DEVTOME.COM HOSTING COSTS HAVE BEGUN TO EXCEED 115$ MONTHLY. THE ADMINISTRATION IS NO LONGER ABLE TO HANDLE THE COST WITHOUT ASSISTANCE DUE TO THE RISING COST. THIS HAS BEEN OCCURRING FOR ALMOST A YEAR, BUT WE HAVE BEEN HANDLING IT FROM OUR OWN POCKETS. HOWEVER, WITH LITERALLY NO DONATIONS FOR THE PAST 2+ YEARS IT HAS DEPLETED THE BUDGET IN SHORT ORDER WITH THE INCREASE IN ACTIVITY ON THE SITE IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS. OUR CPU USAGE HAS BECOME TOO HIGH TO REMAIN ON A REASONABLE COSTING PLAN THAT WE COULD MAINTAIN. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT THE DEVTOME PROJECT AND KEEP THE SITE UP/ALIVE PLEASE DONATE (EVEN IF ITS A SATOSHI) TO OUR DEVCOIN 1M4PCuMXvpWX6LHPkBEf3LJ2z1boZv4EQa OR OUR BTC WALLET 16eqEcqfw4zHUh2znvMcmRzGVwCn7CJLxR TO ALLOW US TO AFFORD THE HOSTING.

THE DEVCOIN AND DEVTOME PROJECTS ARE BOTH VERY IMPORTANT TO THE COMMUNITY. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO ITS FURTHER SUCCESS FOR ANOTHER 5 OR MORE YEARS!

Earth Sheltered Homes

Earth sheltered homes have been around since mankind has sought shelter from the elements. Their most basic form are caves or dugouts. Today’s earth sheltered homes come under different names, which indicate their form. Earth 'bunded' means that one or more of the elevations or exterior walls are covered by soil. Earth covered means that only the roof is packed with soil. Subterranean means the roof remains uncovered or one wall exposed. A fully sunken home is usually built in what is called the Atrium style, with a patio in the middle of the house. There can also be a combination of any of these. Earth 'berming' is building the house and then packing soil around the walls. This tends to leave the roof uncovered and openings are made for the windows. Many are cut into the side of a hill or slope and leave just one side exposed. In the Northern Hemisphere the exposed wall tends to face south to catch the sun. Homes built in the Southern Hemisphere would point north. Earth sheltered homes have had a new lease of life due to the 1970s oil crisis, when suddenly the whole western world was looking for ways to conserve or generate energy. Also, the modern environmental lobby has done its part in fostering interest in this type of housing. The greatest benefit is the use of thermal mass to heat the buildings, heat from the earth.

earth_2.jpg

earth_3.jpg

Inside a deluxe earth sheltered home.

Heat is stored in the ground from the sun and then slowly released, a constant cycle. The earth into which the houses are inserted or is packed around them tends to have a constant temperature all year round and so only needs to be topped up with extra heating during the winter months. In the summer they tend to be cooler than conventional houses. The layers of earth add protection and insulation to the buildings. Most use passive solar energy and are low maintenance with substantial energy savings as compared with conventional homes. They are more efficient too because very little warmth escapes. Other advantages are the efficient use of the land, particularly in urban situations and sound proof dwellings, which adds to privacy. The downside is the use of non-biodegradable materials in the construction, potential problems with condensation or water seepage, poor quality air without a good circulation system.

Materials

Old earth sheltered houses were built using wooden poles and rocks piled on top of one another between them. Around the exterior of this turf or peat blocks were placed. Over time the root systems would mesh and bind the whole structure together. The modern version relies basically on concrete. Some earth sheltered homes are built using poured concrete or concrete blocks that are reinforced with steel rods. Bricks or blocks must be reinforced with steel because of the pressure of the surrounding earth. One way around this is to use an arch or vault design. Normally steel is used for beams and columns. Although for many people the idea of living in an earth sheltered house is to become more environmentally friendly and less wasteful of energy, most of the materials used aren’t very environmentally friendly. This is because of the necessary waterproofing to be applied, whether it is building a partially or fully covered structure. There are new products on the market such as Grancrete, which is a modified concrete product that can be sprayed on the main structure or another called Hycrete, which has had greater success. It is an effective sealant and reduces moisture and water absorption. Like any house or other structure, an earth sheltered house shifts and settles, so there is always the danger of cracks through which moisture can penetrate. It is therefore necessary to protect against water seepage. Unfortunately, man made products are the only ones that offer that kind of protection. Most waterproofing is synthetic rubber, plastic or polyurethane and polystyrene. Insulation in earth sheltered homes is placed on the outside of the retaining walls, not the inside as in conventional houses. The types of waterproofing and insulation used are dependent not only on costs, but also factors such as soil type, the level of ground water and climate. There is only one natural waterproofing that can be used and that is clay called bentonite. It can be used in blocks, or sprayed on in conjunction with other synthetic materials. A sand and gravel mix is considered the best type of soil in which to place an earth sheltered home because it offers good drainage, clay soils are too dense. It has been found that the best type of climate is one of low humidity with extreme seasonal temperature changes, but constant underground earth warmth. Although an earth sheltered home will eventually pay off in terms of energy savings and bills, the initial building costs can be as much as twenty percent higher than conventional homes.

