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Underground housing  RSS feed

 
                
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Has anyone on the list added on or known of someone who has added on an earth sheltered house addition to an existing house?
 
                        
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Hi Green Building Permies,

Has anybody built (or could refer me to somebody who has built) an underground house that has minimal leaks and mold without using plastic sheeting as a moisture barrier?  I have read Mr. Oehler's book on $50 Underground housing.  His PSP method is awesome.  I am perhaps living in fantasy land and hoping to live a life in which a tread a little lighter on our planet.  I would like to avoid buying reams of plastic brand new from Lowe's or Home Depot.  If I can't build underground without a plastic moisture barrier I will consider other methods.  I figure this thread is one of my best bets on getting some other ideas.

If you know of any way I could build earth-sheltered or even earth-bermed without the last P in PSP, please let me know.  Thank you!

-Greg
 
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The farmers around here wrap their hay bales in bale wrap (enormous sheets of plastic) which they then throw out when they unwrap the bales. Couldn't something like that be used? If it had holes you could use the plastic bag fusing technique to repair them and even to make them thicker. http://etsylabs.blogspot.com/2007/05/long-overdue-fusing-plastic-bag.html

I know about this because there's a business in the area that recycles that plastic (the only business of it's kind) that was in the paper last fall because they can't get any funding to keep it up and they have literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of the stuff.
 
                        
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That is really cool, thank you!  Is that business by chance in KY clm?
 
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Re: Moisture Barriers

Dear Greg,

I read you posting about plastic moisture barriers  and your wish not to use plastic requesting those with some experience to answer. While I can personally understand your not wishing to use plastics or buy from big box stores - plastic is 1 of the best low end cost, modern materials available to you so, I personally think,  you might should not discount it. It does last long , when protected and has it's place in some of today's better build earth sheltered structures when used correctly.

For our designs & specifically our Georgia Adobe Planetary Home, ( currently our top of the line modern design )  we specify EPDM Pond Liners at the furthest extension of our heat sync, with the addition of 6 inches of 2 pound closed cell polyurethane foam insulation,  to be spray applied onto all earth to structure exterior sides of our buildings, since this provides a superior strength and sealant ability. 6 Mill Plastic sheeting is also used in the floors during the foundations start , and layering of drainage and mud floor installations.

Eliminating mold growth and reducing the likelihood that mold spores will develop,  is the designed beneficial goal of a moisture tight structure. Increasing your air sealing while decreasing the unwanted ventilation leaks within the structure, also it prevents any un-wanted moisture from its accumulation upon your external materials, inside the living space ;  but barriers can also trap that moisture being naturally released in the course of everyday activities such as exhalation, bathing, cooking, plant growth mediums, Greywater systems , etc. Therefore, without proper ventilation in addition, improving the air sealing of structure  has the very real potential to exacerbate any existing moisture problems of the earth sheltering or even create new ones from occupation.

Other materials include Roofing Tar Mastic materials, a low cost choice and the less expensive 1.5 pound polyurethane foam has about the highest R-value of readily available insulation used today in most structures and we have specified the same before both in sheet form and in spray form , all depending upon the specific conditions. Foam sheets while the easiest applied by the do it yourselfer is often more expensive over all and unless it is sprayed or somehow is design/manufactured to be applied without any gaps it could also allow moisture leakage problems too so,  be careful with your use of any of the above.

I hope some of this helps you !

Joe Woodall, Eco-Architect , Managing Partner
Georgia Adobe Rammed Earth & Renewable Energy
231 Harris Lord Cemetery Road
Commerce, Georgia 30530 USA
706-363-6453
http://www.georgiaadobe.com
sales@georgiaadobe.com
 
                        
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Thank you Mr. Woodall,

In addition I would like to pose this question: Has anyone built using bentonite spray or paneling?
 
T. Joy
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Southern Ontario, Canada. There's a lot of hay out here!
 
                                  
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Location: Missouri
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Hi!  I apologize if this has been covered but I could not see a way to search just this post for the  terms I was looking for.

One thing that came to mind that I did not see covered was what did Mike O. do to prevent termites?

I saw the post about using a certain grit sand and also thought that in some manner DE if it could be put in the right places would be a good deterrent. 

Lastly when I lived in Fl and was researching this I was led to spraying a  Borate solution  http://www.life123.com/question/What-Is-Borate   on every piece of dry lumber before it was installed.  Borate is used as a food additive in some countries and is safe it seems. Also boric acid from my experience is the best thing in the world to kill roaches.

