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HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN UNDERGROUND HOME PDF

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Indoor Garden-Cost of a Dome-Constructing Your Dome to Build Your Own Underground Home, you must Today earth-sheltered homes are being built more . Rob Roy is a man you can trust, and I don't say it just because he has returned the books Ilent him. His honesty is obvious. Glance at any page in this book if you . incidental effect of building underground is that the structure has to be stronger than is the case for a conventional house, bringing with it.


How To Build Your Own Underground Home Pdf

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Download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd. Flag for inappropriate Complete book of underground houses: how to build a low-cost home/ by Rob Roy. Free ebook on Scribd: How to Build Your Own Underground Home, 2nd Scott explains how you can cut your heating cost 75% in an underground home. Fortunately withe the help of Google I was able to find a free pdf. How to Build Your Own Underground Home [Ray Scott] on exigo.pro *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. A guide to the design and construction of an.

If the walls, floor, and roof are all to be poured in place, it is possible to make them with a single pour. This can reduce the likelihood of there being cracks or leaks at the joints where the concrete has cured at different times. The foundation of the buildings designed by Vetsch are built conventionally. Walls[ edit ] Several different methods of external load-bearing wall construction in earth shelters have been used successfully.

These include concrete block either conventionally mortared or surface-bonded , stone masonry , coordwood masonry , poured concrete, and pressure-treated wood.

The Complete Book of Underground Houses

This involves buried posts shored up with planks, and with a waterproofing barrier of polyethylene sheet between the planks and the backfill.

It is strong and readily available. Untreated wood rots within five years of use in earth shelter construction. Steel can be used but needs to be encased by concrete to keep it from direct contact with the soil which corrodes the metal.

Bricks and CMUs concrete masonry units are also possible options in earth shelter construction but must be reinforced to keep them from shifting under vertical pressure unless the building is constructed with arches and vaults.

Unfortunately, reinforced concrete is not the most environmentally sustainable material. The concrete industry is working to develop products that are more earth-friendly in response to consumer demands. Products like Grancrete and Hycrete are becoming more readily available.

They claim to be environmentally friendly and either reduce or eliminate the need for additional waterproofing. However, these are new products and have not been extensively used in earth shelter construction yet.

Some unconventional approaches are also proposed. The PSP method uses wooden posts, plastic sheeting and non-conventional ideas that allow more windows and ventilation. This design also reduces some runoff problems associated with conventional designs. The method uses wood posts, a frame that acts like a rib to distribute settling forces, specific construction methods which rely on fewer pieces of heavy equipment, plastic sheeting, and earth floors with plastic and carpeting.

Roof[ edit ] Meshed metal stretch net construction The roof of an earth shelter may not be covered by earth earth berm only , or the roof may support a green roof with only a minimal thickness of earth. Alternatively a larger mass of earth might cover the roof.

Such roofs must deal with significantly greater dead load and live load e. This requires stronger and more substantial roof support structure. Increasing the amount of earth on the roof past this gives only modest increases in the benefits while increasing costs significantly.

Therefore, earth shelters do not tend to have flat roofs. A flat roof is also less resistant to the weight of the earth. It is common for earth shelter designs to have arches and shallow domed roofs since this form resists vertical load well. One method uses finely meshed metal bent into the intended shape and welded to the supporting armature. Onto this mesh concrete is sprayed forming a roof. Terra-Dome USA is a company specializing in construction of earth-sheltered houses and sells a modular system of concrete domes intended to be covered by earth.

Waterproofing[ edit ] On the outside of the concrete, a waterproofing system is applied. The most frequently used waterproofing system includes a layer of liquid asphalt onto which a heavy grade waterproof membrane is affixed, followed by a final liquid water sealant which may be sprayed on. It is very important to make sure that all of the seams are carefully sealed.

It is very difficult to locate and repair leaks in the waterproofing system after the building is completed. Several layers are used for waterproofing in earth shelter construction. The first layer is meant to seal any cracks or pores in the structural materials, also working as an adhesive for the waterproof membrane. The membrane layer is often a thick flexible polyethylene sheeting called EPDM. EPDM is the material usually used in a water garden, pond and swimming pool construction.

This material also prevents roots from burrowing through the waterproofing.

EPDM is very heavy to work with and can be chewed through by some common insects like fire ants. It is also made from petrochemicals, making it less than perfectly environmentally friendly.

There are various cementitious coatings that can be used as waterproofing. The product is sprayed directly onto the unprotected surface. It dries and acts like a huge ceramic layer between the wall and earth. The challenge with this method is, if the wall or foundation shifts in any way, it cracks and water is able to penetrate through it easily.

Bituthene registered name is very similar to the three coat layering process only in one step. It comes already layered in sheets and has a self-adhesive backing. The challenge with this is the same as with the manual layering method, in addition, it is sun sensitive and must be covered very soon after application. Eco-Flex is an environmentally friendly waterproofing membrane that seems to work very well on foundations, but not much is known about its effectiveness in earth sheltering.

It is among a group of liquid paint-on waterproofing products. The main challenges with these are they must be carefully applied, making sure that every area is covered to the right thickness, and that every crack or gap is tightly sealed. Bentonite clay is the alternative that is closest to optimum on the environmental scale. It is naturally occurring and self-healing. Bi-membranes have been used extensively throughout Australia where 2 membranes are paired together—typically 2 coats of water-based epoxy as a 'sealer' and stop the internal vapor pressure of the moist concrete exploding bubbles of vapor up underneath the membrane when exposed to hot sun.

