The most common misconception about Earth Sheltered Homes is that they are underground, and therefore dark, damp, and claustrophobic. Our green homes are constructed at ground level, then bermed over with earth, to the owners' specifications.
Myth: Under-earth homes are always dark.
A: Most underground buildings utilize flat ceilings. The linear, flat ceiling restricts light magnification to the smallest degree. Some Earth Sheltered homes have windows on only one side of the structure. When these two factors are considered, the home would, indeed, have low light. However, we utilize a domed ceiling that is co-linear, meaning that light travels on it, rather than bouncing off, as it would on a linear surface. The end result is that co-linear surfaces will magnify light reflection three times that of a linear (flat, vaulted, or cathedral) ceiling.
Myth: Under-earth homes are damp.
A: With proper ventilation, waterproofing, and drainage, there are no problems with dampness or humidity. We have successfully built Earth Sheltered homes (with indoor swimming pools!) which have not had any humidity problems, and we offer several waterproofing options which have stood the test of time.
The key factor here is air circulation and ventilation. A domed ceiling, due to its spherical design, will circulate air three times easier than a flat ceiling.
Myth: Under-earth homes are claustrophobic.
A: Darkness is the absence of light. Claustrophobic rooms could have lots of light but still seem close, like an elevator. With our Earth Shelters, there are three factors that prevent any closed-in feeling:
Large windows and optional skylights allow for plenty of light from the outside. The domed ceilings convey a uniform lighting effect throughout the home.
The walls rising to 8 feet and the dome rising to 12 feet give a spacious feeling, not otherwise found with flat or even vaulted or cathedral ceilings. This plus ceiling fans in each room also allow for constant airflow throughout the home.
With Earth Shelter, we have an added factor produced by the earth covering called a negative ionization field. This field neutralizes stress, tension, and hyperactivity, thereby creating a physically calming effect.
Myth: Under-earth homes are always cold.
A: Since the earth moderates daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations, an Earth Sheltered home will tend to be close to the average annual temperature in the area (which, here in Central Texas, is 70 degrees F). With proper design, it's quite possible to keep the temperature within the normal comfortable range without huge energy bills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should consider an Earth Sheltered home?
A: Retirees. Young families. People concerned about energy use. Large families. People concerned about wise use of financial resources. Small families. People concerned about catastrophes such as tornados, lightning strikes, and hurricanes. Just about everyone. Including YOU!
Where can an Earth Sheltered home be built?
A: Almost anywhere. The only restriction is that the structure must rest on undisturbed soil and cannot be built on fill material.
Check your local building codes and neighborhood or property owners' association restrictions. Chances are that there are no restrictions against Earth Sheltered homes.
How are Earth Sheltered homes built?
A: A very brief overview:
Site excavation to level the homesite
Construction of the concrete forms
Rough plumbing and electrical (by owner or by Ralph Smoot Construction)
Pour the concrete shell(s)
Set exterior windows & doors
Finish interior and exposed exterior
What about bugs?
A: While we can't guarantee that you won't have any bugs, you'll have no worries about infestation, especially when it comes to wood-eating pests such as termites and carpenter ants. How many bugs can you think of that can get through a seamless, waterproofed, poured concrete wall?
What keeps an Earth Shelter home from getting mold?
A: Like any other construction method, under certain conditions including inadequate ventilation and excess moisture some mold can occur. Because the shell is concrete (which has little or no nutritive value to mold) and has a domed ceiling (which improves air circulation), the chances of mold growth are far less than with conventional construction. Our 20-plus years of experience and research insures that your Earth Sheltered home will be properly constructed with adequate ventilation to minimize the possibility of mold ever being a problem.
Why do we need an engineered soil analysis?
Soil conditions are very important to the foundational strength of any home. Expansive clay soils must be treated before we build in order to safeguard the integrity of your structure. Accurate soil information on your property can be obtained by talking to your county agent or, in some cases, engaging a soil engineer. Many people don't want to add this expense, but it could be the best investment you make regarding your new home. We need the bearing capacity of the soil measured in pounds per square foot (psf).