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Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable... (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series) Paperback – March 1, 2006
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An earth-sheltered, earth-roofed home has the least impact upon the land of all housing styles, leaving almost zero footprint on the planet.
Earth-Sheltered Houses is a practical guide for those who want to build their own underground home at moderate cost. It describes the benefits of sheltering a home with earth, including the added comfort and energy efficiency from the moderating influence of the earth on the home's temperature-keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer-low maintenance, and the protection against fire, sound, earthquake and storm afforded by the earth. Extra benefits from adding an earth or other living roof option include greater longevity of the roof substrate, fine aesthetics, and environmental harmony.
The book covers all of the various construction techniques involved including details on planning, excavation, footings, floor, walls, framing, roofing, waterproofing, insulation and drainage. Specific methods appropriate for the inexperienced owner-builder are a particular focus and include:
- pouring one's own footings and/or floor
- the use of dry-stacked (surface-bonded) concrete block walls
- post-and-beam framing
- plank-and-beam roofing, and
- drainage methods and self-adhesive waterproofing membranes.
The time-tested, easy-to-learn construction techniques described in Earth-Sheltered Houses will enable readers to embark upon their own building projects with confidence, backed up by a comprehensive resources section that lists all the latest products such as waterproofing membranes, types of rigid insulation and drainage products that will protect the building against water damage and heat loss.
Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series(2005-06-21)
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Top customer reviews
This book deals with earth-sheltered homes, which are homes generally built on the ground, and then covered with natural dirt and growth on the roof only, or on the roof and the berms of earth piled against at least two of the sides after the fact of building.
This is a really excellent offering. 12 chapters, 4 appendices, and an annotated bibliography. A number of really nice color photographs on eight pages in the middle of the book, many black and white photos as well as really excellent understandable diagrams.
Take-aways include the need for extremely careful but not over the top load planning, radon as a factor to take seriously, and ANYONE CAN DO THIS.
The book covers waterproofing, insulation, and drainage, to include waste drainage where gravity rather than pumping is strongly recommended. It does not cover electrical and plumbing installation. It covers energy in relation to sunlight and windows and heat retention curtains, but does not include coverage of skylights (except as an energy loss factor), interior lights and other "plumbing.
The bottom line in the book is that a solid earth-sheltered house can be built for $10K to $20K inclusive of appliances, plumbing and so on, which makes it a lot cheaper and greatly more sustainable than a double-wide trailer home, and better in most respects than your average rambler.
With Peak Oil now upon on, the energy saving features of the earth-sheltered home are not to be taken lightly. The author document going without a need for heat from wood burning for almost an entire winter, and documents getting through any winter with 2-3 cords of wood. The home is cool in the summer without airconditioning, in part because of the natural respiration and evaporation of the earth roof with grass, moss, and wildflowers.
I want to end with praise for the publisher. Five or six times now I have bought boooks based on my interest in their content, only to find that New Society Publishers is the provider. They now rank with Wharton Publishing as one of my favored publishers, and I will be keeping an eye out for anything bearing their imprint.
I understand that the author offers private consulting to clients and runs a building school for earth-sheltered house design and construction, but I get the impression that the book purposely omitted some details for this reason. There were maybe three structural schematics in the book, none of which was complete. I get that the intent was to explain the "How-To" and give all of the intellectual tools necessary to design and build on your own, but I think a larger reference section with at least one complete structural schematic would have been useful.
The color pictures were nice. I would have purchased an all-color photo edition of the book if it was offered, as some of the construction photos are hard to make out in black and white.
The calculations in the book are very helpful when considering timber dimensions, roof load and much more. Don't be alarmed: it's only a small part of the book and if you're really not into numbers, just skip these parts.
The writer is highly experienced, having build two houses. He shares his findings and faults with you, which is definitely very valuable. You may be put off somewhat by the extensive use of concrete and synthetic insulation, especially when you prefer natural materials, like me. Still, the book offers inspiration and information and often other, more ecologically sound materials can be used in stead of the concrete and Styrofoam.
It has given me plenty of practical and useful questions to ask both myself and the professional I'll be hiring for the job. Overall not too shabby but not too great either.