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Author Topic: Earth-bermed house success!  (Read 2364 times)

Offline Ian-FW

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Earth-bermed house success!
« on: November 26, 2012, 11:23:03 PM »
Well, after a couple years in progress, my earth bermed house is finally actually earth bermed! I did the major construction back in 2009, and have been working on the interior slowly since. I made some attempts at backfilling it, but finally decided to hire the job out to a local guy this fall. He has now finished covering the house (which is a reinforced concrete dome, and string enough for far more backfill than I'm using) with about 2 feet of dirt at the very top:



I finally got to test it out this past weekend, and it works! Right now, the door and windows are pretty drafty, the chimney is an open hole in the ceiling, and there are no heat sources inside (incandescent bulbs, appliances, etc). Still, our overnight lows were in the high 20s, and when I checked the temperature at dawn it was at 53. Huzzah! Once I seal it up a bit more and add things (like a fridge) that produce waste heat, it should be quite pleasant without any supplemental heating being necessary. The theory said this would happen, but I didn't 100% believe it until now.  ;D
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Offline Nicodemus

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2012, 11:41:30 PM »
That is awesome, Ian! Great work!

I can't wait to get the full tour.


Offline Zip

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2012, 07:13:49 AM »
Great job Ian!  Please post pictures of the interior.

Offline endurance

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2012, 07:37:50 AM »
 :popcorn:
"There are things that you don't question when your home always smells like baking bread."  From The Hunger Games

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Offline CharlesH

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2012, 07:49:08 AM »
Very nice!  I live in a half-bermed house (the whole house bermed to about 1/2 it's height.  I love it, but your complete berm left me wanting to do even more!  You will love the energy savings.  You may still want a bit more heat than that provided from ineffiencies from other appliances, but you won't need much as long as the people living there don't mind it a bit chillier than a "normal" house.  Charles
Remember when you leave this earth, you take nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage. - St. Francis of Assisi

Offline Ian-FW

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2012, 08:03:00 AM »
Well, the interior isn't much to look at, yet. I have the inside walls framed and mostly sheeted, and the plumbing and electrical all hooked up. But it's all still pretty raw looking. The next series of steps is to finish stucco'ing the inside of the dome a nice bright white (helps light the inside, and it's a low-maintenance finish), then level and tile the floor, finish the framed walls with tongue-and-groove cedar (no drywall for me, thank you), and finally construct and install the furniture, which will be mostly built in. Here's a sample of the current status:

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Bad times came and bad times went, and left us here alive
Desert folks have histories of learning to survive.
The troubles took the cities, and the rich farmlands beside
But they skipped our land as barren waste, so here we all abide.

-- Leslie Fish, "Route 40"

Offline Mr. Bill

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2012, 01:35:40 PM »
Very cool, Ian!  Congratulations on the progress!

Offline cmxterra

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2012, 03:16:19 PM »
awesome job!
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Offline TexGuy

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2012, 03:38:38 PM »
I have a few questions. 

It's that a cement floor? I ask because cement floors from my experience have a cooling effect on the house (depending on the setup).

Also, I see a wall not far into the inside, did you take the temp between there and the windows or behind the wall?

Does that top window open? If so, how does it open? At the top? Comes to the inside/ goes to the outside?

Hope you don't mind the questions.

Nice job btw

Offline backwoods_engineer

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2012, 04:32:26 PM »
Excellent, Ian.  Very inspirational.  Keep us up to date?

Offline Ian-FW

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2012, 06:05:25 AM »
TexGuy,

Yes, the floor is concrete, over a layer of 2" hard foam insulation. Since I am in the high desert, it is important to keep the house cool in the summer as well as warm in the winter. In fact, keeping it cool is more important, because supplemental heating is a lot simpler than supplemental cooling (as Jack has noted several times).

My thermometer is on the opposite side of the wall you can see, so it's not being hit by direct sunlight.

The top window does not open, although that's a design flaw that I do regret. I may change it out to a window that will open later on.
Forgotten Weapons  - Your source for rare, exotic, and prototype firearms.
 