The bond strength of epoxy to concrete is stronger than the internal bond strength of concrete so the membranes won't 'blow' off the wall in the sun. Epoxies are very brittle so they are paired up with an overcoat of a high-build flexible water-based acrylic membrane in multiple coats of different colors to ensure film coverage—this is reinforced with non-woven polypropylene textile in corners and changes in direction.

Insulation[ edit ] One or more layers of insulation board or foam are added on the outside of the waterproofing. If the insulation chosen is porous, a top layer of waterproofing is added. Unlike the conventional building, earth shelters require the insulation on the exterior of the building rather than inside the wall. One reason for this is that it provides protection for the waterproof membrane against freeze damage, another is that the earth shelter is able to better retain its desired temperature.

There are two types of insulation used in earth shelter construction. The first is close-celled extruded polystyrene sheets. Two to three inches glued to the outside of the waterproofing is generally sufficient.

The second type of insulation is a spray on foam e. This works very well where the shape of the structure is unconventional, rounded or difficult to get to. Foam insulation requires an additional protective top coat such as foil or fleece filter to help it resist water penetration. In some low budget earth shelters, insulation may not be applied to the walls.

These methods rely on the U factor or thermal heat storage capacity of the earth itself below the frost layer. These designs are the exception however and risk frost heave damage in colder climates. The theory behind no insulation designs relies on using the thermal mass of the earth to store heat, rather than relying on a heavy masonry or cement inner structures that exist in a typical passive solar house. Waterproofing 80 Closing In 97 The Interior Performance Case Studies in the North C a s e Studies in the Southern U.

S Appendix 1: Radon Appendix 2: Rob's not only talked about u n d e r g r o u n d archi I lis honesty is obvious. Glance at any p a g e in this tecture, and written about it. He's so open about the few out there and d o n e it—and taught a lot of others to errors he's m a d e during his " u n d e r g r o u n d " ca do it.

If you have even a slight interest in building a But then, as I read on. I find his openness reassur gentle, unobtrusive kind of house, read on Rob my, his solutions simple and convincing. His Intent book is Infra Structures. Preface Over the past 20 years, my career has consisted of sold over , copies in twelve printings, building, writing and teaching about two rather but has been out of print for several years.

This distinct building styles: Cordwood work, now greatly revised and u xiated. Those interested in more and affordable to the owner-builder w h o hasn't information on cordwood masonry should refer won the state lottery. The m e t h o d s accented here to the Complete Hook of Cordwood Masonry are: That book also gives a ing, and the self-sealing rolled-out waterproofing thorough step-by-step account of the construction membrane.

These are the methods that my wife. In the late s This book uses Log End Cave as a model, and it and early s, there was a national mini-craze takes the r e a d e r through the step-by-step con- about u n d e r g r o u n d h o u s i n g , p r o b a b l y in re- struction of a single-storey rectilinear low-cost un- sponse to heightened awareness of energy con d e r g r o u n d home.

W h e r e improvements to the de- servation. Several new books on the subject were sign a r e s u g g e s t e d , a t t e n t i o n is called to t h e being published each year. The Some of the best of these books w e r e produced case-studies section e x p a n d s on the basic theme by the Underground Space Center at the Univer- somewhat by including houses of other shapes, sity of Minnesota.

The Center is still in existence, and shows examples f r o m the "Deep South" of the but it has de-emphasized housebuilding, probably U. In a recent conver- other way is to hire a good architect.

While the again. Wells has been structural engineer. But My own Underground Houses: Some r e a d e r s may subcontract almost all of calculations checked by a college's structural- the work, and still derive substantial savings over a engineering class as a study project. As for construction, even the most resourceful Finally, our own E a r t h w o o d Building School owner builders may feel that there are building has since acted as a clearinghouse f o r infor- trades that are simply beyond their confidence or mation about earth-sheltered housing and cord- ability.

Even here, though, it's possible to save wood masonry. I n m a n y ground housing, is nothing new. Although there's s o m e very posh housing con- On ' l e n e r i f e , in the C a n a r y I s l a n d s , cave- verted f r o m true caves in the Loire Valley in dwelling is f o u n d in t h e agricultural uplands.

France, m o d e r n earth shelters have little in com- When I visited this a r e a , I thought these homes to mon with caves. It w a s as if houses had been Man has lived u n d e r g r o u n d at many times and set into the hillside, with only o n e wall left ex- places throughout history.

In Cappadocia, Tbrkey posed. T h e r e w e r e even curtains on the windows. Hie settlements, make them today with the advent of the insulated some of which extend eight stories below ground, skylight but they w e r e cheery and will no doubt are hewn out of soft stone. These settlements are a be much the s a m e h u n d r e d s of years from now. Why would anyone w a n t to build u n d e r g r o u n d Folk arc hitecture has always made Intelligent in the modern world?

Malcolm Wells says: When these consist of no more than the soft strata itself, it's only natural Every s q u a r e foot of this planet's s u r f a c e — l a n d and that u n d e r g r o u n d dwellings evolve. Having lived in Britain for In Architerra's Nice project, the density was seven years. I knew that one of the primary con- about 10 houses per acre, similar in density to the cerns of the county and regional planning b o a r d s a f o r e m e n t i o n e d a b o v e - g r o u n d project in Scot- was to retain the "visual amenity" of the villages land.