Earthship

The best example of earth sheltered housing are the earthships made by Michael Reynolds. Mr Reynolds started his business in the 1960s with the idea of self-sufficient living that has no need to connect to the usual utilities such as water and electricity. His idea had three principle parts: sustainable architecture, which means using indigenous and re-cycled materials. Using natural and independent energy sources, solar and wind power.

earth_ship.jpg

A deluxe earth ship.

Also to be within the reach of the average person financially. The added concern was that people without any previous building experience could construct one. Although labour intensive, an earthship can be built with a very small crew of people. The basic structure is now horseshoe shaped and the main components are tires and earth. It is possible to use other materials such as stone, earthbags or concrete, but tires are universally available. The old tyres are put in place and filled with earth that is then packed down hard with sledge-hammers. This is called earth-rammed and forms the retaining wall of the structure. The earth is excavated from the slope where the building it be situated. With billions of old tires floating around the world it is an almost inexhaustible supply. After insulation is added earth is packed around it. Water is collected through gathering rain and condensation and also snow. Most systems gather the water from the roofs through gravity feed into a cistern which is then filtered for use and pumped into a tank. Wastewater, water that has already been used, also called greywater, is used in toilets. Blackwater, from toilets, flows into a septic tank outside the dwelling. Electricity is generated by solar panels attached to the roof or wind turbines. Solar trackers are especially designed to follow the course of the sun throughout the day. Heating can be provided by 'trombe' walls, which work on the greenhouse principle, absorbing and trapping the sun’s warmth. Natural light gains access through large glass windows and doors on the sun facing side, and also through skylights for the interior rooms. Good air circulation is assured through natural ventilation. Earlier models had some problems with heat loss, but that was because the original models were designed for the climate of the south-western United States. Different climates are now taken into consideration when building in other geographical areas or countries.

Builders Claims

Companies that dedicate themselves to this kind of construction make a whole list of claims as to why earth sheltered housing are better than conventional homes. One of the main ones is that in an economic era where the cost of construction is for ever rising, earth sheltered housing is a competitive choice, that modest constructions are within the grasp of almost everyone. The pressure of the long-term mortgage can be avoided. Although the initial costs can be higher than conventional homes, the future benefits are what really count. It is one way to combat the ever increasing cost of living and turn to a style of sustainable living that is in harmony with your surroundings. They claim a longer lasting construction that requires low maintenance and as an added bonus needs to carry less insurance because of the durability of the dwellings. They are more fire resistant than ordinary buildings and even offer shelter from nuclear fallout. Although it is possible to use different kinds of materials, the most preferred method is poured concrete to make a continuous exterior shell and concrete compares favourably with the cost of other building materials. These structures are more solid than other types of housing and can even resist earthquakes, as the building moves with the earth. An all-round healthier living environment is claimed, because these homes generate less dust because of the ventilation systems installed and that helps keep down a whole raft of allergies.

These buildings stay cool in summer and warm in winter. It is possible to use normal heating and cooling systems too, but the source of the energy comes mostly from wind and solar power. These are usually attached to the roof of the house and so don’t take up extra space. Another advantage for earth sheltered homes in the colder climates is that water pipes never freeze as they are always covered. Thermal mass and other insulation keeps them ice free. Some builders issue warranties against leaks and water seepage. Although covered with earth as an outer shell the builders claim that no bugs or other pests can bore their way through in inner shell and certainly no mice or rats can chew their way through either. Most people believe that earth sheltered homes must of course be dark and dank inside, but that is far from the truth. A lot of time and research has gone into the development of waterproofing and combating moisture generation. With these methods and adequate air circulation they boast that the ventilation in earth sheltered homes is better than in conventional houses. The problem of light in the unexposed areas of the home is solved by the use of skylights, many of which are domed and admit abundant natural light.

