An underground home

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
Not that I was contemplating that but reading this book I am getting more and more interested.

An underground home. Dark, damp and gloomy, right? Nope!

Please consider: HUGE REDUCTION in heating and cooling—soil below the frost line is always at a constant temperature (about 55°F.)

No exterior walls to paint, you might MOW the roof but never replace it—all the huge costs of maintaining a house—GONE!

I guess light comes from skylights? Vulnerable points for bush/wildfires?

If people like I will keep posting on this subject.
 

johnsmith

Moderator
Staff member
I guess light comes from skylights?

I've seen several examples of where they use 2 or 3 light wells with a skyliught up top and the walls lined with reflective materials, with each room in the residence butting against one wall of the light well to allow a window for light
 

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
There are disadvantages—harder to get finance/building approval and if things are not designed right (drainage, if sealing outlets through the wall are not done properly vermin can get in your house. In some areas radiation from radon could be a problem (esp granite.)
 

Texan

Active member
My dad framed custom homes for a living and he framed out the inside of a couple of underground homes.

The home I helped him on as a teenager was earth bermed into the side of a hill on three sides. The exposed side had a facade with a small porch and several windows. Above the house was a tiny building that housed clerestory windows above the living room. The walls and ceiling were made of 2 foot thick concrete and covered with the dirt that was dug out to make the building. It was built 37 years ago and I don't have any pictures. I can't remember the name of the street and I can't see it on google maps because it is underground and the neighborhood has built up.


There is an underground dome home about halfway between Dallas and Houston. A tunnel leads from the main entrance to a dock on a fully stocked pond. There are pictures of deer grazing on the roof of the house. Their sense of style is pretty out there, but the concept is awesome.


For a completely underground home, you will need to allow for getting furniture and appliances in the house. Maybe a small building or carport like structure with a pulley lift to raise and lower into the house. An elevator would be a nice touch.
 
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HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
Underground houses tend to be dome houses, guess the shape gives strength?

I am personally more interested in a berm home—protection from bushfires (wildfires.)
 

Texan

Active member
For fire protection, these people swear by their dome homes. They are made of polyurethane and concrete. They can be covered with stucco or tile if you like. They have been struck by fire, tornado, hurricane, and earthquake and held up pretty well in all instances. They aren't cheap and they look like a hippy house when in a suburban neighborhood, but they are very energy efficient and resistant to just about every disaster. They will even stop most pistol rounds.

 

HBS Guy

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Heh, first picture, looks kinda like this German WWIi bunker I visited with my school back in 1950s Holland.
 

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
Drainage, waterproofing and ventilation are critical to a good underground home—comstant high humidity will see mold and fungi grow, not desirable!

The book was a bit of a disappointment as to details on earth protected houses. I was more looking for a book on things like having a soil cover planted with sedums over the roof, etc. Never mind, will keep looking.

I need a north facing wall to plant some frost sensitive (early blooming) etc trees (Beurre Bosc pears, Doyenne du Comice pears, my two quince and the pomegranate—this wall made of besserblock or expanded concrete block could also be part of the bushfire protection for the house. My solar panels that can’t go on a soil covered roof could go on the top of that wall which has to face north.

Going to be fun fitting in a north–facing conservatory!
 

Texan

Active member
I think spray foam insulation is the ticket for most underground and fire prevention needs. A good closed cell foam will keep moisture out of an underground home and will insulate an above ground metal or masonry structure for parking. A carport or garage would provide a good platform for solar panels. Underground parking is usually cost prohibitive.
 

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
Yeah—strawbale with about 90mm/3" clay sprayed onto the outside, last layer has cement mixed in, then spray foam insulation? Wildfires are getting fiercer and we all should give the fire resistance of our houses more thought.
 

Texan

Active member
I was amazed when I read that hay bale construction was actually fire resistant with a good coating of cement or stucco. A metal or slate roof is a must.
 

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
The bales are tied to tightly that rodents, insects and fire can make no headway. Straw is an excellent heat and acoustic insulator.

Where my block is (where 95% of Tasmania is) it is humid, 135mm rain Dec–Feb, over 600mm per year so I need to raise the straw out of the slush—low double brick walls on which floor joists, the straw etc is placed and deep eaves—if these are covered in soil and sedums there is quite a bit of fire resistance already. Underfloor insulation a must.

Heh, Annie who used to post here until shortly before her death, said straw bale would never be allowed in the US. I told her gently that strawbale started in the US and there were some 100yo strawbale houses there: seeing bales of straw or hay someone thought they looked like bricks and so houses with the straw carrying structural loads were soon built.
 

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
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Am buying a book on fire resistant landscapes. Might be more use than a book on underground houses.

Author is Douglas Kent.
 

Texan

Active member
Am buying a book on fire resistant landscapes. Might be more use than a book on underground houses.

Author is Douglas Kent.
I'm not sure how arid your area is, but El Paso, TX is notorious for rock gardens with lots of cactus. You can have a nice stone wall built cheaply by the illegals for less than some wood or chain link fences. It works for the area and it is very fire resistant. You might consider gravel and cactus for a meter or two around your house to keep fuel away from your house. Cactus is full of water. You can eat it if you need to avoid dehydration.

Can you install sprinklers on your roof for use during approaching fire? Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you store your own rainwater, you can recycle it by spraying it on your roof and letting it go back into your tank. You may pick up some ash sediment in your water, but it could save your home.
 

HBS Guy

Head Honcho
Staff member
I will start a thread on fire resistant/resiliant homes. In Australia, and I presume elsewhere, the growth of cities and the sizable and still increasing “Baby Boomer” segment of the population means many are looking for a “sea change” or “tree change” and moving into the country and out of the cities.

Some of these idiots build a house surrounded closely by gum/eucalypt trees. These houses do not survive bushfires (bushfire = wildfire) yet houses CAN be built to be resilient to bushfires.

I have a book on “wildfire resilient homes” and will start a thread on the subject (will lock it until I have finished the subject, discussion of it can take place here.) This thread will be increasingly useful (and be useful to me to get the details into my aging brain!) as more and more seek a tree/seachange. Once FTTH becomes ubiquitous here who the hell would live in an outer suburb with its poor services and high crime rate when they can easily live in a rural town and commute to work once a week/fortnight? COVID19 has made working from home accepted very quickly, one good thing from it.
 

Texan

Active member
The barndominium can be built using a metal building as a shell with several inches of spray foam insulation as an inner shell. Its very efficient, fire resistant, and maintenance free for the rest of your life.
 
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