• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Burra Maluca
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
gardeners:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Bill Crim
  • Mike Jay

Underground housing  RSS feed

 
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In the original posting, Nicholas says "I'm in an area that receives about 36 inches of rainfall annually. I've located a hilltop on the property that I'm in the process of purchasing. My thought is to construct the structure practically on top of the existing ground (even if I have to haul in soil to do so) and berm soil up around and over it."
 
Posts: 56
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Homelessness is a growing problem in Montana. Why not get grants to build permaculture neighborhoods with underground houses for people who are homeless, available in exchange for labor or other barter? It seems reasonable to me to attempt such a thing. http://www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/the_rapid_spread_of_rural_homelessness/13148/
 
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Toronto, Ontario
145
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just wanted to speak to the rust issue with shipping containers. Those devices that don't work on cars that run an electric current through the body to stave off rust, I've read that they actually work on bridges and stuff because they require a connection to the earth. I don't know why, but that's what I read, though it was long before I ever heard of permies. If anyone can explain this phenomenon, or point me towards where it might have already been addressed in the forums, I'd be much obliged. Burying a cargo container is a touch too suicidal for my tastes, though. They are designed to be strong on the edges and corners for stacking purposes. You could build a structure out of cargo containers, but you would require some sort of a superstructure to transfer the load of the soil directly to the edges and corners.
 
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

bluesimplicity Hatfield 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?


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.








Paul, did you get a chance to do this podcast? If so, can you post the link?
 
Posts: 279
Location: SW Michigan
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The Brits have a saying about a house. Good boots and good hat. That means a good roof and a well drained foundation. I have been in some very old underground structures. The well built ones have good drainage and feel dry to me. This is accomplished with natural drainage. Sand all around and a clay cap go very far. You can cut corners and stuff but if you are really serious about an underground structure. I would look inot how they built them 100 years ago as a template. They do breath and are alive in a way. Like our "Michigan Basements" here in the Midwest. The old stones never leak. Dry, but able to take some water and drain.

If I was going to build. What ever the material. At least 2 ft of sand or sand gravel mix all around. Go deep with same below the footings and clear drainage channels filled with sand. Then build accordingly. Like a root it must be an anchor. Land shifts. It must ride it a little. Do not forget to pack solid any dirt on your bottom. Pack as hard and deep as you can.

The ground can be your best friend. But it has its own mind too. Work with it. I would douse your property. See where the trails are and see how the veg is growing. There are often moist spots we do not see. Avoid them to build in/on. I have 2 seapy spots on my prop. Think Hobbit House. A layer of silca sand and DTE will help with infestations. Also ventilation. Treated wood can and will give off toxins. You need vents and air exchange. By law you must have egress. And it is a safety issue. You do not want to be trapped no matter what.

 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Toronto, Ontario
145
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like Paul's WOFATI concept, with a potential addendum, though I haven't heard back from him on this subject. I would use lumber as a finish, perhaps for interior, non-structural walls, or for internal structure for a second floor, but I was thinking that any properly built masonry structure would last longer that lumber. Unless the idea behind the WOFATI is that it has a planned obsolescence built into it (as in, after a while it's supposed to fall apart), I would try pillars and structural walls out of any masonry available either on site or near to the site, my personal preference being some combination of rammed earth and compressed earth block. I like the higher light levels and the front and back entrances on the WOFATI, as well as the idea that a well-designed, well-situated WOFATI could easily be camouflaged from easy detection, but I don't feel as strongly as Paul does that the structure needs to remain above ground. Perhaps a basement level that is accessible from both stairs from the main level at the uphill entrance, and an external double door on the downhill side, keeping a rabid eye on water control all the while. I think if as much attention is paid to providing superior drainage downhill for any underground structure as is for WOFATI, the interior would stay equally dry.

-CK
 
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Nicholas Covey wrote:Paul invited me here, due to a beating I was taking at another forum. Closed minds simply couldn't get around the idea that I was bringing forth and the original purpose of my post turned into an argument, which I chose to stay out of. Paul stepped into the middle of it and argued in my favor, then sent me a PM to email him later.

I did so, and was invited here to tell my story....

SO here goes. This is the original post with minor changes...

I have posted parts of this on other forums, and have gotten a few answers here and there. I have sort of summarized my thoughts and findings. If you recognize this from other locations, I have refined what I have learned and brought a lot more content into the main post.

