We’ve built an earth-sheltered house, hoping to be more sustainable, on the wooded banks of the fastest-flowing part of the Salmon River north of Kingston, Ontario, where we live nearly maintenance-free, listening to the roar of the rapids.
Below are pages telling you how we did it and what you can do to become more sustainable. Recycling, driving less, and using compact fluorescent light bulbs are all good things to do but, unless we make much more significant changes, we will not be prepared for the climate change that is already unstoppable.
Our earth-sheltered house has a Trombe wall on the south side for light and passive solar heating. This part of the house contains an open-concept living/dining area snuggled around a woodstove, plus a kitchen and pantry made from cherry we cut from the building site. Our office overlooking the rapids and a sitting and napping area are on the second floor.
The rest of the house, including study, bedrooms, guest room, workshop, laundry, systems room, and garage is sheltered under native groundcovers and two to three feet of soil. Since the earth is 16 degrees C at most times, our heating and air conditioning are mostly free.
The interior is post and beam construction with reclaimed beams from a 1920 aircraft hanger from Uplands Airport in Ottawa. Our electricity will soon be hydroelectric, provided by the fast-flowing Salmon River. We have few shingles, 100-year-old cedar barnboard siding, and no lawn. Native groundcovers and limestone anchor the exterior and the forest cover on the site will be preserved.
This is proven technology, about 50 years old, and an earth-sheltered house can be brighter and more airy than a conventional house.
Notes from the Underground provides a description of our experiences planning and building this unique home plus meaty information on sustainability in a very digestible format. We hope you enjoy our posts listed below and on the sidebar on your left.
1. Who in their right mind would live underground?
2. Your energy-efficient landscape
3. Green in my backyard (GIMBY) with low-maintenance and no-maintenance lawns
4. Drain for rain
5. Being concrete
6. Building for Wall-E (wall excellence)
7. On the beam
8. Reclaiming Our Heritage
9. Reclaiming Our Heritage 2
10. Living Roof
11. Living Roof 2
12. Waste Not, Want Not
13. Watching Your Waste Water
15. 2010 Year in Review
16. Water Wise
17. Gardening Without Water
19. Painting a Healthy Picture
20. Volatile Finishes
21. Low VOC Finishes