I hope I have given you a starting point as I am hoping to benefit from this discussion also and build a small shelter myself here in a few months.

Blessings
Joe in Missouri
 
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Hello tittiger
While i have no practical Exp. building with Mike O's Methods yet, i have thought on this problem extensively due to living in a mite zone also and in talking with a few others i believe there is a workable solution.
1. dont bury your post into the ground
2 drive/drill a large diam. steel rod into the ground Length may vary im shooting for about 2' in ground, with aprox. 1' still above ground (this is highly dependent on soil type)
3. Drill hole in bottom of your post to set over steel rod
4. use a concrete & water barrier between your post and ground, to get it off the ground a bit, so it does not contact the ground at any point.
5 set your post up and brace to level.
6. when you build your walls, tuck your plastic as to have none of your wood contact with the ground.

I am also open to improvements on this theory, if you have further question please PM me and i'll try to help as best i can again this is just theory at this point for me

tittiger wrote:
Hi!  I apologize if this has been covered but I could not see a way to search just this post for the  terms I was looking for.

One thing that came to mind that I did not see covered was what did Mike O. do to prevent termites?

I saw the post about using a certain grit sand and also thought that in some manner DE if it could be put in the right places would be a good deterrent. 

Lastly when I lived in Fl and was researching this I was led to spraying a  Borate solution  http://www.life123.com/question/What-Is-Borate   on every piece of dry lumber before it was installed.  Borate is used as a food additive in some countries and is safe it seems. Also boric acid from my experience is the best thing in the world to kill roaches.

I hope I have given you a starting point as I am hoping to benefit from this discussion also and build a small shelter myself here in a few months.

Blessings
Joe in Missouri

 
pollinator
Posts: 10116
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How do you keep scorpions and centipedes out of your underground house?

 
                              
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Got over a quarter of the forms built for my footings, and laid out the french drain system today... Progress is being made!..
 
Cyric Mayweather
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Sweet got any pics. especially of forms.?

Storm V Spooner wrote:
Got over a quarter of the forms built for my footings, and laid out the french drain system today... Progress is being made!..

 
                              
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Sorry, no pics.. I cannot find the cable to connect the camera to the computer... That said the forms are simple square concrete forms.. The largest of which is 2' x 2'.....
 
Cyric Mayweather
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2'x2' ...how thick, and just regular concrete or reinforced.? details

Storm V Spooner wrote:
Sorry, no pics.. I cannot find the cable to connect the camera to the computer... That said the forms are simple square concrete forms.. The largest of which is 2' x 2'.....

 
                              
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Well I am on bedrock, so from my research and experience, 4 inch thick should suffice, though with trying to level the forms I doubt that any will be under 6 inch thick. Where I will be off of solid stone, on part of the downhill side, I will sink the footing deeper.  These deeper ones will be reinforced with rebar, the others depending on thickness will have fiber and possibly rebar in some. I will also have rebar sticking up on all of them. Some posts will sit on the rebar, other larger posts will butt up to the rebar instead since they are too large to be lifted onto a rebar spike.

 
                              
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Given the recent round of changes to the forum, I would like to invite anyone who has knowledge (not mere emotional belief but actual knowledge) that I am erring  in any way in the build to please send  me a private  message. Obviously I would not mind  a public  posting, but  I don't want anyone to get into trouble or banned for correcting  my errors should  I present any. Thanks in advance for helping me build a house rather than a coffin..
 
                                  
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Underground Housing sounds like a good idea considering how we are running out of space overground. We can already imagine property rates for caves shooting up. Also, start investing in stocks for shovels and digging equipment 

But seriously speaking, if this does gain prominence, it could pose a serious threat to our environment. As it is, unmonitored mining is a grave concern for our planet's health. Add to that the residential angle, and it could spell disaster.
 
                                  
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Location: Missouri
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"considering how we are running out of space overground" 

Not anywhere that I have seen. Unless you mean the cities but they are a small small part of the planet.    Putting that aside the main reason for underground living IMOO remains saving energy. LOTS of energy! 
 
T. Joy
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ZEDUniverse wrote:
But seriously speaking, if this does gain prominence, it could pose a serious threat to our environment. As it is, unmonitored mining is a grave concern for our planet's health. Add to that the residential angle, and it could spell disaster.





