When it comes to sustainable housing, there’s often a focus on technology, with homes that feature solar panels, energy-efficient glass, and a mobile form factor. But our ancient ancestors may have already come up with the best form of shelter: building homes partially underground.
They’ve been a part of human history for a long time.
Dwellings like this provided more warmth than caves, making them a necessity in harsh northern climates.
Earth-sheltered buildings are typically built into hillsides.
Sometimes earth is built up around the structure, but usually these homes are just built into an existing hill or earth mound.
These homes stay warm through the magic of thermal mass.
The ground absorbs and retains heat, meaning that the inside of an earth-sheltered home maintains a fairly consistent temperature.
Owing to their solid construction, they’re not prone to drafts.
This is because, depending on the design, very little of the structure is exposed to the outside.
They provide excellent privacy.
They’re low-profile and also feature top-notch soundproofing.
There are three main types of these buildings: Earth berming, in-hill construction, and fully recessed construction.
Earth berming consists of a more conventional building that earth is then piled up against.
Fully recessed construction takes things underground.
The ground is excavated, like digging the foundation for a basement. From there the home is constructed and covered, often with an atrium in the middle.
In-hill construction splits the difference.
Here, the house is built into the side of a hill or slope, making a structure with one exposed wall.
The costs vary, but they aren’t all that expensive.
The cost can be as low as $6 per square foot, which is pretty economical, especially in a smaller home.
Today it might seem like it’s an unorthodox building style, but it works.
Forget shingles and siding—Earth-sheltered homes use nature itself to protect against the elements.
There aren’t many of these shelters in the United States.
But this could be changing, as initiatives like the back-to-the-land movement have made the prospect of living in sustainable structures more attractive.
What do you think? Would you live in an Earth-sheltered home?