Bad times came and bad times went, and left us here alive
Desert folks have histories of learning to survive.
The troubles took the cities, and the rich farmlands beside
But they skipped our land as barren waste, so here we all abide.

-- Leslie Fish, "Route 40"

Offline gundog

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2012, 06:50:24 AM »
Very nice. I have built several houses over the years and I appreciate how much work it takes.
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Offline MisterQED

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2014, 03:11:26 PM »
The house seems perfect, but I also have some questions if you don't mind: What state are you in or at least what is the average annual temperature where you are?  i.e. you said the house was 53, is that the ground temp.  Are you trying to do what Wheaton calls "Annualized thermal inertia"?  In that scheme you usually don't insulate the walls, but instead enclose the whole house under an "umbrella" (basically a layer of tarps and insulation so that the enclosed mass acts as a single large thermal mass so that the temperature stays steady through the seasons). You mentioned that you insulated under the floor.  How did you handle sewer?  Are you just doing a tank, did you have room for a leach field or did you go with composting toilets?  What are you going to plant on the roof? I can't remember where but I though I just heard of a plant with shallow but extremely matted roots that will block anything else from growing.  I would assume you'd want something like that.
I am looking to do this in PA and would love to know anything you can tell me.

Once again, amazing job.
MisterQED
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Offline Ian-FW

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2014, 08:20:44 AM »
I'm in the northern Arizona high desert, and the temperatures go from touching 100 on the summer to an all-time low of about -20 in the winter. I don't know what the deep ground temp is; my house isn't really deep enough to hit that. It's been sitting in the mid 60s for the last few weeks, FWIW. I considered doing the whole earth umbrella thing, but didn't follow through on it. I just have a 6" exterior concrete wall with about 2' of dirt directly on top, and progressively more dirt as you go down the sides. The house faces S/SE, and gets good solar gain through three big windows in the front wall.

For sewer, I have a professionally-installed septic system with leach field. Code here specifies a 4-person-sized septic system as minimum, so that's what I have. Overkill never hurt anyone, right? I used a composting toilet for a season while I was building, and came away with a very definite desire to never rely on one again. IMO, they suck. Maybe if you spend as much as a septic system costs you can get a good one, but I'd just as soon not have to haul my own excrement around. Flush and done is much better, IMO.

Doing this in PA, I would want to be much more careful about groundwater and seepage and leaking issues. Here in the desert, I am able to get away with kinda half-assing that stuff, because there just isn't much water around and my soil is very sandy and drains very well.
Forgotten Weapons  - Your source for rare, exotic, and prototype firearms.
 
Bad times came and bad times went, and left us here alive
Desert folks have histories of learning to survive.
The troubles took the cities, and the rich farmlands beside
But they skipped our land as barren waste, so here we all abide.

-- Leslie Fish, "Route 40"

Offline MisterQED

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2014, 09:27:18 AM »
Thanks for the response. The average ground temp in AZ is 60.3F, so it sounds like you are close to target. http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/average-annual-state-temperatures.php 
I just came back from a weekend at my BOL and looked at my proposed site again and you are exactly right about the water issues.  The place is a mud bog in the spring so I'll have to set up some ponds to divert the water before I can even think about building anything else.  That was always the plan, but it is more a more pressing issue than I thought. The way is is now I'd loose all my heat through the foundation conducting to ground water, assuming I didn't spring a leak and flood.
MisterQED
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Offline Aunt

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2014, 03:11:43 PM »
Great house Ian!  Thanks for sharing the photos of your home.
"I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers.  There are only two things we should fight for.  One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.  War for any other reason is simply a racket."  US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler two-time Medal of Honor recipient

Offline Chandlerpackrat

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2014, 09:59:51 PM »
That's awesome, Ian. I'm jealous!!!!

Offline DanielBoone

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Re: Earth-bermed house success!
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2014, 11:43:30 PM »
Totally cool  8)