Architerra tried to launch similar projects in and countryside. A much better job of retaining the United States in the s, but their great ideas this has been d o n e in the U. This is very pened in the past ten or fifteen years. Malcolm difficult to understand. At "Underhill," the s a m e Wells, us stated, is still active, even after three sheep which had been grazing the Q u a r m b y lot on decades in the movement.

Ray Sterling and John the edge of the village w e r e able to come back to Carmody, authors of Earth Sheltered I lousing De- continue their grazing after the home was Fin sign, still work at the U n d e r g r o u n d Space Center ished. I-rum the mam road, the home is hardly at the University of M i n n e s o t a , although their seen, t hat's visual amenity. Architect Don laki and I o n c e lived in an old stone cottage on Metz, w h o designed and supervised the construe the outskirts of Dingwall in Scotland.

Over the sity Andy Davis, w h o publicized his "Davis Caves" years, the town of Dingwall gradually m a d e its so well in the s is still g o i n g strong. The British way towards the farm where we lived, one field at Earth Sheltering Assoc iation is probably more ac- a time falling to tract housing.

The tall almost tive in promoting residential u s e s of u n d e r g r o u n d A frame houses that were built were crowded 10 housing than any c o m p a r a b l e organization in to the acre in the development, the net effect being America, although only a handful of earth shelters that the "view" from any house was the gable e n d s have actually been built in Britain.

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I lad a development o f " U n derhills" been approved instead, the view from The bad news: The sheep could have companies which tried to m a k e a living at spe- returned. There's a sense of optimism g r o u p specializing in earth-sheltered housing, ac a m o n g the old g u a r d that u n d e r g r o u n d is on the tually built several complexes in France and Spain way back.

Interest has picked up in Malcolm Wells' that would have been perfect in place of the impos books, and, a f t e r a period of slow going, at the ing homes that were built n e a r Dingwall. Underground Space C e n t e r as well Interest is increasing again at E a r t h w o o d Building School, w h e r e we've c o n d u c t e d u n d e r g r o u n d - h o u s i n g Bv virtue of the stepped design oi the Architerra com- workshops continuously since Articles in m a g a z i n e s such as because of the unobstructed view of the horizon New Shelter a n d The Mother Earth News prolif- while permitting.

I've got dozens of differ- pared with other industrial nations with a similar ent volumes on my reference shell'. We continue to encroach fur- Then came the public perception that the en- ther and further upon the very ecological systems ergy crisis was either over, or had been a fraud in that support life on this planet open water and the First place; neither view turned out to be true. President Keagan appealed to upward mobility and unbridled economic optimism.

While the rich For the first time in decade, young people got richer, the poor got poorer. The middle class is seem to be concerned again with the environ- only now realizing that the same old realities are ment, with quality of life instead of standard of still with us, to wit: We still waste inordinate living.

Underground housing is very much in tune amounts of energy in the United States when com with this thinking. KV maintains the visual amenity of the village and countryside. The bermed house involves building the structure at or close to original grade and "berming" mounding earth against the side walls, Very often, an earth roof is chosen to complete the harmony of the building.

In the chambered house, the entire struc- ture is below original grade. There aren't many "true" underground homes in the United States, although there's a great deal of underground commercial space. A below- grade central courtyard provides access to several underground rooms opening onto it. The court- yard, in turn, is accessed by a single stairway- down from ground level.

The approach is very similar to that taken in China, where individual homes are carved out of the loess subsoil, all ac- cessed to a central courtyard. In later designs, John B a r n a r d ' s c o u r t y a r d evolved into a covered atrium.

The below-grade aspect of the original home was tempered some- what by more of a bermed approach, with a south- facing elevation providing access and light onto grade. In addition to the courtyard and the covered atrium, leaving one or more sides of the home Many different techniques have evolved over exposed to grade this is called the "elevational" the past 30 y e a r s w h i c h m a k e u n d e r g r o u n d approach to earth-sheltered housing is another houses as light and bright and airy as those homes way to provide ingress to the home, natural light, built above ground.

Underground designers seem and ventilation. Now, this isn't purely a common citizen's belief that underground hous design fault of the south-elevational wall alone. Mike There are other ways to incorporate the code- Oehler says: But, the elevational plan did fit in well with the I remember my visit to "Baldtop Dugout," ar- site, despite the e r r o r s cited above. People have chitect Don Metz's earth-sheltered home. We felt that the atrium and sidewall pene- pelled once and for all the notion that under- tration design techniques weren't as well suited to ground houses are lacking in views.

Our own Log providing the external view that was so important. End Cave had a wonderful close view into the These techniques would also involve expenses that woods, where the activities of the local wildlife we weren't prepared to make at the time. The Log End Cave which we actually built in was about 30' x 35'.

The dimensions were a function of site At Log End Cave, we decided to compromise be- considerations, afford ability, availability of mate- tween the bermed and chambered styles.

We rials, and certain goals for heating and cooling would use material excavated for the foundation efficiency. I shown on page For structural safety with 4 x 8 must confess that there are three glaring design rafters, we limited ceiling spans to about 8'6". This faults on this original Log End Cave design's south made the perimeter rooms rather small, a short- elevation.

They are: When to the underside of the windows on the south we visit Richard and Lisa Quay's home, based on side. It just looks nice. The drawback is that snow those plans and described in chapter 16, we're starts to accumulate right there, and, in northern impressed by the comparatively roomy bedrooms New York, it isn't long before somebody is out and bathroom with their ten-foot spans.