I have been looking into a (relatively) cheap way to produce a home for the last few months and I have most recently been looking into the Post-Shoring-Polyethylene method pioneered by Mike Oehler (of the $50 dollars and Up Underground House fame. www.undergroundhousing.com). I have his book and have read it cover to cover several times. It looks like a highlighter exploded in it now, with all the side notes I’ve taken.

Underground housing appeals to a lot of us for a lot of reasons. But it's typically a very expensive thing to do. So unless you have a rich benefactor uncle (don't we all wish...) its not usually a feasible thing. This may be a feasible way to build your hidey hole and still be able to afford ammo to defend it....

For those of you who aren’t in the know, I’ll summarize a bit. The basic principle is to take a heavy duty wooden structure (preferably designed to withstand the inward pressures of the weight of the earth involved) shore it up, and cover the outside with polyethylene plastic (I’m looking at pond liner myself). Then slowly back-fill dirt against the plastic and eventually cover the entire structure, leaving obvious spaces for windows, doors, etc. The dirt covering the plastic negates the damage that is typically done by UV and weather on plastic sheeting.

I'm in an area that receives about 36 inches of rainfall annually. I've located a hilltop on the property that I'm in the process of purchasing. My thought is to construct the structure practically on top of the existing ground (even if I have to haul in soil to do so) and berm soil up around and over it. I also want to put one big piece of poly sheeting over the top of it (and out from the house several feet, only about 8 inches under the soil) and create a sort of umbrella effect, so that most of the water will run off the sides. Most of the moisture should only get to the location by capillary action in the soil. I plan to use a lot of gravel (river rock) and sand, as well as a ton of plastic drainage tile to keep the water that doesn’t roll off the sides draining away efficiently. (there are three things to emphasize... drainage, drainage, drainage...)

I have access to a few wooded acres, a pile of (mostly) maple logs that have been ever so neatly stacked about a mile away, and a chainsaw or 2 (maybe three if I work on one). My wife works for a plastic manufacturer, so its likely that I may have access to some more inexpensive sheeting than average.

The design requires a few creative paths to provide adequate lighting so that you’re not living in a tomb (which is better than the usual path of south-facing windows and blank back wall, prone to leaks and dungeon-like gloom). Obviously a lot of emphasis goes into structure and drainage. A lot of emphasis also goes into design, so that there is adequate light and ventilation.

The design I'm working with makes use of light and ventilation in all directions, creating cross breezes, and utilizing the winter sun as often as possible. This would eliminate a lot of the usual underground house (dank cave/cellar) issues.

Rob Roy (a big name in the owner builder movement, better known for cordwood building than underground) suggests putting foam insulation around everything. His reasoning is essentially this: The ground is just thermal mass. It is a poor insulator. It cools and warms seasonally. By providing insulation around your UH you separate your thermal mass from the earth, which is prone to (slow seasonal) temperature swings that are not always within our comfort levels. 46 degree earth may not be cold when compared to the outdoor temperature of -15, but it’s still cooler than most people find comfortable as a living space. Ever sit on a 46 degree toilet?  Yeah, you know what I mean.

Rob uses the analogy that an underground house is just like an above ground house that's in a different climate. Instead of being in a climate where the temp may swing from the 100's to below zero, it rests in a climate where it gradually swings a few degrees over several months. That doesn't mean that the "underground climate" is a comfortable temperature all year round. Usually it’s a little on the cool side and the house needs to be insulated, otherwise its like trying to heat a tent in that same type of climate.

In short your heat is being bled off into the earth. If you insulate (and he suggests all six sides; even below footings if possible) then you keep your heat inside a small envelope. Add some thermal mass to keep your heat inside the envelope and a little heat goes a long ways. A small wood stove to warm the hands in the dead of winter may be enough BTUs to keep the whole thing heated. I plan to insulate about a foot beyond the walls (provided that I can keep that soil relatively dry) to provide adequate thermal mass so that I may not have to heat much at all.

I also wanted to note for those of you who are interested in these things, the water and power situations have been considered as well.

There’s a hill about 150 yards to the east that’s 35 feel higher. There is an old homestead there. All the buildings and structures have fallen in except the old windmill and well. Im planning on cleaning (if it's structurally sound) the old well and building a ferrocrete tank (cistern?) for the windmill to pump into and let gravity feed water into the house (may have to supplement with a pump if pressure isn't enough). I’m hoping it would deliver enough to at least flush toilets and keep the faucets running if power wasn't available. Showers might not be feasible though without pressure supplement.