Underground housing doesn't mean as deep as a mine. It can just be simply earth sheltered, right? It wouldn't work for apartment buildings but that's not the aim from what I understand.
 
pollinator
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ZEDUniverse wrote:
But seriously speaking, if this does gain prominence, it could pose a serious threat to our environment. As it is, unmonitored mining is a grave concern for our planet's health. Add to that the residential angle, and it could spell disaster.



No more than the basements we have already been digging... maybe less as these are normally bermed at least partly. I have been watching someone put in an on grade garage and the amount of dirt sitting there after putting in the foundation is still a lot. I don't really see a difference from where we are now.
 
                        
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I'm going back to waterproofing-

this thread  got me thinking about pine tar pitch as a waterproofing resource.

what might the pros and cons be?  perhaps it would not allow any air to travel through the walls?  perhaps it would be degraded by contact with earth?
 
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i'm super excited about underground houses! i've been reading non-stop for the last 2 days. i read the pdf of the book last night (any other birth nerds notice steven gaskin mentioned??)

my husband's dad has 18 acres in rush spring, ok that he's going to let us live on. the property has been in their family for 7 generations but no one has actually lived there since the 30s when everyone moved to yuma, az. (we are in az now. not yuma though.)

the biggest reason we want to move is to get out of the desert and into a place where we can eat real food that doesn't have to be shipped in. no such thing as a dairy farm in the mojave desert!

i can't wait to get started!
 
Cyric Mayweather
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Laura  in OK, underground housing seems to be a very good ,even more so in the last few days for those living in tornado prone areas. so good luck and good hunting

laura blair wrote:
i'm super excited about underground houses! i've been reading non-stop for the last 2 days. i read the pdf of the book last night (any other birth nerds notice steven gaskin mentioned??)

my husband's dad has 18 acres in rush spring, ok that he's going to let us live on. the property has been in their family for 7 generations but no one has actually lived there since the 30s when everyone moved to yuma, az. (we are in az now. not yuma though.)

the biggest reason we want to move is to get out of the desert and into a place where we can eat real food that doesn't have to be shipped in. no such thing as a dairy farm in the mojave desert!

i can't wait to get started!

 
laura blair
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Cyric30 wrote:
Laura  in OK, underground housing seems to be a very good ,even more so in the last few days for those living in tornado prone areas. so good luck and good hunting



that's actually exactly what we were thinking.
 
laura blair
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annnnd i just found out that there are no building codes for 1 or 2 family dwellings.

who's psyched?

this girl.
 
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Why are you using WOOD for the structure?
www.calearth.org  shows you can dig a hole in the earth ( or hillside) then  that is llined with super adobe earth/cement  in bags or tubes ( which does not rust or rot) or could be a bermed building. made this way. 
The temperatures remain great and it will stand in wind and rain and even earthquakes.
( It was tested for CA. earthquake standerds).
 
Cyric Mayweather
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LFIRE
While Calearth has many great ideas, every situation is diffrent, some areas and people can use the methods you are talking about very easily, while others find the PSP method of construction to there liking.

LFIRE wrote:
Why are you using WOOD for the structure?
www.calearth.org  shows you can dig a hole in the earth ( or hillside) then  that is llined with super adobe earth/cement  in bags or tubes ( which does not rust or rot) or could be a bermed building. made this way. 
The temperatures remain great and it will stand in wind and rain and even earthquakes.
( It was tested for CA. earthquake standerds).

 
                                  
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T. Joy wrote:


Underground housing doesn't mean as deep as a mine. It can just be simply earth sheltered, right? It wouldn't work for apartment buildings but that's not the aim from what I understand.



You are right it would not work for the apartment buildings. Yes, it may save energy but if it gains popularity, it may become another reason to exploit earth's depleting resources.
 
                                  
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Len wrote:
No more than the basements we have already been digging... maybe less as these are normally bermed at least partly. I have been watching someone put in an on grade garage and the amount of dirt sitting there after putting in the foundation is still a lot. I don't really see a difference from where we are now.



Our concerns aren't really about the underground housing as such. They are centered more about the possible commercial exploitation. Profit hungry developers may literally want to "dig deeper" beneath the surface.
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
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ZEDUniverse wrote:
Our concerns aren't really about the underground housing as such. They are centered more about the possible commercial exploitation. Profit hungry developers may literally want to "dig deeper" beneath the surface.



