Keep Your Cool
A well designed solar house is both warm when you want it and cool when you want it; that is to say, the temperature tends to stay fairly even. Another good way to keep your cool is to dig into the earth. About six feet under the earth, you will find that the temperature varies by only a few degrees year round. While this temperature (about 50-55 degrees F.) might be too cool for general living comfort, you can use the stability of the earth's temperature to moderate the thermal fluctuations of the house. If you dig into a south-facing hillside to build, or berm the north part of the house with soil, you can take advantage of this. The part of the house that is underground needs to be well insulated, or the earth will continually suck warmth out of the house.
PSP refers to a method of building developed by Mike Oehler, who wrote The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book. Mike definitely has some ideas worth relating, although they won't appeal to everyone. He did indeed build a fifty dollar house that he is still living in, although I believe he has added on a few hundred dollar wing to it. Much of the savings that Mike has been able to attain is through a combination of using recycled materials, logs harvested from his own land, and a simple method of building underground.
PSP stands for Post/Shoring/Polyethylene. The framework of the building is created with posts that are preserved in various ways and planted in the earth. These posts serve to support both the walls and the ceiling. The space between the posts is planked with used dimensional lumber, such as from wood pallets. This is what he calls the "shoring". Then the whole thing is wrapped in polyethylene plastic before it is backfilled with earth, making a truly underground home. Instead of conventional flooring, Mike advocates using the existing earth, finely raked and smoothed, and then carpeting thrown over it.
To me the most impressive aspect of what Mike has to offer is in his design concepts for building underground. He has come up with a system for designing rooms that can provide daylight and proper drainage for a wide variety of arrangements. His thinking goes way beyond what most underground architects have accomplished.
SunEarth House Paul Shippee, Designer
This earth-covered, passive solar, 1863 sq ft house achieved the very best performance in a HUD-sponsored energy survey when it was first built in the late 1970's. For three years after the house was built, it was computer-monitored, and according to the National Solar Data Network, the SunEarth house out-performed hundreds of passive solar houses in the country. The house was designed, built, and marketed by Colorado Sunworks. The furnace was put to rest during its first winter because the pilot light was wasting natural gas. All of the space heating demand is supplied by the passive solar system.
The heating system is a direct gain, passive solar system and drum wall. The south side exposes 300 square feet of glass windows. The windows are two panes of insulated glass that run floor to roof. Behind the windows are 54 large, vertically stacked barrels. Sunlight directly warms these 55-gallon oil drums that are painted with a flat black finish and filled with water. During the day, the water and interior concrete walls inside the house absorb the sun's heat. The heat is released slowly after the sun sets.
At night, when temperatures begin to drop, a blower pushes polystyrene beads between the two panes of glass, providing insulation to keep the daytime heat inside the home. On winter nights, this moveable Beadwall insulation converts the large window areas to R20 heat loss barrier. Six vertical skylights are arranged on the north side of the earth roof. Maximum solar energy takes place during the winter, and minimum solar energy occurs in the summer.
For more information about this plan, and many others, visit our sister site www.dreamgreenhomes.com, where you will find a wide range of plans for sustainable homes, greenhouses, small buildings, garages, and food storage space for sale. Dream Green Homes is a consortium of outstanding architects and designers, who have pooled their talent and expertise for your benefit.
malcolmwells.com Malcolm Wells, the grandfather of earthsheltering, has a wonderful site about his work.
earth-house.com wide ranging site mostly about earth sheltering.
greenroofs.com very informative site featuring a variety of concepts for growing roofs.
schundler.com/greenroofs a discussion with photos and links about various green roof applications utilizing perlite.
bestcollegesonline.com lists and describes 20 colleges that have ioncorporated green roofs into their buildings.
hopesandfears.com an illustrated history of green roofs.
solterra.info The Semrock's vision and ongoing constrcution of their earthsheltered home.
ourcoolhouse showcases a couples' exploration of earthberming.
williamlishman.com a description with photos of a unique underground home.
marant1946.blogspot.com this blog is very informative about the construction of this Texas earth-sheltered home.
formworksbuilding.com shows interior and exterior images of several of their underground or bermed ferrocement buildings.
trendir.com here is wonderful example of underground architecture in Switzerland.
beingsomewhere.net a lovely example of using local natural materials to build a comfortable and beautiful home that is recessed into a hill.
paradomehomes.com plans and photos of a two-story, thin-shell concrete underground dome home.
earthlink.net a rambling exploration of the possibilities of burying culverts or quonsets for homes.
americansheltertechnologies.com manufactures steel arched buildings that can be placed underground.
radio.weblogs.com pictures and description of various underground building concepts.
undergroundhousing.com links to information about Mike Oehler's book and videos, presented by the publisher.
PASSIVE ANNUAL HEAT STORAGE
norishouse.com describes how a PAHS house can keep an underground house comfortable year round with no additional heat source.
earthshelters has information and plans for a passive solar heat storage (PAHS) system and is related to the above link.
Seabird Island Project shows unique design for the solar heating of water and space through warm air collection and geothermal heat tubes.
CHART OF UNDERGROUND TEMPERATURES
This Chart shows underground temperatures in the United States and around the world.
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