How exciting – finding an earth sheltered house when walking through the Yorkshire Dales.
I was very excited to stay there and had visions of myself sleeping peacefully in a barrel house or an earth house, like a pixie or a little elf. Oh, how the mighty are fallen! I was one of the final three to be allocated a living space and we were abandoned to an old caravan on a bald patch of land in the run up to the village. At least that’s how it lives on in my memory.
I do remember that the bed in the caravan was a regular U shaped valley. I called on the accommodations officer next morning, expecting to be moved to something more in keeping with Findhorn, but instead I was supplied with a board to put under the mattress. It did make it more comfortable, but still felt horribly down market. Of course, the whole experiment started with the founders living in a caravan, so perhaps I should have been honoured!
Prepare to be fascinated
If you don’t know about Findhorn, go have an explore. It is known for being an eco community with less than half the carbon footprint of the rest of us. The barrel houses are exactly that – build out of huge redundant whiskey barrels. They were the first permanent buildings in the village so a real part of the heritage.
Much of what we’re all looking to do now – reduce energy costs, be more eco friendly – has been a natural part of life at Findhorn since the 1960’s. So they have a lot to teach us about eco living in daily life.
So back to Earth sheltered housing
While Underhill in Holmfirth is amazing, it’s not that unusual outside of the UK. I’ve discovered that earth sheltered houses are found all around the world. In Australia they provide protection from the all too frequent fires that plague the increasingly dry earth and some of the designs are spectacular.
In general there can be no better insulation than earth, so building a house into the earth bank will make it both warm in winter and cool in summer. However there will be challenges in managing the natural moisture that is part of soil and an efficient MVHR or heat recovery ventilation units will need to be added to the exposed walls. There are different ways to build them – from finding a suitable hill that will enable the house to be built in to digging a hole and building the house in that. This blog has a simple explanation of how it can work
And if you just fancy looking at some amazing designs go to Pinterest or take a look at this blog which is full of interesting information.
Have you seen earth houses or other interesting designs? If so, let me know and we can include them here.