Also, every square fool Although every owner-builder likes to design of a south-facing elevation given over to double- his own home, incorporating the features which pane insulated glass will actual provide a net he finds important, 1 offer a 40' x 40' Log End energy gain in northern climes. Cave plan Illustrations The house can be built on a the home's internal heat directly to the outside.

At the time, we didn't real- of ingress and egress. Even a chipmunk knows ize that overall structural strength isn't compro- better. One never knows when a fox or a build- mised by joining shorter girders over the pillars. The south-wall elevational plan of the original I og End jive, a bermed structure built on a gentle slope. While bending Bending failure is when a m e m b e r s n a p s some- strength is slightly d e c r e a s e d in this example, where near the middle because of the load.

Be happy that you only have to deal with 10' member is supported by a wall or a post. Two girders, not 20' or 30" behemoths. The 40' x 40' floor plan lllus. T h e than the open-plan great room, assuming that you 40' x 40' plans call for 5 x 10s, as we used at o u r have centrally located wood heat.

In 10' to 12' lengths, the original Cave, and w a s considered at the de they're heavy, but not unmanageable. You'll want sign stage. Jaki is English, and l had lived seven s o m e help with the heavy timbers.

The stress-load years in Britain, so we were used to cool bed- engineering for t h e plans is b a s e d u p o n a 10' x 10' rooms, and believe that they a r e healthier than module, repeated 16 times. I always design floor plans to make the joining of internal walls with exposed rafters Many people casually a c q u a i n t e d with u n d e r - and girders both neat and easy to construct.

The new 40' x 40 Cave's block, rafter, post-and- beam plan. The 40 x 40 Log End Cave plan improves upon the original design. The home is designed to support a roof load of at least lbs.

In fact, earth is a pretty poor insula- about 40 F lllus. When the outside winter air tor. Put another tion? The earth is a great capacitor. The ambient earth tem- good conductor. Thankfully, tional side, there's no reason why a penetrational there's another thermal mass at our disposal, one d o o r couldn't be incorporated on one of the other over which we can more easily exercise control. Penetrational b e d r o o m windows, if they internal mass such as a m a s o n r y stove.

The best open, can also satisfy building codes egress. For way to regulate this thermal mass is to separate it example, the National Building C o d e NBC allows from the earth's thermal flywheel by a thermal the e g r e s s vvindowsill to be no m o r e than 48" off break, typically rigid-foam insulation placed cor- the floor.

Other codes may specify 44" rypically, rectly on the exterior of the home's fabric. This is very important. The clear-opening width must be at least 20" S o m e worst thing to do and it's amazing how often it's building codes will allow the alternative of two done is to place insulation on the interior of the doors f r o m b e d r o o m s offering t w o separate paths thermal mass.

Not only has all control over the of escape. The house built on the in internal walls. Meeting the r e q u i r e m e n t of surface has two choices: The b e d r o o m s in the another great cooling advantage. Unlike the high 40' x 40' plans need either interconnected door- surface t e m p e r a t u r e s of asphalt t a r s c a p e s , the ways or penetrational code-worthy windows to earth roof is cool just a few inches below the sur- pass an inspection.

Check with your local code- face. Respiration by plants and e v a p o r a t i o n of enforcement officer. Or, if you're building in one of moisture off the earth roof both help to cool the those few remaining rural a r e a s w h e r e building building, just as a wet towel draped over a 5-gallon codes are rare, use your o w n best-informed judg- bucket will help to keep your drinks cold.

Err on the side of safety. When designing an u n d e r g r o u n d house, keep in mind three important words: As for The 40' x 40' Log End Cave plan is an example of keeping the house dry, d r a i n a g e is the better part elevational t e r r a t e c t u r e with b e r m e d sidewalls.

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On any steep-slope projects, consult with a soil or structural engi- The perfect exposure for a window meant to collect neer. Remem- site combined the a d v a n t a g e s of g o o d drainage, ber. An added benefit was so bad in the midsection of the U. With a volt e n e r g y sys- tity of light will vary a g r e a t deal in different parts tem.

The use of line loss at low voltage.

The Complete Book of Underground Houses

Finally, driveway access the rooms come into play here when you design w a s excellent. Building materials and ready-mix the floor plan. As the sun begins to set, a great deal concrete w e r e easy to deliver to the site. The site had been a m e a d o w when o u r home- stead had been part of a hilltop farm m a n y years ago, but this particular c o r n e r of the m e a d o w was overgrown with small apple, cherry, and poplar trees.

It took Jaki and me a couple of days to clear e n o u g h of the g r o w t h to see the terrain clearly. Plan ahead so that just the that have been built. For a two-storey home, a right a m o u n t of earth is moved, and not moved steeper slope would work, but much m o r e atten- twice. Halfway between those times the sun top or hillside. First, we set up a surveyor's transit will be at true south. Cloudy for a week? Use a at the top of the knoll.

You can rent a contractor's magnetic compass, but don't forget to take into level which will do the same job quite inexpen- account the magnetic deflection for your area. A sively at tool-rental stores.

We plumbed and lev- good transit will have a magnetic compass built in, elled the transit to a point on the ground within the but a rented contractor's level probably won't. An even better benchmark would be a large of the level's compass rose to a fixed point, the nail driven into the ground, with a rod piece of corner of Log End Cottage. Then, with Jaki hold- tape tied just under the head so the nail can be ing a calibrated g r a d e stick you can rent or make found again.

