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Old 01-07-2009, 01:38 PM   #1
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Earth or berm building

I will be doing more research on this but thought I'd try to get some ideas to search on. I have not purchased the land yet but would like to cover some bases and what ifs.

First it will be a remote heavily wooded lot with only pickup truck access, at least in the area I am looking in now, the ground seems to be all clay around here. No utilities of any kind but have a small generator, would like to start building within 2 months from now.

The ideal landscape would be a hill side with building embedded into 3 sides up to the roof, if not then I would slowly add dirt to make it a berm. It will be small to start because I need a place to live once I sell this house hopefully this summer, around 200 square feet and basically a 2 room efficiency design, and add on once I get the cash from home sale.

I would like to entertain the idea of an on grade wood frame that can be bermed, mostly for storm and tornado protection. The frost line is about 12" and would like to use a pier and post or floating gravel foundation but am wondering about how to go about constructing a PT lumber frame to be back filled.

Thanks for any ideas.
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Old 01-07-2009, 11:00 PM   #2
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Like the idea, I'd like to do this one day. Earth berm homes take advantage of the constant 45-60deg in the ground even when it's well below zero outside.

Some thoughts:
-Drainage, drainage, drainage. Both of surface water and fresh. This should be planned out for the future expansion and final shape of the house. The well water should be upstream of the septic field which might have to be located far away, or where that other bedroom was going to be. It might require building on flat ground and pushing a lot of dirt up to the perimeter bed of drain tile/gravel/etc.
Beware of underground springs, and land on floodplains.

-The outside walls ahould be internally braced to prevent collapsing. Concrete insulated forms with rebar might be strong enough, but whatever is used should have redundant layers of exterior waterproofing.
Having the small bedrooms(concrete walls) in a boxed grid at the back would add structural integrity to long flat walls and allow them to be seperately heated at night while the rest of the house cools down.

-Plan plumbing/etc to be accessable. You dont want to dig up a nice garden on top of 15 feet of backfill to fix that one leaking pipe.

-Plan for airflow through the house with a window at each end, if possible. Nothing better during the spring and fall.

-Plan for airflow around the house. Spruces can help slow down the wind whipping onto windows and flat surfaces. There's nothing colder than a prefab on high ground built perpendicular to prevaling winds.

-Have a good frontal overhang. The Japanese building style sheds roof water away from the house and prevents mold etc. This also keeps the summer sun out of rooms but lets the winter sun in.

-Passive air systems, ground-loop exchanges, and solar water storage(55gal drum painted black) will help sut down on heating costs.

-Sorry for the over-engineering ideas. I know you're working from a budget, but regardless of the size a primary home should be comfortable first, and it doesn't make to have to rebuild it later. Mabye renting a mobile home and a backhoe would help with the construction costs.
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Old 08-01-2009, 10:18 AM   #3
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Big Mistake

I have an elaborately built 5 year old 2 story berm house in Columbia, KY. It is around 2,900 square feet has murals done by artists and things I hav e added goes on and on. I have had it for sale and had several contracts but there is no comps so that people can get an appraisal. The lending market is so picky now it is impossible to get an appraisal and if you do get one chances are it will be signifcantly less than what it is worth. Thinks twice, when I built my home the plans were to stay there but due to divorce and too many memories the game has changed but I am stuck because no body can get a loan on it. It is appraised as the ground floor being substandard living space because it is seen as a basement. Even though all that is in the ground of my house is about 1/2 of the back wall. I have a patio on one end. From the front, sides, my house looks like a two story cape cod. If you only had one level they would appraise the entire thing as substandard living space. It really is a big mistake to build a berm home, in kentucky anyway.
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