Thursday, February 1, 2007

When I win the Lottery I'm gonna....

Whenever that sort of conversation comes up, the one where someone asks "what would you do if you won?" of course I usually give the old standby. You know the one. Get a nice house, a new car, college for the kids and invest a chunk to live comfortably while traveling and giving to charities.

But whenever I envisioned the house late at night before falling asleep, it was always in a remote area, surrounded by trees, preferably in a cave or something where no one can bother me and I'd be relatively safe in event of some natural disaster. Of course it would need all the comforts too.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hermit type or a survival nut (I mean that in the nicest of ways, so stop sharpening your bungee stick's and get back to setting your snares), I just like my privacy and would rather not have any neighbors in the area if at all possible.

Little did I know, these types of houses already exist and are being lived in by thousands of families in the US. What I found, along with some very interesting energy saving homes and ideas were some homes referred to as Berm Homes, or Earth Sheltered Homes.
They are basically homes that are either partially or almost completely covered in earth. Anywhere from one side, to all sides except the entrance and usually the roof(which is covered with 8" to 3 ft earth).

They range from looking like your average home with grass on the roof, to homes you can't even see unless you are right in front of them, which is the kind I lean towards.

The benefits of these types of homes are many, but include things such as 50-80% energy savings over an average home, low maintenance (little exterior issues due to earth coverage), long lasting (100+ years ) and very durable. Not to mention, they have great sound proofing from exterior noise and a bit more privacy due to their typical low profile.

One of the things I like best is that some of these houses, aside from being completely normal inside, have the added advantage to giving you your own mini park or wilderness, completely around your home.

For my own home, I see it being anywhere from 2,500-3,500 square ft, 3 bedroom, large open living room and kitchen, 2 1/2 bath, office and family room with connected garage and plenty of storage. Much like your normal house, except it is completely underground (with at least 6 ft earth on top) and the outside is only seen from one side.

It would also need to be built in such a way that trees and brush are still all around it with shrubbery and small trees growing on top. I also see it having its own water well and running on solar power primarily (obviously ). It will be almost completely unnoticeable from the outside, but have enough space and light inside as possible to make it comfortable, possibly using this type of Hybrid Solar Lighting.

What I find amazing, is that after all this time just sort of imagining it is that people are already doing it. So now I ask, if anyone ever takes the time to read this far into the things I write, is for you to let me know of your personal experiences with this type of home. What do you like about it? Anything you regret or wish you had done differently? And for those of you who may be considering it, what is the main draw for you?

I'd also be interested in finding an online community of sorts. A discussion forum, or more detailed locations on this type of lifestyle, so feel free to comment, or if you prefer, just tell me I'm nuts and go on your merry way.

EDIT: After I wrote this, I went back and found the site of Phil and Lisa Malone where I spent an hour or so late the other night looking through their gallery of construction pictures. Looking at it now, more or less awake, I see they also have a forum where I will be spending some time in the very near future.

I encourage you to take a look at what they have done. Although the house isn't as covered as I would like, it is a beautiful home that deserves to be seen.

Photography by Uffe Nielsen

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