Tuesday, April 13, 2010

of houses, dreams, and the future

i read a blog today in which the lady blogger was talking about her dream community, and how it would be back-to-the earth, barter is good types. i like those ideas. it reminded me of recent conversations with my mother about housing, and sub-terranian housing in particular.
Over the years, much as 'average' young ladies dream of their wedding day, i have dreamed of a house. Specifically, MY house. one i will own. eventually. The design and materials have changed over time, but the overall logic and dream have remained. I want to own a 'lifer' home, one that i can live in until i die, not some 'starter home' (man, i hate even the idea of that) that  i'll have to sell a few years down the road to get the next bigger better place.

My dream house has a large common room, which would contain kitchen, dining and living rooms combined. It will run partly on wood heat. it will have 3 bedrooms, and the bathroom will have a tub big enough for me to actually enjoy (i'm 5'10", and conventional tubs are just a pain in the..... back. i can't even imagine how really tall people could stand them!)

My dream house would also have a large cellar/cold storage space, and a Meadery (translate that as essentially a cool storage room with lots of wine racks) It will have as few stairs as possible (because i know my hips and knees are going to get worse over time, not better!) It will also be located on a minimum of 20 acres, as i hope to eventually become as self-sufficient as possible, including meat sources. it will also have a multipurpose library/craftroom/games room (hubby and i are readers, and we have a fair number of hobbies)

My primary house design has always been rather barn-like (large, lofty, exposed timbers, shaped rather like a traditional 'red barn' ) but i'm starting to reconsider. the merits of a partially submerged (subterranean) house are just too great to ignore:
-greater energy efficiency for heating (like having geothermal heat, without the pump, pipes or fans)
-low maintenance, due to extra-sturdy materials used in original construction (like stone and concrete)
-long lifespan of the house, again b/c of the sturdier materials

Other cool reasons to have one include: greater fire resistance, amazing sound-proofing, more easily defensible against zombie attacks, and the possibility of building in hidden rooms and escape tunnels (i've always love the idea of hidden stuff in houses!)

also of consideration is the fact that a bermed home should work as well here, in a zone 2b/3a climate as it does in warmer ones, unlike a lot of other green building techniques (i'm thinking about adobe, cob, straw bales etc) which just don't seem to perform efficiently enough when it's -40 with windchill.


with all the available technologies for solar energy, drainage, and skylights, i think a house like this would not only be 'doable' but in fact probably darn comfortable to live in!

some links to info on bermed or other underground housing:
http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/earthshelter/how.htm answers lots of questions about different methods
http://www.lifeunplugged.net/greenbuilding/earth-berm-and-earth-sheltered-home.aspx has lots of alternative living information
http://everything2.com/title/Building+an+underground+house a rough-and-ready how-to

i am fortunate to have come from a family of handy guys, so when i finally get to the point of owning a chunk of earth, i think between them and my friends and i, we can do a substantial amount of the construction work ourselves, saving a HUGE chunk on costs. However, this is still just a dream. Gotta get myself back out into the country, and start looking for some good (read cheap) land.


  1. Ever heard of one of these puppies?


    I'm going to put one in my house when I build it, but instead of wine, I'll store canned goods, mead that I trade from you of course. :)

  2. very cool... and space efficient! not so great if you're less mobile though... those stairs'd be killer!

  3. http://www.yurtworks.com/blog/?page_id=118

  4. I share your dream - we live off the grid now, but could be even more self-supporting - that's the goal! Ideally, we'd even love to be able to turn my son's dirty diapers into bio-fuel, but that's another story... ;)

  5. i share your dream too, simply complicated! and thank goodness at least the beginning of our dream has come true!

    last august my husband and i bought a small cottage on 10 acres in the exact area of Cape Breton Island that i wanted to be in (born and raised in Cape Breton but living in Ottawa until next year). we plan to move there next spring/summer and go all the way - growing and preserving our own food, hunting deer and moose and fishing - our land is on a river full of salmon and the ocean is 5 mins away.

    we have been "practicing" and playing "off-grid" for 3 years now, i have been "tire" gardening and preserving our food - last year i grew 120lbs of potatoes - and i live in the city!!!! the house we currently live in already has solar panels so we are very comfortable with that technology. once we are in Cape Breton full time, we plan to build our dream house with lumber from our land (there's a lumber mill 20 mins away from us!). then we plan to use solar, wind and hydro power to go completely off-grid as soon as possible.

    sorry for the long comment - it's just that your post is a dream of mine too!

  6. Kymber, that's fantastic! hopefully the move goes smoothly and you are able to settle into the lifestyle you so desire with a minimum of fuss!

    I don't know if i'll be going grid-less anytime soon... in part b/c living in manitoba, most of my energy is already water-produced. Also, i think i'd rather just have solar/wind power hooked into the grid instead...
    One problem with building housing locally is that i won't be able to build using lumber from my land, as safety regulations pretty much prohibit it for a house (outbuildings are another matter entirely)
    however, despite some detractors on the bermed house idea (apparently it's not terribly green when building.. all that cement. my point was: and a conventional house is that much better? i don't exactly plan on tearing it down in fifteen years to build a bigger one after all!) i still really like the idea.... we're now starting to watch for land sales in the area we want to settle in, not for purchase right away, but to get an idea of prices.
    thanks for posting!