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Are Basements a Good Idea? — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Kelly, I’m thinking about building an earth-coupled house. This model was put forward in a book (1983) by John Hait called “Passive Annual Heat Storage.” I’m not sure why it didn’t catch on. The idea is to insulate a column of earth around the house as opposed to insulating the house from the earth. When combined with geothermal ventilation and passive solar it could theoretically hold to around 65 degrees year-round by itself. I know that Paul Wheaton has experimented with it and branded his own version called WOFATI. The author himself supposedly tested it at a place called the Rocky Mountain Research Center which seems to be no longer extant. It would rely on EPS foam or perlite or some form of undergroundable insulation. If there was ever a worthwhile deal with the Devil, could this be one?

  2. I working on a design for an earth bermed cabin with a living roof. I live in a small cob and light clay straw house and even though I do get some temperature moderation from the wall mass, extended roof eaves and sunward facing windows it does require moderate external heating and cooling.

    I’m hoping the earth bermed cabin will have only minimal heating and cooling needs if any. I do live in central Texas and the humidity can be fairly high for extended periods of time so I think the cabin will probably need a (probably mechanical) dehumidifier.

    I’m planning to build the cabin stick frame infilled with light clay straw on the non-bermed sides and lime stabilized cob on the bermed ones. I’ll use pond liners to waterproof the roof and the bermed walls.

    I agree that the use of non-sustainable materials is justified in this case since it results in a structure that will have very low energy and maintenance needs.

    • Earthen materials can withstand humidity better than most building materials, so if you include some interior earthen plaster this might help with humidity.

      • We have earthen plaster throughout our house and lime plaster in the bathroom and humidity doesn’t seem to be an issue. However, we built a cob shed with an earthen floor several years ago and there have been issues with tools rusting in there.

        With the new build I’ll plan to have wiring and a condensate line in place in the event I need mechanical dehumidification. I’m also thinking about using lime plaster more broadly in the interior.

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