Dec 21, AM Some energy-saving ideas from the s are much more viable now, thanks to new products and systems. But many of the energy-saving principles of the solar homes of the Carter era actually have the potential to work even better today. These techniques are not limited to new home construction. They apply whether you are starting from scratch on a new site, adding an addition, or dropping a modular home onto your lot. Earth Berm Upgrade One of the problems with early attempts at partially buried , split or "bi-level" homes with livable basements was the near inevitability of moisture problems.
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Dec 21, AM Some energy-saving ideas from the s are much more viable now, thanks to new products and systems. But many of the energy-saving principles of the solar homes of the Carter era actually have the potential to work even better today.
These techniques are not limited to new home construction. They apply whether you are starting from scratch on a new site, adding an addition, or dropping a modular home onto your lot. Earth Berm Upgrade One of the problems with early attempts at partially buried , split or "bi-level" homes with livable basements was the near inevitability of moisture problems. The old way was to simply slap a coat of asphalt on concrete below-grade walls, and install a sump hole in the concrete floor of the basement as a backup plan for any seepage.
But modern products such as synthetic drainage mats are far more foolproof than a thin layer of asphalt that will degrade over time. This illustration shows a carefully planned earth berm for a modern home.
New technologies offer better long-term moisture-proofing and energy performance. Image: www. That was then. Building science has improved, and you can now install concrete walls still with good drainage in mind that are protected by solid backup systems to keep water out for the life of the home.
As an interesting side note, earth berming also makes a very effective sound barrier. A field study back in found that earth bermed walls worked better than concrete at reducing noise pollution, primarily because the earth walls can be built at an angle that deflects noise, whereas concrete walls tend to be vertical. Passive Solar: New Tools When passive solar first hit its niche in the s, the best option for overall energy performance was dual glazing and manual, rigid foam panels.
Sure, you could get some great heat gain during the day, but unless you swung down the foam panels at night, you would lose all the gained heat, for a net energy loss. Technology solved this problem with low-e glazing. Equip that window-wall with low-e double-glazed windows, and even if you have no window coverings in some cold climates , you end up with an energy wash.
This is where new technologies come in. Three advances below , especially when used in concert in a well insulated house, greatly increase the energy-efficiency potential of passive solar. Achieving Passive House level wall R-values can be achieved with conventional materials.
But for simplicity, focus first on the big three: Window Sealing Systems. Put your hand next to a window in an old house. We have a much better sense of the importance of air sealing around windows, and new products such as sealing tapes that make it easy to get a perfect seal. Advanced Glazing. The next step seals the deal. Automated, Insulated Blinds. Few of us have a lifestyle or the discipline to lower and close window insulation twice a day, every day, to save energy. But affordable automated systems are now available that take over this chore.
With these technologies combined, passive solar window walls and south orientation look a lot more promising for modern homes and additions. Solar now comes in many styles that blend with roofing. Low PV Profile. Building integrated solar panels blend in better with traditional rooflines in the neighborhood.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons. BIPVs are fairly new in the residential sector, and there are a few special things to consider when putting one on a traditionally built truss-framed roof. Generally speaking, weight should not be an issue. Do not mess around. Spend a little extra to install a modern, high-tech roof underlayment that will not fail before the BIPV panels do. Snow Slide. Ideally you want a BIPV roof that sheds and melts snow automatically.
Check with a local expert installer. Add the right modern ingredients. And you can put them to work saving money over the long lifespan of your next home or addition.
A topic after my own heart! I am not an engineer and have NO experience with Aircrete, Domes or Ferrocement In my head which can be a dangerous place to visit over the last month which is when I discovered Aircrete I have been thinking they would all work synergistically well to go underground! Build your Aircrete Dome then put a strong coat of Ferrocement over it. I am thinking that there are Ferrocement Underground Structures and some even in the shape of a dome. Aircrete would I guess just offer the insulative properties and ease of building the dome.
What are Earth Berming and Earth Sheltering?
Earth Berm Homes In these economically challenging times more people are searching for home designs that are stylish, affordable and remain energy efficient. Earth Berming, or Earth Sheltering as it is also known, is possibly the oldest and yet one of the lesser-known methods of building. Earth Berm Homes Earth Berming essentially uses the earth around the home as your insulation, helping to provide ambient and constant temperatures in the building. The method involves piling earth around the external walls of the building so that the earth provides protection from the elements and saves energy for the owner. As basic as this method sounds, the flexibility of the construction materials leads to the possibility of creating a completely individual dwelling. Despite a common preconception of dark cave-like living areas, successful designs are light, airy and bright. There are there different types of dwellings, each with its own inherent advantages and disadvantages: Earth Berming: This involves piling up the earth around the external walls and sometimes the roof at least to some extent.