A power line runs along the edge of the property which means I'm going to have to bury electricity for about 150 feet. I'll probably work on some alternate energy project later down the road, but that is not within my price range right now. I've planned to use natural lighting as much as possible and plan for situations where electricity isn't available by removing as much reliance on it from the initial design (like the water situation). I even have an experiment running using the Jean Pain method for heating the water and probably the house itself without power if that's even needed. If it works out this winter, that may change the way my design goes from here on out.

Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, but I look at it like this: if I live in it ten years and it costs me $10,000, that's about $83.00 a month. Compound what that saves in heating and cooling costs, I figure about $25.00 a month in the 3 coldest winter months and $35.00 in the 2 hottest summer months that’s $145 a year or about $1450 over the 10 year duration, making it a $8550 total investment. If nothing else it saves me enough to build something different.

Mike has lived in his for over 30. If I can make it to 30 years for $10K that’s about $28.00 a month, and saving $4350.00 in energy costs (that’s at today’s prices).If it lasts 50 years, it’s free. (Wishful thinking, I know). Oh, and I’m not in an area where building permits are required, so I can be a bit more free with my design than I would otherwise.

Anyone have the videos that Mike Oehler offers? I’m interested to learn more, just not sure if it’s $95.00 worth of interest (what he charges for his videos). I may order them anyway, as this design seems to be getting more solid every day and as I discuss this more the problems and questions seem to be resolving themselves. The more I work with the idea, the more feasible it seems. If anyone has bought them and scrapped the plan, we might talk...

So that’s my plan in a nutshell. Lots of labor involved in this project. But I have a lot more time than I have money.

So here’s the question: Has anyone here tried this particular building principle to see if its sound? I just want some real world facts. If anyone has any links or resources that I should look at I would appreciate it as well.

As a side note I have thought about termites. I'm working ways around it but if anyone has any ideas I'm all ears. I know they're pretty diligent little critters, so quite a bit of thought needs to go into that. One person suggested plastic underneath but that would be hard to do I think.

I was pointed to a forum where one owner/builder is constructing his own. It provides a lot of pictures and gives a more visual idea of what is possible. There is so much natural light in several of the pics that it’s difficult to remember that it’s an underground house. The builder is a mod at the www.countryplans.com forum. Thread link Here.

a pity you dont live here in australia mate, i could have helped you out and in turn you could have helped me. you have a great idea of which i have had the same idea for years. take care ok regards steve

 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Toronto, Ontario
145
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicholas, your idea seems to have a lot of WOFATI in it. When I build mine, I want to try making the building structure with rammed earth and compressed earth block. I figure if you use the same principle of isolating thermal mass from moisture with pond liner, even if you just do it on the outside of the compressed earth block and rammed earth, you've done the same as, if not better than, simply a layer of dry dirt. As I live in Canada, though, I think I would insulate around the whole structure, all six sides, as it were, and deal with the problem of having to open windows when I need to get some fresh air in. I also think that using masonry for structural purposes would add years to its life, if not decades, and in more strict jurisdictions something made of a recognisable material in a recognisable style might do much for the permit approval process.

-CK
 
Posts: 180
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I started this post about 3 and a half years ago with this plan, looking for encouragement and ideas, and the pending acquisition of 10 acres of the family farm that sat off in a corner separated from the rest by two roads.

As some here well know, when you begin talking about things outside the box with people you meet resistance, and my ideas were just too bizarre for both my grandparents and two uncles who have a stake in the property. And so the acquisition was tabled until later and here we sit, still waiting.

At that time I lived in town, on a corner lot in a house that could be used to test aerodynamics of aircraft when the wind blew. My wife and I (and the passel of kids) have since moved onto a 5 acre property with a moderately small house, 2 barns (one large, one small), a Morton 40x60 machinery shed, and surrounded on 3 sides by the state DNR.

In the last six months the owners have come to us with the offer to purchase as the down economy and some chronic health problems have apparently changed their eventual dreams of moving to the country and building their dream home.

In the spirit of sustainability I held to the idea that the original Oehler underground house, and variations made as time progressed and new ideas came to light through discussions. However, a very different reality from what I had originally planned has appeared and changed the plan drastically. On our current property, the underground home is simply not feasible due to topography, lack of building materials (hardly any trees) and space. Sadly the water table is too high here.