I'm not so worried about that.... All I see commercial people do is sticks and covering with something pink or yellow or blue in between. Not much has changed. The biggest change I have seen is the use of heat pumps... to the developer it is just the latest furnace that sells their quick and cheap hovel dressed as a mansion.
 
                      
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I saw a video on Youtube on washing wool, raw wool, in a washing machine.
 
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Location: eastern part of West Tennessee
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I don't have the money or place to do this, but was wondering of the possibilities of this for a storm shelter/storage.   Take a large (108 in or larger) diamiter culvert, cut along lenght, spread the cut three or four feet and set in a concret slab.    Culverts are designed and built to be buried and moisture resistant.   Care would have to be used in sealing the ends and installing drainage.   
 
                        
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paul wheaton wrote:
Is there a post here suggesting hilltop?



Even Oehler seems to favor hill tops. It's what I'm looking for with my property search. I also hevily favor Oehler's ridge line house and it is what I'm basing my wofati design on.
 
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mike oehler mentions he doesn't like homes with atriums. I understand the reason he gives as why have windows look out on other windows. Yet, he mentions there are other reasons he doesn't like them. Does anyone know of the other reasons?

My other question is about how he defines atriums. It looked like he was describing an inner courtyard. I was thinking along the lines of an Earthship with the front face being a greenhouse. Does anyone know what mike oehler thinks about that idea?

Finally, how would one handle the humidity in a house with a greenhouse/atrium attached? My part of the country gets powerfully uncomfortable from the humidity for most of the summer. One of the appeals to an underground house is to escape the heat and humidity.
 
steward
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I'm gonna see Mike in a few days.  I'm thinking it would be good to make a podcast with him.  What would be some questions you all would like me to ask him?
 
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If one's water table is as high as 9 feet below the surface during spring runoff, how far can I go down to build my fallout shelter?
Also, if there's a trench around the permimeter, wouldn't my post holes be in the trench?
What about going down four feet and building a treach around the perimeter to 5 feet deep, then augering down another 3 feet with my post holes? Too deep?
In Mike's video on fallout shelters, he suggests creating some sort of angle in the floor so water can drain outward, so could I create this angle in the trench only?
 
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Location: Sierras
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paul wheaton wrote:
I'm gonna see Mike in a few days.  I'm thinking it would be good to make a podcast with him.  What would be some questions you all would like me to ask him?



How does he differentiate his concepts from Dr. John Hait's? What's his opinion of PAHS? 

How does he assure that critters, plant/tree roots, ground movement (earthquakes, landslides) etc. don't compromise his waterproofing, 5-20 years later?

Can a community every use underground home concepts?  (great for single homes, but burying a whole town??)

thanks Paul.
 
Jo Simple
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I'm gonna see Mike in a few days.  I'm thinking it would be good to make a podcast with him.  What would be some questions you all would like me to ask him?


So many questions....

It seems to me an earthship is a first thought design. If you collected the rainwater from the shed roof in a cistern for drinking water, would you eliminate the problem of drainage?

Earthships have an atrium/greenhouse across the front. What are your opinions about that? I noticed you had one planned for your ridge home in the book, but I didn't see it in the video.

I live in a humid climate. How would you deal with humidity in an underground house?

Thinking about building a earth sheltered home near a quarry. Since the local materials are stone, would it be problematic to use stone instead of wood for the walls? I didn't know if the stones would settle or shift with gravity.  Would it be dangerous in an earthquake? Besides being local, I thought it would be a good passive solar material. Can you make an earth sheltered home passive solar? I didn't get the sense that Mike's homes incorporated passive solar.

How big can the uphill patio be realistically?

How deep does the earth need to be around the sides of the home to get the benefits of an earth sheltered home?

I too am very confused about the insulation. rob roy says insulate everything from below footings to walls to ceilings. John Hait says to insulate above the frost line and out 20 feet in all directions. Mike says not to insulate beyond the soil.




 
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Earthships seem to be used primarily in arid or semi-arid areas and they seem to be designed with that in mind. There doesn't seem to be much if any allocations for drainage besides the water collection systems in the designs i have seen.
 
                      
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paul wheaton wrote:
And a look I like:



This is wonderful! I would kill for a house like this! Only problem, I'd keep expecting Frodo to show up and kick me out of his house ;-(
 
No prison can hold Chairface Chippendale. And on a totally different topic ... my stuff:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
http://permaculture-design-course.com/
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