Emergency Earthbag Shelter with Reciprocal Roof — 18 Comments

  1. Well, we’re in the throws of building, but still trying to figure out this roof thing. We’d like to do a reciprocal living roof, but we’re having a really hard time finding examples/instructions from beginning to end. Can you help point us to some good resources? We’d sure appreciate it. BTW, Our roundhouse has a 28ft. interior diameter.

    • There are a few projects in Australia that can be found in a search engine. Some are profiled on this site. Some are kept private.

  2. Awesome plan!
    Earthen roofs are heavy, and would thus require either a good number of beams, or else some stout reciprocal members. if using wood rafters for a 15′ span, I’d open up the central opening, at least doubling the stated 1.5′, so as to not have to notch so excessively structurally.
    How about a periscope?!

  3. If/When someone is considering building underground or heavily earth bermed, and if someone lives in an area where there is even the slightest risk of RADON in the soil, I would recommend including a below floor ventilation system in the design.

    These systems need not be expensive, IF INSTALLED AS THE STRUCTURE IS BUILT. You need not worry about ventilation fans during construction. Just build in the proper air barrier below the floor and the appropriate vent stack. Extremely inexpensive during construction, but much more expensive and a great deal of hassle to add on later if you discover it is necessary.

    RADON may not be big factor for a shed, or a temporary shelter, but for food storage or long term shelter it could be a major health risk.

    Here is a pdf that describes how to build a system for standard “code” type construction. This should be easily adapted to earthbag construction.

  4. Would love to see the details. Am interested in the reciprocal roofs. And it sounds like the best way to have a house ‘ underground ‘ here in Louisiana. Bet I could pass it off as a storm shelter to the code folks. glenna

  5. It’s best not to build below grade except maybe in deserts. Sooner or later water will get in and flood the structure. It happens all too often. So, I would look for a naturally occurring mound or build on a high spot and add soil on top.

    • French drains, liners, and proper berming will help with floowing. It also helps if you can build into a hill.

      With this design, I’d try to build into a south facing hill to get the solar gain as well. It would increase the cost a bit to add some south windows, but in my opinion, it would greatly increase the comfort level.

  6. Jsut the sort of thing I’m interested in. Maybe mix it with the one you designed that as totally undeground? Partly below grade, still have the pond liner… That way you don’t have any obvious excavation site, you bag the earth you’re digging out. The hole that becomes the shelter is the source of the dirt.

    • That’s possible, but it’s prone to flooding. I just added a comment about this. But yes, you could do it with careful detailing.

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