A look at earth covered houses — AD

Earth covered houses

In the summer months, Spain sounded like an ideal retreat. Now, though a cave could be a viable option. Well, not a cave, an earth sheltered home…

Earth sheltered houses are becoming increasingly popular among self builders. Usually surrounded by earth on three sides, blending in with natural scenery giving the illusion that the land simply continues. Most of the time, earth sheltered homes are built into the side of a hill but you could certainly build your house and then pile up earth around it.

If you plan to build your own earth sheltered home, you will first need to excavate into your hill. Depending on the height of your planned building, this could take several weeks and will require many truckloads of dirt to be removed. 

Admittedly, many earth sheltered homes look a little bit Hobbit-like, especially those with round doors! However, many modern designs make use of multiple terraces and large windows, bringing this eco-home into 2017. This design feature shifts the focus to the wide vistas you have the new privilege of enjoying but also helps to marry the inside and outside seamlessly.  

With a good architect, an earth sheltered home will be low impact but this doesn’t mean missing out on other modern luxuries. Though three walls may be hidden with dirt and landscaped seamlessly into the hill, the fourth wall is often entirely made of glass. This, as well as strategically placed sky lights, brings plenty of natural sunshine in.

Though there are many myths around earth sheltered homes, they don’t have to be dark, certainly aren’t going to be damp and won’t be cold. In fact, once the earth is piled up, it will provide an excellent thermal mass. This means that it will retain heat throughout the year and moderate the temperature without requiring any further heating.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this method of building requires you to spurn modern technology, though. In fact, there is plenty of modern tech that will benefit your home and could help to reduce your cost of living even further.

One addition you might consider is a solar panel. This will boost the eco credentials of your home as well as provide you with clean, green energy. In the long term, solar panels are often a really good investment and you may even be able to sell some of the electricity you produce back to the grid. You could also consider harvesting rainwater which can be stored and treated to make it suitable for drinking.

As self-builders are increasingly turning to environmentally friendly building methods and energy conserving designs, it’s unsurprising that earth sheltered homes are at the forefront of this fashion. It’s going to be exciting to see how this trend develops and what else is in store for our landscape.

Image of an earth covered houses courtesy of Shutterstock

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