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In the planning stage of turning my patio into an addition  RSS feed

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Hi, I just found this forum as I'm in the planning stages of an addition to my house. I have an existing covered patio that measures 16ftx16ft. I will extend that a little because I need to dig for the footings and I have an "old fashioned" tornado shelter that is very close to the patio and I want to make the doorway to this inside the house. As it is right now the door to this lays on the opening and is on a pulley to help you open the door and it's heavy. Once you're inside and the door is closed it's seriously difficult to get out. Anyway...moving on..

I've been tossing around so many ideas in the past couple of years about how to go about doing this. Being that I am totally into the eco friendly look and benefits, such as cob and all the other alternative building materials I've been thinking of adding somewhat of a berm around this addition for some thermal mass benefits. If I had my way I'd live in an earthship but unfortunately I knew nothing about these when I bought my home. Anyway, I'm not thinking of burying this addition but just to add maybe a 3 foot deep berm around the outside of the addition portion, pouring a stem wall high enough to accommodate this plan. I was also thinking of shaping it in kind of a stair step fashion with two steps total and covering it with something like a thin layer of concrete to keep it in place. (adding concrete is just an idea right now, maybe even using railroad ties to keep it in place I don't know yet)) With concrete I would be leaving the bottom "step" open for planting vegetables and such. And later down the road maybe even closing this part in too with an even more simple lean to type greenhouse structure over it. I picture building this part with simply planting posts and framing it in and adding glass windows as the roof...I'm thinking with this part it would insulate that little berm even more.. so many ideas swirling around.

My main question is would a berm like this really add a thermal mass benefit? I've read all over about these and run across people talking about insulating a berm and some people seem to think there's really not a lot of benefit to a berm that is small like what I'm thinking of. Heck if I could bury my whole house in dirt I would! This is a tiny home (520 sq ft at present) and it's an older little house with wood floors and it's drafty in the winter. I plan to add a fireplace in the addition and I want to build it out of stone..I don't want an insert. I love the idea of a fireplace that looks like it's out of an old castle.

Any thoughts and ideas on any of this are welcome.
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