maybe I got confused about preview versus post.  I asked on the newbies list about this, but it seems that I did nothing wrong as far as a moderator could discern, so I will try again.

I have lived in a earth-reinforced dome-home for about 7.5 years.  The folks who make the type of home I live in are at

http://www.terra-dome.com.  

My home was built by someone else circa 1983-1984.  I bought it in late 2003.  I am not a promoter of that particular home, nor can I say if it is better or worse than its competitors.  I am neither wealthy in time or money, not do-it-yourself oriented, and so it was critical to me not only that my home be unusual and sturdy and good, but that it already be built.  If this home had been different, such as geodesic, or a log cabin or strawbale, or what-have-you, I probably would have bought it anyway.... I just wanted something sturdy, well-built, would hold its value (I hope) and already built and consistent with my generally conservative approach to harnessing and saving natural resources like heat, light, water, etc.

Since I am not DIY oriented, and this discussion website seems to be somewhat oriented that way, my contributions to the thinking of those who might be thinking of building their own homes may be severely limited, or may be non-existent.  I will try to say what little I know here and there.

I guess in nearly 8 years here, I've learned a couple of things, even if I did not build the place.  Pictures that I put up soon after moving in are here:

http://www.herecomesmongo.com/td/Terra.html

When I first moved in, I called Terra-dome and asked them if they could give me the low-down on what I should be worried about.  They seemed to say (if memory serves) that a downfall of this type of house could be if water got beneath the lining and into the concrete roof because over time that could soften the rebar and ultimately ruin things.  Other than that, there wasn't anything.  So, I have kept an eye out for water, and the couple of times I have spotted it, I have moved to verify it came from a leak in an existing hole, which I plugged, and not through a leak in the lining.  I have also (in one or two projects) had workmen verify that the home's lining (my word) seems to be in good shape.

So, I haven't had any really big problems with the two domes.  I have had my share of a few functional things to fix (the solar hot water heater, the water softener situation, a garage problem (the separate garage is a conventional design and not terra-dome), and there are some remaining fixes, and there are also many things I'd like to improve, but none of those issues relate to the earth-reinforced dome-home aspect.  that was not part of the terra-dome construction.

Rather than make this a giant initial post on this topic, I will stop here, and then perhaps add a few thoughts later, or make some attempt to respond to questions.

Thanks for reading,

jlsoaz
« Last Edit: August 20, 2011, 01:45:57 PM by jlsoaz »

thirteen

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2011, 11:52:54 AM »
A little off suggect. If you use 12 in walls off set the wall studs (2x4 or 2x6) from inside at 16 in then put the outside studs in between the inside studs using 2x4 or 2x6 your wiring and plumbing can go easily between the two studs and insulating this way stops wood transfer of heat and cold. And drop the insulation over the top of all of your ceiling to wall joints and go down 8 inches on the outside of the wall and this will stop heat loss in your rooms where the ceiling meets the walls. You can see the heat loss on houses that can be seen when driving by and it is cold outside for you can see the frost on the outside walls where the studs are located. If you have a fire department that has a heat imaging gun they might come over and and show you where your nieghbors house or yours is leaking heat during the cold months. The power company may have the same thing used for conserving home energy costs to home owner.  Just an idea to play with or toss to file 13.
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jlsoaz

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2011, 09:18:44 PM »
A little off suggect. If you use 12 in walls off set the wall studs (2x4 or 2x6) from inside at 16 in then put the outside studs in between the inside studs using 2x4 or 2x6 your wiring and plumbing can go easily between the two studs and insulating this way stops wood transfer of heat and cold. And drop the insulation over the top of all of your ceiling to wall joints and go down 8 inches on the outside of the wall and this will stop heat loss in your rooms where the ceiling meets the walls. You can see the heat loss on houses that can be seen when driving by and it is cold outside for you can see the frost on the outside walls where the studs are located. If you have a fire department that has a heat imaging gun they might come over and and show you where your nieghbors house or yours is leaking heat during the cold months. The power company may have the same thing used for conserving home energy costs to home owner.  Just an idea to play with or toss to file 13.

In a few weeks I'm having one of those $99 energy audits done.  I think they do some sort of air pressure test.  I don't know if they will do any sort of infrared assessment of my home.  I don't expect that my home will come out as well-insulated as all that.  I don't know if in posting you were thinking about why they'd build earth-reinforced concrete and what the insulation pros and cons are, but my house gets a bit cold in winter and hot enough in summer for me to spend a decent amount on heating and cooling.  I don't know how it compares exactly.  Certain things can be improved (I need to replace my windows) and I'm thinking in some ways my home is competitive in how it's insulated.  We'll see.

A year or two ago I was curious to look into an infrared camera, so I could get a sense myself of leak points, but boy those things seem to be expensive.


DamonHD

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2011, 01:17:03 AM »
Hi,

1) Usually window replacement is fairly poor bang for your buck; plan to do most other things first such as stopping 'unplanned' ventilation which your air-pressure test finds:

http://www.earth.org.uk/testing-a-house-for-air-leaks.html

2) Rent one of those thermal cameras or see if a local energy-saving group can rent you one.  I found that actually paying someone to come and do it caught things that I'd missed, however:

http://www.earth.org.uk/thermal-imaging-survey-of-house.html

Rgds

Damon

WindriderNM

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2011, 06:10:21 PM »
I used to get IR film for my 35mm SLR camera (Pre-digital days)  this may be a solution but you would have to wait for the film to be developed.
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jlsoaz

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2011, 08:24:18 PM »
I used to get IR film for my 35mm SLR camera (Pre-digital days)  this may be a solution but you would have to wait for the film to be developed.

thanks.  Does this method work well?  I do have an old 35 SLR around.  Are the results comparable to what you get when you use a camera dedicated to IR photography?


DamonHD

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2011, 03:05:22 AM »
I would be wary of *assuming* that the optics in a camera that you have to hand work well for IR.  Everything might be OK, but I'd definitely want to test and calibrate first.

Rgds

Damon

jlsoaz

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2011, 10:25:24 AM »
I would be wary of *assuming* that the optics in a camera that you have to hand work well for IR.  Everything might be OK, but I'd definitely want to test and calibrate first.

Rgds

Damon

Ok, thanks.

thirteen

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Re: Earth sheltered homes
« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2011, 01:08:36 PM »
some fire departments  have heat imaging cameras and more power companies are going into homes for power assessment they might help. just an idea or two
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