Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

My Photo
Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

October 12, 2011

Building Affordable Earth-Sheltered Homes

I am always suspicious when I see a book title proclaiming the book is complete and everything you need to know about a subject. This usually is not possible, especially with any complex topic. So when I received a review copy of The Complete Guide to Building Affordable Earth-Sheltered Homes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply by Robert McConkey, I raised my eyebrows. And in this case, it was for good reason to be skeptical.

I think that a better title for this book would have been Building Tips from a Seasoned Contractor, with Some Emphasis on Earth-Sheltered Housing. There is some good information in the book, but you really have to dig through a lot of poorly edited prose to  find it. This book could have been about half the size and still contained everything useful in it. And some of the illustrations have such poor resolution they are unreadable; it looks like they were pulled off the internet. I am surprised that Atlantic Publishing let this out the door the way it is.

Well, enough grouching...what of value can I point to?  The advantages of earth-sheltered homes over more conventional housing in terms of energy savings,  personal comfort, less general maintenance, and disaster resistance are explained, along with the possible difficulty in obtaining a mortgage or finding a buyer. Some historical perspective on earth-sheltering is also offered.

When considering appropriate design, the author mentions the challenge of providing sufficient natural daylight, and how this can be addressed. How to conform to building codes? How to provide proper drainage around the house? What building materials are appropriate? What planning needs to occur?

General site selection and excavation needs are discussed. A detailed description of forming and pouring concrete stems from the author's years of experience in doing this on many types of projects. Electrical and plumbing needs are discussed from a general point of view, without much specific attention to the needs of earth-sheltered homes. Different heating options are briefly mentioned.

Some of the greatest value of this book emerges from the author's experience as a building contractor. He frequently mentions ways that you might save money by careful shopping, selecting  and negotiating with sub-contractors, locating the right equipment, avoiding construction delays, etc.

Obviously there can be challenges for anything underground to keep it warm, dry, and with fresh air. The chapter on waterproofing, insulating and ventilating the home does address these needs more specifically for earth-sheltering. Most of the discussion about finishing details is really general to any home construction.

And that is about it; not a whole of lot of meat to this book...certainly far from the promise of its title!


Blogger phyllisjanes said...

Complete guide is just a marketing strategy to attract more sales. But I agree, most complete guides are not as close to complete as the title says they are. Anyway, regarding natural lighting for earth-sheltered homes, I saw a documentary made in the Philippines wherein they used mineral water bottles filled with water and bore a hole through the roof and install those bottles there. Here's the youtube video your readers can take a look at.

Simple solution but it works.

- feed in tariff analyst

8:17 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home