07 April 2008

Earth-Sheltered Homes

Mother Earth News has a great article (Oct/Nov 2006) about Earth-sheltered homes, including tips on building techniques, living roofs, and how earth-sheltering works in general. Definitely intended for the construction- or engineering-minded, but well worth the read.

"You don't have to place an earth roof on an earth-sheltered home, but it has some compelling advantages in addition to the ecological benefit already mentioned:

Longevity. The properly designed earth roof is the longest-lasting roof you can build, because the earth and insulation protect the waterproofing membrane from the three conditions that eventually break down every other common roof surface: ultraviolet radiation, erosion and freeze-thaw cycling, which all damage exposed roofing over time.

Insulation. Solid earth is not good insulation, but 3 or 4 inches of light soil with vegetation growing in it has some insulation value. In winter, the cold, uneven earth roof holds snow better than other roofs, and fluffy snow is a good — and free — insulator."

There are several great links in this article, including a profile of Malcolm Wells, "father" of earth-sheltered design.

Link to article.

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