I've many passions but two of them are reading & camping, so naturally my camper's name is Parnassus for Christopher Morely's "Parnassus on Wheels".
By: PeaceRiverBP, 5:12 PM GMT on March 26, 2009
The cavemen knew it, a lot of animals know it....
.... there's a lot to be said for in-ground or earth-bermed homes.
I understand the reluctance to make the shift to this type of home, as I love traditional style houses but it's really hard to ignore the benefits of an earth-bermed/in-ground domicile. I've been fascinated by them and toyed with their design for many years. I've visited a few of the homes, spoke with a very kind in-ground house architect who offered to let me pick his brain and I've even been to a few underground malls. When you're inside one of these buildings, you can't tell that it's any different from any other building, except you may notice that it's quieter if you're in a noisy area. Thanks to windows and skylights they are bright, airy and very comfortable- cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Since the ground acts as an insulator, they are very easy to heat and are naturally cool in hot weather. Just think- you'd never have to worry about frozen plumbing; a properly built in-ground house never gets colder than approximately 55 to 65 degrees (depending on where it's built) so you only have to heat up from that temperature. Add some passive solar heat, a small wood stove or a small furnace to take the chill off the house and that's all you'd need. Imagine the energy savings if we didn't have to spend so much to heat & cool our homes! It makes you wonder why anyone would build the typical house any more!
Some homes from this site:Link
There are many more things that can be added to an earth-bermed or in-ground house to make it more efficient. If it is built into a south or south, south-east facing slope, passive solar heat will take the chill off the in-ground temperatures. It would be easy to add a small greenhouse which would contribute to the passive solar heat and provide a place to grow potted plants- say tomatoes, peppers, herbs, dwarf lemon or lime trees.... just a few examples. A laundry rack could be placed out there during the iciest winter day to dry clean laundry, or even wet coats, scarves, hats and mittens after shoveling snow! If the south-facing windows that warms the house in the winter lets in too much of a good thing during the summer, you could built a large arbor at the front of the house where a grapevine or some other leafy plant would climb during the summer to block the hot sunlight, but then would shed it's leaves to let the heat in during the cold months.
A pantry could be placed in a back corner of the home to take advantage of the coolest temperatures and a lot of food that might normally stay in the refrigerator could be kept there instead. Do unopened drinks really have to be kept at 40 degrees? Raw veggies and fruits? We could make do with much smaller fridges if we had a naturally chilled pantry to keep a lot of foods in- another energy savings. And, I wouldn't buy any appliances with digital clocks or touch screens- more energy thieves! In fact, I wouldn't have a kitchen stove, at all. I'd have a convection oven (uses 10% less energy than a regular oven) a microwave and two induction burners to cook on, which only use a tiny fraction of the energy of even gas cooking, the next most efficient type of burner. There is such a thing as a induction range Link but it presently costs about $3000.00.... YIKES!!!
I would guess that a home with fewer energy demands might be easier to run on alternatives like solar or wind power. And, it doesn't take much to make passive solar hot water; but an on-demand water heater could be installed for back up hot water.
A composting toilet removes the need for a septic tank. A couple I used to know had a Clivus-style composting toilet and they thought it was great. There was no smell and the composting bin - which I was shown - was full of what appeared to be potting soil. (But obviously wasn't!)
Which brings me to the next item on the list- gardening. Not that you want to use the toilet compost on anything that is going to be consumed, it is fine for decorative plants.
This type of home could be a tremendous boon to people and would be far kinder to our natural resources than the kind of housing that most of us now live in. It could be life-changing for many of us. It would be interesting to see how these dwellings might fare in severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes. Would they just blow right over without damaging anything? Just some food for thought!
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Updated: 4:03 PM GMT on September 14, 2009
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.