South would then corre- tance on a chart, we statistically mapped the area. Again, we so on. I'd set the level or transit at 0", for example, measured the distance. Likewise, we recorded ev- and Jaki would move away from me with the grade ery 6" drop along the ray until we were outside the stick until we were able to discern a drop in the vicinity of the house site.

Then we repeated the land. We wards in inches from a point on the slick equal to now had a statistical abstract Table 1 of the large the height of the level off the ground, say four feet.

This j o b took us As s xm as we could perceive an inch of drop, we all afternoon. Then Jaki moved further away transcribed the figu res onto a large piece of graph. The north and south walls were almost even with the original ground level; the terrain around the cast and west walls was built up using excavated material. To avoid There's another big time-saver that comes out of confusion later, I lightly marked the elevation next these little maps, now that the trouble has been to the corresponding dot: We considered 1" to be level for our purposes.

Once we determined on paper the best location for After all the figures from my chart were thus tran- the house, all we had to do was transpose the four scribed, it was an easy task to connect the dots of corner points to the site itself. We used a simple like elevation with gently curving lines. Lo and angle-and-distance system.

Using a small protrac behold an extremely accurate contour map of the tor and a ruler, it was easy to determine, for exam - site emerged as the dots were connected lllus. It's important to be able to set up off by eliminating a lot of guessing later on. From a the transit or contractor's level in exactly the same piece of the same kind of graph paper, I cut out a spot a s it was when the o r i g i n a l f i g u r e s were scale model of the foundation plan, using the out- taken.

We set up over the brick using the corner of side dimensions of the planned block wall. We did the same little square around the contour m a p until the with the other three corners. Then we checked the most sensible location emerged. Walls We knew that the i oncrete slab at door level would were the right length; diagonals checked. I happened to have a 4' x 4' sheet of plywood As seen in lllus.

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The south wall of the excavation itself lllus. The earth that another set of hefty birch stakes to mark these comes out of the hole during excavation is used to points.

Of course, the original four stakes marking build up the terrain to the tops of the east and west the house corners would be eaten by the front-end walls. By this plan, the new ground level melds loader, but I wanted the operator to be able to nicely into the shallow-pitched, earth-covered visualize the project clearly before starting.

It's roof. With our contour map, it was excavation and to formulate the most efficient ex- easy to explain just how d e e p to go at each corner cavation depth to lake advantage of natural con of the excavation.

A certain very much easier to estimate. It w a s worth the amount of erosion can be expected during the job, effort: The landscaping around the Cave wasn't a and although we spaced our stakes 4' out f r o m the big job and it came out very well. Transposing the four corner points from paper to the site, using a protractor, ruler, and surveyor's level. The ing in the g r o u n d , the excavation slope called the space was about 30" on average, at the base of the "angle of repose" will cut away into the four feet at excavation.

If the digger leaves the markers stand- the bottom lllus. Our soil health department may be able to help with soil had a fair amount of clay, which allows steep exca- maps and information about septic systems. The vation sidewalks, like those shown in lllus. Since you'll probably have to conduct On the positive side, you'll probably be able to these tests anyway to satisfy the health depart- backfill with the same material which came out of ment for approval of a septic-system design, you the hole, because drainage is excellent in sandy might as well do the tests before you do the site soils.

If you've got h o r r e n d o u s drainage, such as derful sandy soil is only three feet deep, with hard- soils designated as "expansive clays," or if a deep- pan or clay below: It enters If your site is flat, you'll be spared the tedium of the home through cracks in the foundation. Un- creating the contour map. All you need to know is derground houses can pose a higher risk than do the soil conditions, and I would definitely advise a other types of housing by the n a t u r e of their con deep-hole test.

The hole doesn't take long for a strucUon. If you're in an area known for high ra- backhoe to dig, and. Appendix 1 The Log End Cave design, in fact, is midway be- treats radon in detail, and gives sources of addi- tween the b e r m e d and c h a m b e r e d styles of under- tional information.

With the bermed style, the builder need only calculate the amount of earth needed to mound up gracefully against the sidewalls. But keep in mind that unless the site is entirely of sandy soil or good-draining gravel, it isn't wise to backfill with the excavated material. The drainage characteristics of the subsoil w h e r e Bring in sand or gravel, if necessary, to e n s u r e you build must be considered carefully when cal- good drainage.

Because o u r subsoils have such culating the size of the excavation. You need to poor drainage, we had to backfill with 25 d u m p - answer one very important question: Can the ex- truck loads of 5 cubic yards each If it's necessary cavated material be used to backfill the walls of to bring in backfilling material, this task should be the home? If percolation in the subsoil is good, figured in when calculating the depth of the exca- then the a n s w e r is yes.

If the soil holds water or vation. With a b e r m e d house, it's easy to get rid of doesn't let it through, as with claylike soils, then a little extra material. The thicker the berm, the the answer is no. If percolation is poor, you'll have better. In fact, if the earth piled up against the walls to bring in backfilling material or use one of the is thick e n o u g h 5' to 6'.

This will probably gravel pit. There was no topsoil. We built a pad of be an economic decision, weighing the cost of good percolating sand, which w a s right on site, many loads of coarse sand or gravel versus the and "floated" the f o u n d a t i o n slab on this p a d. This hypothetical site isn't blessed with a the gabled berm-style house shown in lllus. How much material of essary to bring in backfilling material. If the site the kind taken from the excavation will be required has good topsoil, the whole area should be on the berm?

