Guest Post by Walt Barrett part 1.
Here in New England it gets pretty cold in the winter, and the temperature hovers around the freezing mark. We have already built a 128 square foot micro home to use as a test bed for our energy saving products, and now we are giving serious thought to building an underground micro home test bed so that we can better deal with the cold and windy winters. Our test model, due to space restrictions, will most likely be 100 square feet with only a solar passive heating light wall, but for a full size home design I am thinking about using four shipping containers arranged in a rectangle with a large tempered glass ceiling light well in the center.
Each container would have a door, or doors opening into a central light well patio area with a year round garden. We could cover the exterior walls with waterproof foundation sealer, and then glue on foam to the exterior the same way we cover our concrete foundations now as per our local building codes. The entire project could be set on a suitable concrete slab. The location can be either on a flat lot, or dug into the side of a hill where an additional solar wall could be added. An important note is that you must have at least two escape routes to the outside in case of fire. One can be in a corner of the light well.
Many people already realize that by going mostly underground the first 55°F in the home temperature is a 100% free ride. When you add to that the heat gain from people, refrigerators, cooking, lighting, washers and dryers etc. you pick up a considerable heat gain. However there is also going to be heat lost through ventilation because no one wants to live in a swamp filled with stale air either. Light wells and solar walls can be an asset in the day time for solar heat gain, but must be insulated at night. There are several ways to accomplish this. Some methods are insulated curtains, sliding walls, Zome walls, or sliding covers. Solar light walls and light wells must also be shaded in the warm weather or you will find yourself living in a large solar oven.
If you design your underground container home properly it will cost far less money than a conventional above ground home, and the heating and cooling will be a virtual free ride if you engineer the home properly. This is not a new idea by the way. I had several neighbors that lived in poured foundations during the depression of the nineteen thirties, and some others joined them right after world war two when we had a bad slump in the economy. This was a common practice here in New England during the thirties and forties. You do not need a large central heating system, or air conditioning system either. I also know several people that own large above the ground homes that they can no longer afford to heat. They have made apartments in their cellars to live in in the winter. They drained the above ground plumbing for the winter. They are saving a fortune in heating bills, and they move back upstairs in the warm weather.
People have been living under ground for thousands of years because in most cases they had no choice. With the ever rising prices of fuel we now have to take a long hard look back into the past, because the past may be our future again. I advise you to give it some thought, and play with some designs of your own to make the idea more palatable. Personally, I’m going to work on it, and my design will be totally off the power grid.
A little imagination goes a long way.
© 2010 Walt Barrett President A to Z Global Marketing Inc.
Contact Walt Barrett for permission to reprint.