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Earth-sheltered "hobbit" Houses?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Sethodine, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. Sethodine

    Sethodine Elio Addict

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    So, I just discovered this company called Green Magic Homes. They make modular kits for constructing earth-sheltered houses that look like Bilbo's home from The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings. My wife and I have become particularly entranced, and are considering building one of these homes for our first house.

    What do you guys think? Have you heard of them before? What issues can you see this type of housing having vs. a conventional house?

    They cost about $41.70 per square foot (delivered), and a 3-bedroom shell can be bolted and weather-sealed by a team of 3 people in just 5-6 days. High earthquake resistance too, they can ride out a 10.0 (good for the PNW, where we're expecting "the big one" any decade now). Engineered up to International Building Code, so they are legal in the county I'm looking to build it in, too.
     
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  2. Jeff Bowlsby

    Jeff Bowlsby Elio Addict

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    Full disclosure: I am an architect and waterproofing consultant.

    Earth shelters can have some interesting characteristics and if you have never been inside one, you should visit one firsthand. They can be quiet due to the soil mass. Architects Malcolm Wells and Phillip Johnson each did some of the more successful earth shelter homes with some success, but the buildings were far from inexpensive and still had some clunky elements. These usually require special building sites, often remote - beyond the reaches of city planning departments that impose controls on neighborhoods. That cans save money, but has other lifestyle implications. Resale value for what is probably your greatest investment is dubious, unless it is done at an impeccable level.

    Other problems to resolve usually involve getting light into the interiors, second exits from bedrooms and just the goofy esthetics internally and externally. Do you find it acceptable that your interior wall/ceiling surface would be exposed fiberglass with seams everywhere? Every time you want to hang a picture, its on a slanted wall and you have to glue an anchor to the wall? How do cabinets, and a bathtub/shower work out in the kitchen and bathrooms assuming you use standard items? If non-standard then its all custom work and that adds considerably to the cost.

    This system you linked is fiberglass, bolt/glue together components and seems expensive actually, once you add in the cost of everything else needed - property cost, soil excavation and backfill, waterproofing, drainage and insulation, windows/doors, floor finishes, electrical/mechanical/plumbing, landscaping. They mention the insulative effects of the soil, but their system only tolerates 8 inches of soil at the top - R value =2, not sufficient. You need something more like 18 inches and more to be of real benefit.

    Personally, I have been enamored by earth shelters if they can be designed creatively and not look like some kind of farm outbuilding. I would only consider them a success if they were constructed of concrete - for waterproofing and thermal mass, with vertical walls and if plenty of interior light could be had.
     
  3. Sethodine

    Sethodine Elio Addict

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    They say the shell kit includes the custom-fit doors and windows, and all the elements required to waterproof it and bolt it to the concrete foundation, so at least those expenses wouldn't be extra. And their modules are made to incorporate skylights, ducting, or other necessary ventilation as long as those things are included in the initial plans. But even if all of the additional work ends up costing $30,000, that would put a 1400sq/ft home at about $88k. Around here, that's about what you'd pay for a 10 year-old manufactured home on a HUD property.

    I'm not too worried about finding land for it, there are lots of sub-$10k lots in the area, most of which are in areas with flexible HOAs and/or in unincorperated county with no city planning codes to worry about. But I've had too much time to dream about this, with nobody around to question my assumptions, so I really appreciate the feedback :)
     
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  4. Rob Croson

    Rob Croson Elio Addict

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    I have a hard enough time keeping the grass *around* my house cut. Now I'd have to actually cut the crass *on* my house, too?
     
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  5. NSTG8R

    NSTG8R Elio Addict

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    Hmmm...A Chia-home. I guess it would depend on what kind of "vegetation" you decided to grow on it. :hippie:
     
  6. Sethodine

    Sethodine Elio Addict

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    Actually, my wife wants to grow a garden on the house! Come to think of it, any heat loss through the admittingly low-insulation roof sections would actually help the tomatoes grow better :)
     
  7. Sethodine

    Sethodine Elio Addict

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    Well here in WA, legal marijuana grow operations have to be indoors (for security and lisensing reasons).
     
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  8. John-b-gone

    John-b-gone Elio Addict

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    Sethodine, I found these people a few years back. They're in Italy TX. I was planing on stopping and checking them out driving my new Elio back from Shreveport. Beware, this is a huge website, you can get lost for days. http://www.monolithic.org/
     
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  9. John-b-gone

    John-b-gone Elio Addict

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    I just got an email back from Green Magic Homes, and as luck would have it, their national headquarters is a 3.5 hour Elio road trip south to El Prado, NM 87529. I expressly like the manufacturing plant being in Cancun, as I plan to winter down the road in Belize. One problem you might look in to is financing/mortgaging new tech like this.
     
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  10. Sethodine

    Sethodine Elio Addict

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    Yeah, the primary hurdle would be finding a lender who will finance a home building loan on something that's still rather experimental. BUT, it is "Green", and since that is all the rage nowadays (especially out here on the coast) I'm hoping that is a mark in my favor. But I've never been through the process before, so it's all very exciting/scary.
     
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