Our plan at this point is to disassemble the larger of the two barns and use that material to retrofit the metal building into a larger home for us, as the old house is just not energy efficient enough, nor spacious enough for our very Brady family to sustain in leaner times.

I post this not to stifle anyone or close the thread, but to just give an update of sorts as some have commented that they wondered what had happened to me and my project. I hope that at the very least we have all learned a lot in this and that people will continue to post on it and evolve the idea. I still believe that in the right application that this design is far superior to many others, and I wish desperately that I could implement it myself. Right now that doesn't seem so likely.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1471
Location: Vancouver Island
30
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Nicholas Covey wrote:
I post this not to stifle anyone or close the thread, but to just give an update of sorts as some have commented that they wondered what had happened to me and my project. I hope that at the very least we have all learned a lot in this and that people will continue to post on it and evolve the idea. I still believe that in the right application that this design is far superior to many others, and I wish desperately that I could implement it myself. Right now that doesn't seem so likely.



Life happens. A lot of what is talked about on all these forums is how people have made something with whatever they have been handed. There is no one right way to build a house. Some people would just say "move"... but that is not always possible. I could be living on 160 acres right now if I was willing to move, but I moved away from there because my nose was always bleeding... so here I sit in a city house on a city lot. We keep the heat low and wear sweaters and are happy. Our next move will hopefully involve more land and less grid.... God willing.
 
Posts: 13
Location: West Virginia
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This has been a long post so I'm not quite sure if someone previously mentioned what I'm about to.

Two things:

1. Carbon Dioxide (the stuff we breathe out) is heavier than air. Any time we breathe in a closed space it settles to the bottom until stirred a bit. If you live in an airtight home that is underground or not without proper ventilation from and to your lowest point, CO2 can become lethal. I've seen families living in their "green, low energy" home that was so airtight they had to move out because the hamsters in their child's bedroom in the basement kept dying from too much CO2 in the air. If you insist on doing it without a good air exchange setup I would urge you to invest in hamsters or canaries.

2. Radon, anytime you'll have a house entierly underground you might want to have a radon test done before you build or it could be $10,000 down the tubes and a large medical bill for your family down the road.
 
pollinator
Posts: 554
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
77
books chicken dog duck food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:It does seem that with PSP there is zero wood to soil contact.  Are you thinking of something different from that?

BTW:  here is a pic from krameterhof.at of the kind of oehler-like thing that sepp builds in a day:



With all due respect, he builds these in a day using heavy machinery not all of us have sitting around the yard. I think even he would have trouble doing this in a week with only a chainsaw, pick and a shovel!

It also helps to have a ready supply of dirt and huge logs. We have tons of rock (of course we have to hand pick it out of the glades and woods and haul it in a wheelbarrow) and logs enough (though only about 8" diameter max.) but dirt? This is SW Missouri... what IS dirt exactly?

Which is why, much as we love the idea of an underground home, ours is going to be an above-ground bermed dome -- using stacked & packed tires around the perimeter, and lots of rotted straw and sawdust to make dirt.
 
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
He does in a day what would take a month by hand. This is one of the areas that hiring a little help might be smart money. Yes it may cost a grand to get that machine for a day, but what else could YOU do with that month on other projects.
 
Deb Stephens
pollinator
Posts: 554
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
77
books chicken dog duck food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

R wannabe wrote:He does in a day what would take a month by hand. This is one of the areas that hiring a little help might be smart money. Yes it may cost a grand to get that machine for a day, but what else could YOU do with that month on other projects.



Yes, time is money and hiring things done may sometimes be much cheaper than doing it yourself. However, another thing besides heavy machinery that not all of us have sitting around waiting to be used is that "grand" you mentioned. When you live off the land with very little cash to spare for anything beyond basic necessities, hiring someone else to do the work just isn't usually feasible. So whether it takes a day, a week or a month, it still has to be done by hand and by myself.
 
Deb Stephens
pollinator
Posts: 554
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
77
books chicken dog duck food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh, I forgot to mention that one day would not do it here anyway. We live too remotely to get heavy machinery in without using it first to build a road to get to the site. We got a load of gravel in here once and the guy had to switch to his smallest dumptruck to negotiate our "driveway". Even then, he broke both his side mirrors trying to squeeze through the trees. (His fault -- we did offer to cut them for him.)
So... with the 3 or 4 grand it would be more reasonable to expect, it would be that much less cost effective in our case.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It is an investment choice, and I COMPLETELY understand not having the grand or three up front. You need to run the numbers for you.

