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Earth Berm Homes

In these economically challenging times more people are searching for home designs that are stylish, affordable and remain energy efficient. Earth Berming, or Earth Sheltering as it is also known, is possibly the oldest and yet one of the lesser-known methods of building.

Earth Berm Homes

Earth Berming essentially uses the earth around the home as your insulation, helping to provide ambient and constant temperatures in the building. The method involves piling earth around the external walls of the building so that the earth provides protection from the elements and saves energy for the owner.

As basic as this method sounds, the flexibility of the construction materials leads to the possibility of creating a completely individual dwelling. Despite a common preconception of dark cave-like living areas, successful designs are light, airy and bright. There are there different types of dwellings, each with its own inherent advantages and disadvantages:

Earth Berming: This involves piling up the earth around the external walls and sometimes the roof (at least to some extent). The earth is packed down and slopes away from the building. The obvious advantage here is that windows or doors can be put on any side of the building.

In Hill Constructed: Just like the title suggests, the dwelling is built into the side of a slope or hill. This form involves the excavation of a site and generally means that the opening to the building will be on one side. Therefore careful consideration, particularly with regards to sun positioning, should be put into which direction this opening for the building will be. South-facing is the most advantageous since this will receive sunlight all year long.

Underground/ Fully recessed Building: Underground homes obviously need the most effort during the planning, preparation and excavation. Water seepage is a particular concern in this type of construction and special drainage techniques may need to be utilized around the site principally around the roof area.

Whichever method of Earth Berm construction is decided on, each one will have its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the personal factors behind the development, for example using the building as a family home, an office, a vacation retreat, etc.

The obvious advantages of earth berm homes are the money saving and energy savings aspects. Also, as the earth covers most or the entire exterior of the building, berm homes require a lot less exterior maintenance than more conventional houses. Earth Berm houses are also less susceptible to the extreme outdoor weather conditions. And since there are fewer entry points exposed, earth berm houses are more secure when it comes to burglars and other intruders.

The main potential disadvantage of earth berm homes include the danger of water seepage into the building from the surrounding earth, however routine maintenance will help to avoid this. The other main disadvantage is that the materials used are normally concrete and plastic and so they are not carbon neutral.


While the practice of constructing earth berm homes is not used widely, there are a growing number of people interested in this way of building and this is reflected in the growing number of green building designs and construction companies now focused on this business.

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