Are you taking the earth for granted? You might change your mind once you hear about earth-sheltered homes.
If you’re a bit of a nerd like us, you may have spotted this type of shelter in The Lord of the Rings! Ring any bells, Mr. Frodo?
An earth-sheltered home or earthen house is a type of off-grid home that makes a great survival shelter. But what makes ‘em so remarkable? Here’s what you need to know about these underground homes:
What Is An Earth Shelter?
An earth shelter is a structure, typically of a house, built with soil or vegetation surrounding its walls and roof. It could also be buried entirely underground.
What makes earth-sheltered homes work is their energy-efficient features. In this case, the earth serves as a thermal mass, meaning the soil can absorb and store heat energy well.
But wait… there’s more.
The earth also allows houses of this kind to withstand extreme weather conditions. Lastly, living underground in homes like these promotes a sustainable lifestyle and is ideal when SHTF. Pretty darn cool, right?
Now, before you start buildin’ one, let’s talk about the types of earth-sheltered homes first.
Three Main Types of Earth-sheltered Homes
The main difference between these types of homes is how each house is integrated with or into the earth. The indoor temperature, environmental impact, and overall design will vary on the extent of the soil covering.
If you’re planning to build your own earth home in the event of an apocalypse, read on.
This type is the simplest and most economical way to build an earth-sheltered structure--- perfect for folks on a tighter budget.
A bermed house is usually built above grade or partially below ground and has a bank of earth covering the exterior walls and sometimes the roof.
As a result, the earth protects the house and insulates the interior temperature well. And since the soil slopes away from the building, storm drainage is better managed, and moisture is less of a problem due to the structure being above the original ground level.
If you live in cold and temperate climates, an in-hill home is your best bet since it’s the most popular and energy-efficient form of earth shelter. As its name suggests, this type is set into slopes or hills with only one exposed wall while the earth covers the rest of the walls and the roof.
Since an in-hill home has only one visible wall, it would be practical to position the exposed window towards the south to soak up all of the sunlight the house needs. And you wouldn’t have to worry about that since an in-hill home is typically built above ground and will therefore get a lot of sunshine when built correctly.
True to its name, this type of earth shelter is a house set below ground level or built deeper underground on a flat site. Folks who prefer a quiet living space while less exposed to outside elements will find joy in underground living.
One of the critical features of an underground home is an atrium or courtyard found in the middle of the residence. Its purpose is to provide enough light and ventilation and to give the structure an “open” feeling despite it being underground.
The atrium design also creates a private outdoor space and makes adequate protection from strong winds. Living spaces are located around the central opening as well, where sunlight and air pass through.
How are underground homes different from underground bunkers? While they’re both designed to protect you from possible threats, bunkers are built solely for safety and security, unlike underground dwellings where you can spice ‘em up with a bit of luxury.
Pros and Cons of Earth-sheltered Homes
Now that you’ve got the necessary info on earth-sheltered homes, it’s time you ask yourself: Are they worth it? Let’s find out by weighing the advantages and disadvantages of living underground.
Pros of Earth Homes
- Earth homes produce a natural heating and cooling system due to the compacted earth that partially covers the building, acting as its thermal mass. This makes it perfect for storing stockpiles as well because temps don't fluctuate too much.Earth-sheltered homes are more resistant to the impact of severe weather conditions such as windstorms than traditional houses.
- Most earth-sheltered home plans fit harmoniously into their surroundings compared to conventional houses, which means there’s efficient land use while still preserving habitat above ground. And they get to hide in plain sight, too!
- Earth homes could withstand catastrophic bushfires better than any other structure because it uses concrete materials and has insulation provided by the roof for fire resistance.
- Earth homes require less outside maintenance since vegetation mainly surrounds their outdoor area, making them great for growing a survival garden.
- You can finally say goodbye to nosy neighbors because earth homes provide natural soundproofing and create hearing protection.
- Earth-sheltered homes have a small environmental footprint since they’re created in natural surroundings, which allows the ecosystem to thrive by the presence of a structure.
Cons of Earth-sheltered Homes
- Because of their unique architecture and unorthodox construction, earth homes may be challenging to design compared to regular homes. They may also require local building codes and ordinances to be researched or navigated. You don’t wanna hit a gas or water line while building your home.
- The primary catch of earth-sheltered homes is the initial cost of construction, which is about 20 to 30 percent more than building ordinary dwellings. They might not be the best option if you’re a bit strapped for cash.
- When designed and ventilated poorly, earth homes may need more TLC to avoid moisture and indoor air quality problems.
- Despite the brightness of expansive glass facades and dome lights, many earth homes have dark areas where the natural lighting couldn’t reach. This is where a compact and dependable flashlight will come in handy.
- Earth home collapses are rare, but they’re still at significant risk when there’s a fault in the overall structure.
- For survivalists, limited escape routes of earth homes may be a deal-breaker in an emergency.
How Economical Are Earth-sheltered Homes?
We’re gonna spit facts: earth homes don’t come cheap. There are quite a few factors to consider in home constructions, and these are:
- Design complexity
- Materials used
- Labor arrangement
Unlike traditional houses, earth-sheltered homes have intricate designs with unique features requiring a skilled architect and specialist contractor, making ‘em more expensive. Other factors that strongly influence the construction process’s overall cost include:
- The amount of earth covering (more earth covering means greater expenses)
- The need for site excavation and backfilling
We weren’t kidding when we said the downside to earth-sheltered homes is the construction cost. Paying up to 30 percent more could hurt your pockets. Still, living in an earth home can save money over time because it’s highly capable of maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures, it requires relatively low maintenance, and it costs less to insure.
There’s a lot of factors to consider, but underground living ain’t so bad. We reckon the pros outweigh the cons, and it’s up to you if you’re willing to take on the road ahead, or should we say, dig your way down.
If you got some cold hard cash lying around somewhere, you might wanna invest your Benjamins in earth-sheltered homes. Although these survival shelters need quite an effort, they could be the right choice for you when disaster strikes.
Do you live underground and have expert tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!