Calculating the required depths of excavation for this hypothetic. The plan is for external wall dimensions of 30' 0. I"he square, or 10 yards by 10 yards. Let's say we were sand for the drainage remains the same 64 cubic to excavate one yard 36" deep over the whole area yards. The berm is V higher now.

The 3 in 15 pitch within one yard of the walls. This square, 12 yards 3: Because of poor yards, then, the berm is 1. The volume of the berm. The total length of yards out of the hole.

Not bad. Add to this the obvious lack of a second entrance. Such a bermed volume of the two delta-wing Shapes where the house would be just slightly smaller than the Log berms meet at the corners, marked "D" in lllus Hnd Cave we actually built.

The thick berm and e a r t h - taken cubic yards out of the hole! And the visual and environmental Before we make a second guess, let's consider impact is about the same as that of the original Log End Cave.

From a distance, the house would look the situation if the excavated material had been of like little more than a knoll on a flat landscape. In this case, the At the earliest stages of planning and siting, con- total volume of the berm right up to the Walls is sideration must be given to the disposal of waste- Vk cubic yards 97V? Wastewater disposal systems based than the cubic yards that came out of the hole.

Moreover, pumping sys- originally, this isn't too bad. The berms could be tems are subject to ongoing maintenance, con- stant consumption of power over their lifetime. As the hole gets deeper, the berms above grade get smaller. Remember, "For this example, I've d r a w n the gable o n e yard 13' hlflher too.

The roof pitch, therefore. Roof pitch is usually measured m terms n rise per 12 lateral feet. Our example is equivalent Let's assume that we have poor soil. This time, 1. A contractor will be inclined to give a ages. Therefore, integrate the siting of a below- better price if justified by the volume of work. I grade house very carefully with the location of the Stayed with the s a m e contractor throughout the septic tank and drain field.

On the side of a hill, work at Log End Cave, and liked his work so much waste drainage hy gravity won't he a problem On that I retained him again at F a r t h w o o d.

I get excel- a flat site, it may be necessary to dig d e e p e r tracks lent service as a regular customer. If two contractors give similar estimates, but scape sculpting to build the berms. I also order to establish a correct gradient for a gravity prefer to pay by the hour rather than by the j o b waste-disposal system. You may c h a n g e your plans d u r to be higher than the drains, rule out the site imme- ing construction, about w h e r e to put a snakawuy diately.

Rule out lloodplains, too. Even if tile walls dry well , for example. If you're paying by the job. The backhoe worked well, so natu- vation represents one of the biggest and costliest rally I assumed that I needed one at the Cave, but jobs connected with building u n d e r g r o u n d.

Esti- the major excavation there was d o n e much more mates should be obtained f r o m several heavy- efficiently with a front-end loader The loader was equipment contractors. If the contractor knows than half the time it would have taken the backhoe. Some contractors than the o n e for the Cottage and, because it w a s may tack on what a p p e a r s to be a hefty profit for cut into a hillside, it w a s easy for the front-end the job You can't hlame them.

They also have to loader, with its 6' bucket, to maneuver. The e n - cover unforeseen circumstances when bidding by trance on the south side w a s the natural way for the job. It's the per-hour charge, as well, and this is almost true that the loader has to back away with each always the way I hire the equipment contractor. But son can be made. For example. But Smith uses an 18" hoe, did use a backhoe, instead; at that point, the loader while Jones has a 24" bucket.

For excavation, Jones had to travel too far with each load to d u m p it will come out cheaper, other things being equal.

It's Ask the contractor if he charges for hauling the a big plus to hire a contractor w h o has a variety of equipment to the site. The loader would also do well for the excavation Bear in mind that you'll need equipment later of the b e r m e d house used as an example in this for backfilling, landscaping, and p e r h a p s a septic- chapter.

You want to can do a remarkable job quickly. The foot- two feet beyond the outside of the planned footing ing supports the entire structure and distributes Illustrations , 4—2. Check the level with a con- the weight of the walls and roof over a base that's tractor's level and g r a d e stick.

Because of the slope broader than the thickness of the walls. The foot- that will be left if the work is done with a front-end ing is given tensile strength by the use of strong loader, the 2' figure is consistent with the place- iron reinforcing bars, often called "rebars," so ment of the second set of white-birch pegs 4' out- side those that mark the house corners.

For relatively lightweight On the flat excavation, mark the location of the concrete-block construction, such as for a small four outside corners of the footing so that a back- block building, the dimensions of the footing fol- hoe can draw the tracks within which the footing low a simple rule. The depth of the footing should will be poured. There are two ways to plot these be equal to the width of the wall.

The width of the corners: Following this rule at Log End boards way up on the surface so that we could Cave, with its planned 12"-vvide block walls. I de- slide su ings back and forth to make sure the sides cided on footings 12" thick and 24" wide. These boards A few years later, it was pointed out to me by can be seen in Illus. A local contractor friend, concrete-foundation experts that using a 12"-thick Jonathan Cross, came over on a Saturday morn- footing is really "overkill.

We're not batter boards. We'd been at it for hours. We fig- building a skyscraper! Properly reinforced con- ured that once we had the batter boards estab- crete is phenomenally strong on both compres- lished, we could use them for the footing's inside sion and tension the resistance against settling at and outside dimensions as well as for the block a weak point in the subsoil.

Earthwood is a much walls. I still like the 24" width, because this de- and it w a s much easier.

