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Going Green: Is It Going Back Undergound?

Earth Homes Offer Natural Insulation, Gardening Opportunities, and a Natural Look

Copyright © Meg Jones; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission; Posted September 12, 2012.

A green roof; photo courtesy SiGarb


Just how literally are we supposed to take “going green”? After all, it makes sense to reduce one’s carbon footprint, to recycle, to conserve water, and to be careful about how many carbon emissions one is putting into the air.

But when you start building your house into the earth, that’s an entirely new level of “green.”

With styles of homes that look very similar regular houses, but embedded more deeply into the planet, to homes that you might miss as part of the landscape unless you know exactly what you are looking for, the variety is almost endless.

As it turns out, this deeper type of home might not be such a bad idea. In fact, the natural insulation provided by the earth not reduces energy usage.

Also, it can actually can make a potentially wise investment of that other kind of green – money. So let’s examine the “Earth home” and find out whether or not it really is the kind of house true environmentalists should embrace.

Earth Homes: The Advantages

Aside from the fact that Earth homes remind you of Hobbiton from “The Lord of the Rings” movies, there’s more to the concept than just the cool factor.

Here are a few advantages:

  • Insulation and energy reduction: Heating and cooling a conventional house is not easy. When your home is drafty and poorly-insulated, it’s downright difficult – not to mention expensive.

    Building a home into the Earth supplement’s a home’s insulation and essentially gives you a way to cut back on energy costs – in many cases, these savings exceed 50%.
  • Reduced fire risk: Traditional homes can be at risk for fires, but that risk is reduced with the Earth home, considering how much of it is made of concrete and, well, dirt.

    Fires have occurred, but the damage is usually to contents, rather than the main structures. Safety from forest fires is hands-down a unique benefit.

  • Protection from windstorms and Earthquakes: These unsettling natural disasters and events are not as much of a threat to Earth homes, considering how well-constructed they are into the ground.

    It’s hard to knock over a building that is half submerged into the Earth. With proper support beams and structuring, outlasting the shaking is a positive attribute.

  • Roof gardens and Plants: It’s not only fun to plant gardens on your roof, but it means that when it rains, your roof actually wants it to rain.

    Roof gardens are becoming a part of even urban areas, including fashioning the actually roof into a growing medium, rather than merely setting potted plants out. This may very well be the way of the future.

Needless to say, the advantages of Earth homes start to add up after a while. But there are some challenges, such as the possibility of excess humidity, limitations with interior decoration, and lighting.

All of these can be overcome with attention to details, like natural tube skylights, creative structures, and proper sealing.

Landscaping an earth home is an adventure in itself. Creativity in making the home blend seamlessly into the the surrounding natural environment can result in astoundingly beautiful designs and holistic approaches to yards, gardens, and roof lines.

A Renewed Interest in Earth Houses?

Considering how outrageously high energy costs can be these days, it’s not surprising that Earth houses and homes have seen a renewed interest in recent years. Sure, the disadvantages have to be planned for.

But the advantages of Earth houses are simply too numerous to ignore. The New York Times reported in 2011 that Earth houses were becoming a part of the awareness of the “permaculture” movement, in addition to other ideas like rain barrels and solar panels.

Even in the coldest of climates, these home can stay amazingly comfortable without a huge energy bill. Essentially, you could see having an earth house in the same light as any of the other efforts you put into maintaining a low-cost, low-energy home.

When the “green” factor is built into your home, there’s a lot more potential for saving not only money, but your impact on the environment.

About the Author:

Meg Jones writes for Greenbloom, a Toronto company specializing in landscaping for homes.  See examples of their work and design at

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