Alternative Dwellings

The Americans have led the modern day revival of earth sheltered homes with the Earthship and others. Their dedicated construction companies that do only this type of building. They even have an American Underground Construction Association where you can find help and advice, plus news on the latest technologies. These companies offer different services from consultancy to complete construction. It is also possible to buy plans from them and do it yourself or have them supervise your project. They sell home kits which are basic do-it-yourself starter kits, which you can add to as and when it fits your budget. One package on offer for a three bedroom house includes insulation, doors and plumbing along with the poured concrete. For between twenty-two to twenty-five thousand dollars it possible to get a basic module, which can be poured in two to three days. This cuts down on labour costs. These companies will give technological advice and modify their basic designs to fit in with your desires or budget. It is estimated that to build an earth sheltered home it can cost around seventy-five to one hundred dollars a square foot. Their first piece of advice is about the building site, soil and water are the greatest challenges to earth sheltered housing. The type of building is dictated by these two elements. On a low water table site it is possible to construct fully recessed or subterranean homes in the Atrium style, either an open ended courtyard or a completely enclosed patio type. Usually this is where the earth is a good mixture of sand and gravel that tends to drain well. Natural water drainage is a necessity and it is best to avoid areas where water collects. Drier soil equals less heat loss. In areas with high water tables the soil is mostly clay and impermeable, difficult to drain effectively. For this type of site the bermed type of home is better suited. Apart from an adequate level of water drainage the other problem that occurs is radon gas, this can be found almost anywhere and has to be taken into account. It is a radioactive natural gas that can be deadly as it is both odourless and colourless. Detection kits can be bought and exhaust systems put in place to remove it. Radon gas is not an insurmountable problem, but it is something that the professional builders look out for.

Conclusion

While the majority of people wouldn’t dream of such a house when contemplating the purchase of their first home, there is a growing movement towards this type of building. It is a trend that is moving forward through tiny steps because people are starting to question the way in which they live. Although earth sheltered housing is touted as economically viable that isn’t always the prime mover when people start to think about alternative living accommodation. A combination of economic instability, climate change and much more environmental awareness have prompted people to consider their own impact on the world and the future challenges that they may face. Shelter or housing is one of the most basic human needs and we spent a great deal of time, effort and money in keeping a roof over our heads. One of the main advantages of earth sheltered homes is the fact that many can be built by the owners themselves. This of course, depends on which kind of dwelling you decide to construct and the materials used, but the emotional added bonus of building your own home is a major selling point for many people. In the United States the durability and stability of earth sheltered housing has taken it from the alternative to the mainstream conventional category of dwellings. Not all terrain is a suitable setting for earth sheltered housing, especially in urban areas, but more and more people who are looking for a more sustainable way of living are finding rural areas in which to build. The benefits of this kind of lifestyle tend to look better with each passing year as the cost of living increases and life becomes more and more complicated. For the people who turn to earth sheltered living it doesn’t mean that they have to fully embrace the back to the land movement, but it does free them from some modern day shackles. Off the grid living offers the chance to recuperate some of the costs of building through low energy costs over the long term. With wind and solar power it is also possible to sell surplus energy to the local supplier. Most owners of earth sheltered homes claim to spent fifty percent less on their energy bills than they would in a conventional house. Another point of view is that most earth sheltered housing is aesthetically better for the landscape. This type of dwelling blends into its surroundings and heals the damage made in its original construction. The earth that is packed around and on top of it can be left to grow wild or manicured into gardens and vegetable patches. There isn’t a great resale market for earth sheltered homes as those that build them tend to use them for life, but some real estate agencies have taken an interest and will help sell your home. As yet there isn’t a great demand for them, but that is sure to change in the future.

References

1. Earth Sheltered Homes http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com

2. Earth Sheltered Homes http://www.earthshelteredhome.com

3. Earth Sheltered Housing http://colfibex.com/en/

4. Earth Sheltered Homes http://www.inspiration.green.com/

Society | Lifestyle


QR Code
QR Code earth_sheltered_homes (generated for current page)
 

Advertise with Anonymous Ads