Efficiency: Berm Style Homes

ranch style berm home

Plan 057D-0018 – houseplansandmore.com

We have just brought property on the outskirts of town and are going through the tedious process of what type of home to build. We currently live in a large European style home.
It is a beautiful home and while the kids were young it was wonderful
and everyone had plenty of room to roam. But now that we are on a
fixed income, the kids are grown, married with children, and moved away we would like to build something a little more affordable and energy efficient.

Our property doesn’t have much level ground but does have a lot of hills and valleys. We would definitely have to do some dozing in order to have a nice level piece of land. A builder friend of ours suggested a berm home. Not really knowing what berm meant I let my fingers do the typing and found out that a “berm” is a level strip of ground at the summit, sides or along the base of a slope. There are some homes that are fully underground, have flat roofs and earth on top of them. Bermed constructed homes usually have at least one side open to allow for sun exposure. With these types of homes placement is very important in regards to sun positioning. To receive sunlight year round south-facing is best. Both underground and berm homes are built below grade and are a little higher to build than traditional construction. The building costs are off set quickly because of lower maintenance, insurance and energy costs.

I found that shelters of this type that lie within the earth date back to the use of caves as dwellings. The evolution of architecture led to earth berming, in-hill construction and fully recessed underground homes. Today they are gaining popularity as fuel and lumber prices continue to rise and sustainable green building is on the rise. Prior to today, the last big growth in berm style homes was in the 1970’s during the oil crisis. At that time it was considered an unconventional style of building but with all the new technology, styles, and trends emerging today a berm home can be as simple or as luxurious as a traditional style home.

contemporary style berm home

Plan 122D-0001 – houseplansandmore.com

First off let me begin by saying I
could not live in a totally underground home. I like the sun
too much and would need to be able to open up the windows and enjoy
the fresh air. The fact that a berm home could still have an entire wall of windows, curb appeal, and we could reap the benefits of building into the earth definitely peaked my interest.

I found there are many advantages including energy efficiency, low maintenance, home security against nature as well as unwanted visitors, privacy, peace, and insurance savings.

The reason berm homes are so energy efficient is because when you dig about six feet under the earth the temperature only varies by a few degrees year round. The temperature remains about 50-55 degrees and with the ground packed tight around your home you will benefit from this natural insulation. Not only does this means that your heating and cooling bills are very low you won’t ever have to worry about water pipes freezing and busting.

Maintenance is also drastically reduced. Earth covers a lot of a berm home so exterior maintenance would only be on the side or sides that are exposed including the roof.  The only added maintenance would be seepage of water into your home but if properly built and sealed this risk is minimal.

Since there are not many entry points on a berm home it is more secure when it comes to natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, lightning and fire. Tornadoes and storms would simply pass over a berm home and in the even of an earthquake your home would move with the ground. Fires are always devastating but since a berm home is virtually surrounded by dirt it would be a lot more fireproof. Also with only one side exposed unwanted visitors such as the pesky neighbor or burglars would have limited access.

With a berm home you would have privacy along with peace and quiet. Traffic noise, planes and trains would go on by and be virtually unnoticed due to the insulating factor provided by the surrounding earth. An added bonus is the insurance risk is low so homeowner’s insurance is also kept at a minimum.

There are so many advantages to building this type of structure. Now comes the fun part of choosing the right home for us. Since we are empty nesters we don’t need much space but I do want to make sure we have a large great room for when family comes to visit. I think with our property and the natural slope of the land a berm home would be wonderful and save us a lot of headaches. We are ready to be worry-free homeowners and want to enjoy the built-in safety of a built-in home.

For more Berm Home Plans, visit House Plans and More.

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