If you are looking for a home with energy-efficient features that will provide a comfortable, tranquil, weather-resistant dwelling, an earth-sheltered house could be right for you. When an entire earth-sheltered house is built below grade or completely underground, it's called an underground structure. An atrium or courtyard design can accommodate an underground house and still provide an open feeling. Such a house is built completely below ground on a flat site, and the major living spaces surround a central outdoor courtyard.
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Earth sheltering is the use of earth against building walls for external thermal mass, to reduce heat loss, and to easily maintain a steady indoor air temperature. This can reduce the absolute amount of heat needed by a building. The passing of the seasons has greatest impact on the temperature in the superficial layers of the earth.
The air temperature fluctuations at the surface can be rapid e. However the earth takes time to soak up heat and to release it earth is like thermal mass. At a certain depth, the temperature in the earth is constant all year round. Seasonal temperature fluctuations have so much depth of earth to permeate, they even out, and this roughly equates to the mean annual surface air temperature over winter and summer. Some put the depth of this deep earth constant temperature at 6 meters,  and others at 15 meters.
Below this the temperature of the earth gradually increases by about 2. There are 2 main types of earth sheltered building see also diagram.
Earth berming is where the home is built close to the original grade and earth is mounded against the sides of the house. A chambered underground house is where the entire house is below the original grade, and this type is more rare. Earth shelteres are usually single story,  perhaps because the structure already has to contend with the weight of earth above it that adding an extra story mandates excessively expenisive load bearing elements.
However, some two story earth shelters have been built, sometimes because of a steeply sloping hill site which makes this form work well. Earth sheltering can increase the thermal mass of a building.
However, in temperate and arctic climates we must make sure that we add a insulation layer. The thickness of this depends on the depth of the soil see Passive solar house If no insulation layer is put in these areas, heat will leak out into the soil at times of the year when the earth cools down. As most heat tends to leak out via the roof as well as via cracks, see Passive solar house rather than the side walls, it is best to cover the roof with soil so as to attain maximum efficiency.
However, to many people this could have a claustrophobic effect. In these cases, covering the walls upto only 1,,8m allows a window to be put in so that when standing up , this claustrophobic effect can be eliminated. Besides this method, it is also possible to cover the walls entirely, but implement a glass, flat roof. Hedges made from plants that are not only thickly vegetated but also thorny can deny access to a space behind the plants.
See Integrated pest management and Perimeter Crop Protection. A benefit claimed for earth sheltering is that it provides a moderate temperature buffer between the house and the environment. Is this accurate? It is true that the temperature of the earth is often more moderate than the air - e. However, heat transfer W is a function not only of temperature difference, but of the thermal conductivity of the medium. Question: Over the range of temperatures experienced by a house in a given climate say, a cold, temperate or tropical climate what is the difference in heat flux between a wall exposed to air and a wall exposed to earth?
As its name suggests, earth sheltering is a means of using earth to effectively shelter an architectural structure, reducing its heat loss and helping to maintain a steady indoor temperature. Particularly in regions of extreme temperature and weather conditions, earth sheltered homes are a sustainable housing solution that reduce the need for energy-intensive heating and cooling systems, as well as the detrimental impacts natural disasters can have on conventional housing structures. Throughout history, earth sheltering has been a common building practice across many regions, particularly in the far reaches of the northern hemisphere. Timber framed structures and stone work were often stacked with thick layers of peat against both the walls and roof, insulating and protecting it agains the elements. Over time, these layers of earth grew together and encapsulated the design, blending in with the natural environment. Today earth shelters generally use large amounts of steel reinforced concrete as a structural support, reducing the sustainability of the building significantly but increasing its longevity. While an underground earth-sheltered home may sound dark and dingy, an atrium can create an open feeling and light from above, with a central courtyard around which the living spaces are designed.
Earth sheltered building
A number of advantages are claimed for earth sheltered buildings; the earth provides both insulation and thermal storage and also serves to reduce infiltration and noise. This paper seeks to quantify the thermal advantages of both earth sheltering and perimeter insulation by comparing the simulated thermal performance of an earth sheltered house, a house with perimeter insulation and a house with neither. The fuel savings are then compared to the estimated construction costs to determine cost-effectiveness. The major saving from an earth sheltered building is obtained in colder climates where the effective elevation of the frost line due to the earth berms considerably reduces the cost of the foundation. Similar records in OSTI.
Earth Sheltering: a low cost, energy efficient building technique
An earth shelter is a structure usually a house with earth soil against the walls, on the roof, or that is entirely buried underground. Earth acts as thermal mass , making it easier to maintain a steady indoor air temperature and therefore reduces energy costs for heating or cooling. Earth sheltering became relatively popular after the mid s, especially among environmentalists. However, the practice has been around for nearly as long as humans have been constructing their own shelters. Earth sheltered is one of the oldest forms of building. General terms include pit-house and dugout. One of the oldest examples of berming, dating back some 5, years, can be found at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland.