Green Home Designs: 3 Earth-Sheltered Styles

Earth-sheltered homes are green home designs that are growing in popularity not only for their uniqueness but for their superior design and ability to conserve energy. Incorporating both a domed roof and the natural insulating ability of the earth, homes covered in part by the earth require less energy for heat and air conditioning. This is because they are kept warmer and cooler, respectively by the earth that partially covers them. Their domed frame is structurally sound, and not only can it support nine feet or more of earth on top of them, but a garage or other area is possible above them as well. In addition, earth sheltered homes adapt to their environment rather than the other way around. For all of these reasons, they are one of the best styles of home for someone wanting to live sustainably.

3 Earth Sheltered Styles of Home

There are three basic types of earth sheltered home that are designed partly in accordance with the surrounding landscape. Because it is important for earth sheltered homes to be constructed under native soil, adapting your home’s design to the geography is vital. The three types are known as berm, elevational and atrium.

Berm Homes

This style of earth sheltered home is designed for flat land construction with the earth pulled up over and around it on as many as three sides. In essence, your own small hill is made which contains your dwelling. This is the ideal earth sheltered style to use in areas where natural hills and slopes are seldom found. With a berm home, you have several options. All involve covering the roof of the home with earth, but the difference is in how many sides are closed. One design covers two sides, leaving the front and back exposed. A second choice is to have three sides hidden by the earth with one face of the home exposed. The final choice is to leave three sides exposed and cover only one.

Elevational Homes

Suitable for sloped or hilly landscapes, elevational homes take advantage of the surrounding land. This type of home often only has one face exposed to the outside, but because the three remaining sides stay contained in the hill, the home is naturally insulated and reduces energy costs even further. Depending on the slope and size of the hill into which the home is built, a second or third level is possible. In addition, the main access to the home may be from above, in which case a garage is possible.

Atrium Homes

Atrium style earth sheltered homes are meant to be at least partially submerged in the ground. Often built in a U-shape, this style of earth home has a large open space between the wings, a perfect place for a yard, garden or pool. Atrium homes that are only partially submerged may include a second entrance in a mound at the ground level. This makes access easy if there is an earth-level play or garden area, garage, or if trash and recyclables are collected on the street.

Whatever type of landscape you have available to you to build, an earth sheltered home can accommodate. Whether on flat land, into a hill or partially submerged, building a home into the earth is a great to live sustainably by utilizing thermal mass to reduce energy use and save money over the long run.