I just wanted people to not forget to count the other things you could be doing (like food production) or things you won't have to do (like pay rent or cut those extra cords of firewood).

There are times I put off projects until I get the money, there are times I pull out the shovel and do things the hard way, and there are times I sit down to find the third way (that is what led me here).

 
Posts: 114
Location: Tyler Texas
11
forest garden greening the desert homestead solar tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I noticed that Mike is using pond liner on his newer structure. I have always had issue with the thin plastic sheeting. I have used a pond liner to build an above ground gravel filled aquaponic bed and it has developed serious leaks. Fire ants and tree growth has penetrated the pond liner. So pond liner has a couple issues: 1, it can leak. 2, it is really expensive.

I found a material that is half the price of pond liner, but much much better. This material is 1/8 inch thick UV stabilized HDPE . It comes in 4 foot wide rolls 50, and 100 feet long and is half the price of pond liner if you get the black 4 foot wide roll of what ever batch they are currently producing. The only thing that will stop most people from using it is welding the sheets together. However, it took me 30 minuets to get this down using a harbor freight Plastic Welder and a 1000 foot roll of HDPE 'welding rod' . This stuff is impenetrable for all practical purposes!

I believe that anyone willing to learn can get the plastic welding process down. Its not rocket science! Infact, I'd be willing to make a video explaining the whole process of plastic welding if anyone needs me to.

I am about to start building a post-shore-HDPE(instead of PSP) earth enhanced structure that is burred a little over half way, using the dirt from the hole to cover the structure and I wanted to share this great material. I know some people have issue with using new plastics, However, this material is safer than any plastic when it comes to releasing chemicals. Further, it is 100% recyclable thermoset plastic. So after we are dead and gone future generations could make it new again.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 
Posts: 16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi guys,

Rather than start a new thread, I thought I'd jump into this one, since so much has already been said here.

I'm probably building something based around the $50 underground house. Before I put so much work into digging that I can't change my mind, I have some concerns/questions. (I do at least know from the well drillers that I probably won't hit a rock shelf unless I go down 100 feet!)

From what I've gathered here, pond liner is now recommended for the roofing, the roofing material should also be extended a good distance away from the sides, french drains are recommended around the perimeter, and it is no longer recommended to set the posts into the ground.

Questions concerning my situation: I'm located in north central Arkansas. The hillside I have available is west-facing. Does this present any unique problems I may not be considering? Mike's book seemed to recommend south facing slopes, but I do not have one available. The housing site I selected is roughly half-way down the hill, but probably closer to the top than the bottom.

Is pond liner also recommended for the sides, or is it really only needed for the roof?

Is there a problem with using oak/hickory for the posts, beams and girders? I have a lot of it available for free, so I'd prefer to use it unless there are good reasons not to.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dan alan wrote: Infact, I'd be willing to make a video explaining the whole process of plastic welding if anyone needs me to.



PLEASE!!!

I suppose if you lap the joints correctly it would be fairly waterproof already.

I am working on a WOFATI/Walipini greenhouse (really still gathering materials) and can't find a cheap way to do the roof.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Toronto, Ontario
145
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Even with the limitation of a 4-foot roll, wouldn't it be sufficient to lay the barrier material down from the bottom of the roof slope up, overlapping in the same manner as asphalt shingles, such that any water not wicked away by the soil will continue downhill, uninterrupted?
-CK
 
R Scott
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Chris Kott wrote:Even with the limitation of a 4-foot roll, wouldn't it be sufficient to lay the barrier material down from the bottom of the roof slope up, overlapping in the same manner as asphalt shingles, such that any water not wicked away by the soil will continue downhill, uninterrupted?
-CK



You need enough slope and overlap to not get wicking up between the layers. You would be surprised how far water will wick when the sheets are pressed together.
 
                    
Posts: 1
Location: Port Coquitlam BC Cananda
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another new green house product which recycles cargo shipping containers and converts them into more affortable housing too.


Like your underground concept too

http://www.kottagerv.com
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Toronto, Ontario
145
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I personally have little use for cargo containers. I have seen them used in creative ways to make structures that don't resemble the originals at all, unlike the before and after shots in the link, and even then it looks like hobos made a home in a tornado-ravaged shipping container storage yard. What turns me off about them most, aside from the fact that they are ugly and cost a great deal to move as compared to the on-site green building alternatives, is that to bury them in any configuration requires a separate superstructure to transfer the load of the dirt away from the flat sides and roofs of the containers, where they are structurally weakest, to the corners and edges, where they are somewhat stronger.

