I only offer a different way of looking at existing ideas......Waldo

The Earthen Bermed Home

Here in the U.S. most of the homes that are built tend to use industry standard materials of wood, asphalt, gypsum and concrete. Because of this our industry has evolved around these materials to the point that building codes except only houses built with these materials as the norm. As time progressed any other type of home design was considered unacceptable and was suspect. Man tends to build upward as his buildings seem to get taller as time progresses. His sky scrapers are as tall as his technology allows him to design. Maybe architects consider height as a barometer of man’s technological progression. Maybe this is a direct result of some ancient tower of Babel ego driven desire. Almost all other species of land animals burrow or live in natural caves. Ironically when man wants to protect something he burrows underground. This is evident by places like Cheyenne Mountain, Iron Mountain, super safe vaults, bomb shelters and Missile silos. The Earth itself is a perfect and natural insulator and weather shield. Soil is a better material than the materials used by current architects.

I have studied the designs of many underground home designers and the work of Dr. Nader Kalili who builds his Earthen dome and vault creations in Hesperia California. The underground home movement gained a big following in the early 1970’s when a fuel crisis. Which basically means a price gouge by OPEC forced Americans to look for more efficient ways of heating and cooling their homes. Many people followed the Gopher and Rabbit and began building underground homes. The problem with most of these designs is that they tend to leak moisture and are extremely expensive because of the massive amounts of concrete needed to keep the soil from crushing the walls and ceilings in. So any energy savings were offset by the enormous cost of the building materials. Comparing the cost of construction and the over all heating and cooling costs over a twenty year period. A conventional wood framed home is actually cheaper to own and build over all.
My design is simple. It is essentially two parallel nine foot tall by twenty foot wide beams of soil spaced twelve feet apart. They lay side by side in a long arch which adds strength and privacy as the single bedroom is located at the rear and is out of sight from the kitchen. The inner walls are carved into a series of stepped shelves. This keeps the inner walls from collapsing. In the same manor as a strip mine retains its shape. The inner walls are then coated with a thin coating of cement to maintain their shape and strength. The same way an M and M candy has a thin candy coating over the chocolate to keep it from melting or losing its shape. The windows are made from various large diameter drainage tubes. The windows are circular pieces of Poly carbonate“Lexan” or Polystyrene “Plexiglas” with a center pivot post glued and riveted to it. The windows open like a large butterfly valve. Screen material is tied to the outside edge of the drainage tube to keep out insects and uninvited critters.
Railroad ties are anchored all along the top of the berms to give the roof a non corrosive anchor point. This is done by drilling the ends of the ties and pounding rebar rods into the top of the berm. Steel pillars run down the center of the inside of the house in order to support the 4”x 12”center beams which support the roof. The roof will be ½” plywood covered with a common hot mopped composition material. The plywood will sit on 2”x 6” single board rafters. They span a total of 28’ from berm top to berm top or from railroad tie to railroad tie. They will extend 2 to 3 feet beyond the railroad ties so that rainwater is directed down and away from the berms. So even in torrential rain the water would have to soak twenty feet of dry compacted soil. This will be impossible. Thus the interior walls will need no moisture proofing and will never get wet.
The walls will never lose their shape because of the molecular adhesion of the soil itself and the cement interior coating. When I say molecular adhesion I mean that all materials have an individual type of charge on the molecular level which holds the molecules together in a unique way. That is why every natural thing from crystals to snowflakes has unique shapes. I piled the soil into berms and let them sit for two years, allowing the wind and rain to mold them into a natural shape. Naturally they resemble the local mountains in shape. Building berms this way is no job for the lazy. It took me 10 man days with a mini bulldozer at a rental cost of $2,000.00 to form the berms. It took me two man months with a shovel to hand carve the shelves.

The shelved berms come together at the south end in a large bowl which is the master bedroom. The bowl shape is being used to focus acoustics (I listen to a lot of music) and energy (heat and cooling) into the room. It is very different from anything I have ever seen before. Above the master bedroom the roof will be a circular deck with a spa. The rest of the roof will be a shallow pitch composition roof. There will be no insulation on the ceiling. Hot air rises and because the walls angle away from each other hot air will expand away from the floor keeping the lower area cooler. There will also be a passive air flow system that I am working on to pull fresh cool air through the house.
In conclusion I wanted to build an experimental house that was simple and cheap. I will have $14,000.00 into this entire project. The house will have 1,200 square feet of living space and enough shelving to store all my books and record albums (I own thousands of each). I have posted some pictures of the process of construction. I was thinking this was the most novel design I had ever seen. At least until I was studying the history of the Vikings or Norsemen as some people call them. In one book I read there was a drawing of a house that the Norsemen would build in areas where the weather was extremely harsh. Archeologists claim that bitter cold and heavy snow was overcome by building Earthen bermed houses with steeply pitched roofs to shed high volumes of snow. Some of these structures are still around today (minus the roof) and they were probably built in the eleventh century. I am planning on living to 100 so I only need it to hold up for another 52 years…….Waldo