Earth-Sheltered Houses

I lad I known in what I know now, I could drive a 2 x 4 stake at the northwest corner for have saved about a third of the money spent on example 2' in from each side of the flat area. Put a concrete for the footings at the Cave. Let this be the nail in the top of the stake, leaving the nail head first of several mistakes that we made which the sticking out an inch for tying the mason's line. Buy reader can avoid. Measure the length of ner, describe an arc with a radius equal to the the footing along the north wall to a point " in shorter footing d i m e n s i o n , 30'8Vfe" in our case.

Drive a stake into the corner- a n d describe a second arc equal to the ground and a nail into the stake. The hypotenuse diagonal measurement of your foot- point w h e r e the two arcs intersect is the southwest ing figures. We'll use our own figures as an exam- corner. Drive in a stake and a nail there. Find the ple. Thanks to Pythagoras, we can cal- m e a s u r e m e n t with the south-side measurement. Check the work by m e a s u r i n g the other diagonal. The diagonals must be the s a m e in o r d e r for the rectangle to have four s q u a r e corners.

P e r h a p s the rectangle you've laid out doesn't use the cleared space to the best advantage. It might c r o w d one of the excavation slopes, but it might have plenty of r o o m on the adjacent side. It doesn't take long to rotate the rectangle slightly to alleviate this problem. You might even have to do a little pick-and-shovel work if o n e of the sides These calculations t a n be d o n e in a jiffy by doesn't have enough room.

In this case, a 5Vz"-thick floor is lb get ready for the backhoe, place flags or recommended by manufacturers of such systems. You can set these guide of it. Get information on products from your local stakes by eyeballing.

Sight from one stake to an- plumbing-and-heating supply store Be sure to in- other and instruct a helper to plant a third marker sulate with extruded polystyrene below the slab.

In all, I low much? At least an inch, but check with the you'll place eight guide markers. Although the ac- How deep should you dig the footing trench? Fig- tual Cave footings w e r e 12" x 24", the drawing ure this depth carefully.

The important relation- shows a footing with a sufficient 9" depth. TWo ship is the one between the level of the top of the inches of the concrete floor and 4" of compacted footing and the top of the floor. The cross-hatching sand will be below the top of the footing. This in lllus. For un- leaves just 3" of additional material to be excavated derfloor drainage, bring in 4" of sand to lay the to accommodate the footing track. This footing floor on. The advantage of a full 4" is Digging the footing track is probably best done by simply more thermal mass for heat storage.

The hand, unless digging conditions are poor because exception to the 4" floor would be if you intend to of hard soils or large boulders.

In such cases, a incorporate an in-slab heating system, such as a backhoe can save a backache. A keyed joint can be ing and under the floor. At Log End Cave, we didn't can be easily removed from the partially set con- include this detail and suffered condensation at crete.

Oiling the key way board is also strongly the base of the wall and about 6" in from the floor recommended. I"he resulting keyed joint will look during w a r m moist conditions in May, June, and like the one shown in lllus. Note that the draft early July, when the footing w a s still conducting.

Later, the "coolth" from the still-cold soils at 7' of depth. Interest has picked up in Malcolm Wells' that would have been perfect in place of the impos books, and, a f t e r a period of slow going, at the ing homes that were built n e a r Dingwall.

Underground Space C e n t e r as well Interest is increasing again at E a r t h w o o d Building School, w h e r e we've c o n d u c t e d u n d e r g r o u n d - h o u s i n g Bv virtue of the stepped design oi the Architerra com- workshops continuously since Articles in m a g a z i n e s such as because of the unobstructed view of the horizon New Shelter a n d The Mother Earth News prolif- while permitting.

I've got dozens of differ- pared with other industrial nations with a similar ent volumes on my reference shell'. We continue to encroach fur- Then came the public perception that the en- ther and further upon the very ecological systems ergy crisis was either over, or had been a fraud in that support life on this planet open water and the First place; neither view turned out to be true. President Keagan appealed to upward mobility and unbridled economic optimism.

While the rich For the first time in decade, young people got richer, the poor got poorer. The middle class is seem to be concerned again with the environ- only now realizing that the same old realities are ment, with quality of life instead of standard of still with us, to wit: We still waste inordinate living.

Underground housing is very much in tune amounts of energy in the United States when com with this thinking. KV maintains the visual amenity of the village and countryside. The bermed house involves building the structure at or close to original grade and "berming" mounding earth against the side walls, Very often, an earth roof is chosen to complete the harmony of the building.

In the chambered house, the entire struc- ture is below original grade. There aren't many "true" underground homes in the United States, although there's a great deal of underground commercial space. A below- grade central courtyard provides access to several underground rooms opening onto it. The court- yard, in turn, is accessed by a single stairway- down from ground level.

The approach is very similar to that taken in China, where individual homes are carved out of the loess subsoil, all ac- cessed to a central courtyard. In later designs, John B a r n a r d ' s c o u r t y a r d evolved into a covered atrium. The below-grade aspect of the original home was tempered some- what by more of a bermed approach, with a south- facing elevation providing access and light onto grade. In addition to the courtyard and the covered atrium, leaving one or more sides of the home Many different techniques have evolved over exposed to grade this is called the "elevational" the past 30 y e a r s w h i c h m a k e u n d e r g r o u n d approach to earth-sheltered housing is another houses as light and bright and airy as those homes way to provide ingress to the home, natural light, built above ground.

Underground designers seem and ventilation. Yet another way is to use sidewall to go out of their way in this respect, cognizant not penetrations through the earth berm as door and only of the code-enforcement officer's strict ad- 10 DESIGN 11 herence to building regulations, but also of the second means of escape.