I'm sure if they were all that was available to me, I'd make them work somehow, but frankly I don't see using shipping containers safely in any application where they are buried in any way. Did I mention that they are ugly?

Oh, and I really hope no one is trying to use these forums solely as a vehicle for advertising their businesses. I think that would be opportunistic and a misuse of the forums in general.

Also, this thread is entitled "Underground housing." If cargo containers can't be buried safely, perhaps they belong in another place?

-CK
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Toronto, Ontario
145
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I, too, would love to see a video on plastic welding. Is there somewhere you can find out which plastic is best or unsuited for specific tasks? I have been thinking for a bit that if multi-wall polyurethane glazing is being used for greenhouses or solariums, that a cheaper, less durable plastic sheeting might be used as an external layer. This would, proper planning allowed, provide for an insulative air pocket between glazing and sheeting, and the sheeting would take the brunt of the sun's UV damage, extending the lifespan of the more expensive glazing material.

I was thinking that a flexible, inflatable glazing system might be created by welding pairs of plastic shapes (triangles, say, or the requisite pieces for a geodesic dome) together. As long as light transmission isn't a problem, I think these ideas might be of some use to the right people.

Yes, plastic waste is a concern for me, but there is a thread here that discusses an attempt to grow oyster mushrooms with an increasing appetite for plastics, making it possible to compost them.

I've probably overlooked something, though, and I'm sure one of you fine folks will be good enough to point out what that is .

-CK
 
steward
Posts: 25397
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A few years ago I took video of Mike Oehler's house. This is the house he wrote about in "The $50 and Up Underground House Book." In a variety of interviews about different things, it has come up just how invisible these houses are. So last fall I tried to video the same house from the outside to show just how invisible they are.

So I have two parts to this video. The first part is where I am standing in one spot and looking at the hillsides. I then have Jocelyn Campbell standing up by the house waving (thanks Jocelyn!) to give us an idea of where it is. As she walks into the house, she disappears into the shrubs and bushes. Then Mike comes out and goes back in.

The second shot is walking through the brush going across the roof of the house. At one point we can see the back window. When you watch my original video from the inside, you can see the window and hear Mike tell a story about a bear at that window. Then we look at the roof, walk across the roof, and then see the entrance.

 
Posts: 28
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's one of my "things I might do one day if I ever have the place/time/money" although I rather doubt you can build any house for 50 bucks now...
 
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
87
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Super cool. I do you had walked into the house with the video rolling so we could see how light it is in there.
 
Posts: 90
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

paul wheaton wrote:The trick is that once steel starts to rust, it can keep going without further water.  Now, I could be wrong about this, but I think I'm not. 

So!  With that wee bit of rust you already have, it will just keep going and going. 



I'm just digging into this thread so this is probably addressed further down but.
Shipping container steel is quite thick and rust only goes so deep and stops but, I'm sure there is some sort of treatment would protect the steel for quite a while.
Example, rebar inside of concrete does rust but, does not rust through...

The only other objection to using containers underground is shearing pressures from the soil.
I'm pretty sure this could be handled pretty easily with some scrap steel X bracing..
 
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
27
forest garden fungi goat trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Zinc or magnesium sacrificial anodes is the way to deal with that much steel underground, they will loose electrons faster than the steel protecting it, just replace as they degrade. They are fairly easy to purchase and even easier to use. Used in bridges, ships, locks, submarines, etc.

Soil wieght on a square is the deal, square is not the first choice for wieght load retention...

 
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Chadwick Holmes wrote:Soil wieght on a square is the deal, square is not the first choice for wieght load retention...



I would rather say that square (any flat surface) is NOT choice for weight at all!

In long terms gravity will bend .. then what will you do after soil settles ... start digging hill you build above and everything .. it's like building it all over again!

I'm not saying that project is not done thoroughly but I can't overlook the basic principles of the idea (I'm planing to share my story about underground house as soon as I started working on it - next year/2017)

I would suggest with all due respect some basic building principles that are explained (imo) very interesting in;



It is a short clip but there are whole lectures on the topic so I strongly suggest investigating and possible studding it before such (one way) project begin.




 
Posts: 95
Location: Central TN
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey everyone,

Rather than go it alone and end up buried alive, I seek advice on how to successfully build a long-term durable underground house in Tennessee. Please reach out with advice and thoughts and any DIY guides would be great!

Dustin & Ping & others in our soon to be homestead community.
 
branimir marold
Posts: 32
bee forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dustin Krieger wrote:Hey everyone,
Rather than go it alone and end up buried alive, I seek advice on how to successfully build a long-term durable underground house in Tennessee. Please reach out with advice and thoughts and any DIY guides would be great!



hi!

study a lot ... investigate .. study .. year or two .. human life and health is ultimate price imo nothing is more important and if you are responsable man you will make the best of it for future generations, sometimes in a future who know who will enter your building ..

check out everything! from history to modern ARChitecture

I'm all in vaults and spheres but if there is a better solution depending on materials and technology go for it

so far in my study and preparation I combine domes and tunnels a lot and I would start with something like in this picture;



personally I will change base to complete circle construction and make floor on first third so the space under will be for storage (maybe water, shallow cellar etc)

note; I haven't done anything yet so RL experience would be more then welcome + there are interesting threads on this forum alone to spend few days researching

good luck
 
Dustin Nemos
Posts: 95
Location: Central TN
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How does one calculate for earth load above and make sure ones house is secure?

Im buying land soon to build an UG home, planning to do a variation on the $50 and up underground house book method. Not many very thick trees on the property to use, can I substitute storebought timber? How can I be 100% safe in terms of weight and design with cut timber?
 
pollinator
Posts: 2319
353
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Calculating earth load is actually pretty easy, its all about math and knowing a few common multipliers.

I own a gravel pit so I know a cubic yard of gravel weighs about 3000 pounds. Loam is a bit more and sand is a bit less, but 3000 pounds per a cubic yard is close enough for these calculations, especially since on a WOFATI the soil is dry. Anyway the other multiplier to know is, there are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. Knowing those two multipliers, any soil load is able to be calculated on any house.

Lets say you have a shed roof (one pitch) Wofati, that is 24' square and you want to cover it with 18 inches of soil.

24 x 24 =576 square feet, with 18 inches of soil, that would be 864 cubic feet of soil on its roof. To divide that into cubic yards, we just divide by 27 cubic feet, which equals 32 cubic yards. Knowing a cubic yard of soil is 3000 pounds, we do some multiplication and that is 96,000 pounds...........but do not be scared yet, that weight is distributed over a lot of square feet. So lets figure that out. 96,000 pounds, divided by the square footage of the roof (not the interior of the home) is 166 pounds per square foot. But with a WOFATI we are not done yet, because it is underground, we have to calculate the snow load too. That is easily found online for your location. Mine is 72 pounds per square foot, so combining the snowload with the earth load, our WOFATI structure has to support 238 pounds per square foot. That is actually quite a lot, because standard commercial structures are built to hold 112 pounds per square foot. In other words, this WOFATI needs a little beefier construction than a conventional house, something we knew from the start though.

So how much is 238 pounds in real world terms?

Well whatever you build has to be able to hold a rather heavy person standing with feet close together in one spot with no deflection. That can be done in a variety of ways. Putting posts, beams and other structural members closer together (say 8 feet on center instead of 12 feet), using deeper structural supports (like using 2 x 8 rafters instead of 2x 6 rafters), or thicker planking and logs over the structural members (like using 3 inch thick planking instead of 2 inch planking). It really is easy. 238 is the worst case load on this particular, imaginary, WOFATI built in Maine, so if I can build its support structure to hold my chubby Uncle from causing deflection in the structure, I have built a very safe house.

If I built my WOFATI using 8 x 8 square beams, 12 feet on center, with 3 inch planking laid upon the roof, experience in construction, some calculations of beam loads in the past, etc determines quickly that my chubby Uncle is not going to be able walk on this roof without deflection.

(This is not meant to offend those with weight issues, it is just a quick, easy way to try and put load calculations of a structure into real world terms that people can picture so they can build a safe WOFATI, and that is assuming a person considers a 238 pound person overweight. That is about average for a working guy in Maine. Myself, my Doctor considers me overweight at 195 pounds, only 43 pounds less then this example, so I am in the same "chubby" category. Honestly I do not think disclaimers like this are required, but I love Permie People and wanted to be sure I did not offend and explained my reasoning).





 
Dustin Nemos
Posts: 95
Location: Central TN
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great answer. my next question would be how to go about overbuilding this UG home for longevity and safety. I'm fairly well sold on the concepts in the $50 and up UG house book. But I am considering using cut lumber rather than timbers since the property I am considering buying is covered in small trees that may not be thick enough for these large posts.