Now, this isn't purely a common citizen's belief that underground hous design fault of the south-elevational wall alone. Mike There are other ways to incorporate the code- Oehler says: mandated and sensible second entrance be- sides placing a second door on the elevational An underground house has no more in common with wall: a penetrational doorway through the berm.

But, the elevational plan did fit in well with the I remember my visit to "Baldtop Dugout," ar- site, despite the e r r o r s cited above. People have chitect Don Metz's earth-sheltered home.

We felt that the atrium and sidewall pene- pelled once and for all the notion that under- tration design techniques weren't as well suited to ground houses are lacking in views.

Our own Log providing the external view that was so important. End Cave had a wonderful close view into the These techniques would also involve expenses that woods, where the activities of the local wildlife we weren't prepared to make at the time. The Log End Cave which we actually built in was about 30' x 35'.

The dimensions were a function of site At Log End Cave, we decided to compromise be- considerations, afford ability, availability of mate- tween the bermed and chambered styles. We rials, and certain goals for heating and cooling would use material excavated for the foundation efficiency. I shown on page For structural safety with 4 x 8 must confess that there are three glaring design rafters, we limited ceiling spans to about 8'6". This faults on this original Log End Cave design's south made the perimeter rooms rather small, a short- elevation.

When to the underside of the windows on the south we visit Richard and Lisa Quay's home, based on side. It just looks nice. The drawback is that snow those plans and described in chapter 16, we're starts to accumulate right there, and, in northern impressed by the comparatively roomy bedrooms New York, it isn't long before somebody is out and bathroom with their ten-foot spans. Also, every square fool Although every owner-builder likes to design of a south-facing elevation given over to double- his own home, incorporating the features which pane insulated glass will actual provide a net he finds important, 1 offer a 40' x 40' Log End energy gain in northern climes.

Cave plan Illustrations The house can be built on a the home's internal heat directly to the outside. At the time, we didn't real- of ingress and egress. Even a chipmunk knows ize that overall structural strength isn't compro- better.

One never knows when a fox or a build- mised by joining shorter girders over the pillars. The south-wall elevational plan of the original I og End jive, a bermed structure built on a gentle slope strength generally comes into play before shear separate 10' girders joined over a post are actually strength, but on heavy-timber construction used stronger on shear than a single 20' girder sup- for heavy loads, the opposite is usually the case.

While bending Bending failure is when a m e m b e r s n a p s some- strength is slightly d e c r e a s e d in this example, where near the middle because of the load. Be happy that you only have to deal with 10' member is supported by a wall or a post. Two girders, not 20' or 30" behemoths.

T h e than the open-plan great room, assuming that you 40' x 40' plans call for 5 x 10s, as we used at o u r have centrally located wood heat. In 10' to 12' lengths, the original Cave, and w a s considered at the de they're heavy, but not unmanageable. You'll want sign stage.

Jaki is English, and l had lived seven s o m e help with the heavy timbers. The stress-load years in Britain, so we were used to cool bed- engineering for t h e plans is b a s e d u p o n a 10' x 10' rooms, and believe that they a r e healthier than module, repeated 16 times. I always design floor plans to make the joining of internal walls with exposed rafters Many people casually a c q u a i n t e d with u n d e r - and girders both neat and easy to construct.

The new 40' x 40 Cave's block, rafter, post-and- lllus. Below: The 40 x 40 Log End Cave plan improves upon the original design. The home is designed to support a roof load of at least lbs. In fact, earth is a pretty poor insula- about 40 F lllus.

When the outside winter air tor. Put another tion? The earth is a great capacitor. The ambient earth tem- good conductor. Thankfully, tional side, there's no reason why a penetrational there's another thermal mass at our disposal, one d o o r couldn't be incorporated on one of the other over which we can more easily exercise control.

Penetrational b e d r o o m windows, if they internal mass such as a m a s o n r y stove. The best open, can also satisfy building codes egress. For way to regulate this thermal mass is to separate it example, the National Building C o d e NBC allows from the earth's thermal flywheel by a thermal the e g r e s s vvindowsill to be no m o r e than 48" off break, typically rigid-foam insulation placed cor- the floor. Other codes may specify 44" rypically, rectly on the exterior of the home's fabric.

This is very important. The clear-opening width must be at least 20" S o m e worst thing to do and it's amazing how often it's building codes will allow the alternative of two done is to place insulation on the interior of the doors f r o m b e d r o o m s offering t w o separate paths thermal mass.

Not only has all control over the of escape.It's easier to pour the floor to the ideal spots for lapping up some of the cooler earth same level as the footings, and all the blocks can be temperatures below the sand.

I wo Before applying the membrane, we attend to other people work from below, one removing the the critical waterproofing detail where the wall backing paper, the other pressing the Bituthene"' meets the footing. Several new books on the subject were sign a r e s u g g e s t e d , a t t e n t i o n is called to t h e being published each year. All in all, we trowelled on internal air might travel through the planking and gallons of plastic roofing cement.

Increasing the amount of earth on the roof past this gives only modest increases in the benefits while increasing costs significantly. My YouTube Channel has a short video showing how the dome was built. This template can now be used to While surface-bonding cement has been rated ex- check both depth and plumb. Having lived in Britain for In Architerra's Nice project, the density was seven years.

KIRA from Mississippi
I am fond of reading comics unabashedly. Review my other posts. I have only one hobby: quilting.