I've got some framing experience but would prefer to consult with those who know more before proceeding on this since its life or death. (Don't want a cave in while I'm sleeping!)
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 2319
353
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have built with both round wood and timbers and I prefer the latter one.

The one car garage my father and I built for my brother was really rugged, worked well, and was fast to put up. We did not bother to knock the bark off because it was a garage, but probably should have. There was no appreciable rot, and it was actually strong enough about 5 years after construction to be put on skids and be dragged 1/4 mile to my house (which included a trip across my paved town road). It ultimately ended up on the wrong end of my bulldozer when I built my new barn. So I say all that to the merit of round timber building...

But I did not like how difficult it was to get straight edges for such things as siding, trim, etc. And there is the bark peeling aspect of things. This honestly should be done, but adds a lot of work to the project, something that squared timbers just don't have to deal with.

I have squared my own beams by hand, 12 foot and 16 footers, 8 inches square, all four sides, planed relatively smooth, and it took me just over an hour after a steep learning curve. Obviously with a sawmill, timbers are incredibly fast to mill out. I use the sawdust for bedding, and the slabs for other building projects, so NOTHING is wasted on my farm. I actually have a few sawmills, but most of the time contract it out. I just don't have time to baby sit a sawmill all day when for a modest 25 cents a board foot, another person can do it and get $800 bucks for 2 days worth of work. Best to contract it out I think, but that is just me.

It would be hard to make any determination on what is fit for building and what is not. I have heard the horror stories of sawing contractors enough to know many people expect barns out of fence posts, and expect them to move their sawmills a dozen times to cut wood. There are ways to make it easier for them, and the easier it is, the more they get done, and the more a person is rewarded with a good sawmill job. That deserves a thread of its own though. I am a huge fan of use-what-you-got, but if main beams must be bought, that would be okay, every log, sapling or stick that comes from a persons own farm is one less thing that has to be bought.

I am still designing my WOFATI, but will probably set the building on sills instead of embedding posts in drilled holes, that way the sills can be replaced if need be, and I will inevitably use square timbers instead of round posts. I just kind of like the timber framed look as evidenced by my own timber framed home. My logs tend to be big, so sawing them into 3 inch planking would use less wood in the end, and since the bark would come off with sawing, the amount of time spent on sawing would be about the same as peeling bark, so I see that as a wash. I might even add some moisture resistant drywall, or at least concrete board to some walls. This sounds strange I know, but I had a friend who once built a conventional home and used White Pine on the floors, walls, ceilings and all the trim and it was TOO MUCH. It looked like a White Pine did the pub crawl at 10 sawmills and came home and puked everywhere. It was just too much in my opinion. It may be why I like timber frames, but even in my own home where I have White Pine floors and ceilings, a little paint on the walls feels "cozy", and inevitably the wife will want to paint it "lavender peach petals" or some odd named paint color...only to repaint it 2 years later.



 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 2319
353
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dustin,

I honestly think it would take a lot more to collapse a WOFATI then just factoring in the loads. It would be hard to quantify that with facts and figures, but just look at how big of a crater a bucket loader can dig into a gravel bank before it falls down...and that is unsupported and infiltrated by water. A lot of people do not realize how easily material "bridges" and in this case, with dry, compacted material on top of a support structure, that bridging would be pretty incredible. It would not be like there was shear lines at the edges of the roof and sides of a WOFATI, it would be rather dome shaped, and one of the best natural forms to resist collapse.

And then there is deflection itself. That is not a failure sort of issue, that is a small amount of movement that makes a person FEEL uneasy. Kind of like how a skyscraper MUST move in the wind or it would collapse. A skyscraper can take a lot of movement, but the occupants therein would get seasick. That is the challenge for architects...building it just enough to withstand loads and yet make the occupants feel safe. Since a person is not walking on top of a WOFATI in a living situation, it is not a big deal, they would not "feel" that deflection.

Myself, I have built barns with trusses 4 foot on center with purlins 2 foot on center and walk on it with a steel roof. It is pretty rugged, and you can read about that build here webpage

So rest assured!
 
Blueberry pie is best when it is firm and you can hold in your hand. Smell it. And smell this tiny ad:
Rocket mass heaters in greenhouses can be tricky - these plans make them easy: Wet Tolerant Rocket Mass Heater in a Greenhouse Plans
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!