July 20, 2020

What Are Berm Homes? 2020 Update

 If history and archaeology have taught us anything, it's that our ancestors were often far cleverer than we give them credit for. For example, the Romans had underfloor heating. They also made concrete 2000 years ago that still lasts, whereas modern concrete has a life expectancy of up to 120 years. Elsewhere, the Wari culture of Peru as far back as 500 AD provided a clean, unpolluted water supply using stone aqueducts. The Incas are famed for their impressive masonry skills that helped the buildings to withstand earthquakes.

Earth Berm Homes

More and more frequently, we are turning to the past for solutions to modern problems, or for better ways of doing things. And one area where this has really taken hold is in the field of architecture, and for houses in particular.

Earth-Sheltered Housing

As far back as 5000 BC, humans were essentially making berm homes. But what does this mean? One dictionary definition of the word 'berm', describes it as being a raised bank, or an artificial embankment.

berm home
berm home

From as far apart as North Dakota, India, Turkey, China, to the Scottish isles of Orkney, separated by thousands of miles as well as years, different cultures and societies had the same idea; dig down into the earth, raise a bank around the walls and use the earth as protection and insulation against the elements.

It was good, sound thinking. And it was a method of building that worked very well. So well, in fact, that the houses at Skara Brae in Orkney are still there, over 7000 years later. Once excavated of the sand and debris, if you placed a roof on the top you'd be able to live there fairly comfortably.

Earth-Sheltered housing

Another name for these types of berm homes is 'earth-sheltered housing', a term which is self-explanatory. Our ancestors, whether they knew this or not, created homes that were energy efficient. By setting their dwellings partly underground or banking soil against the walls, the earth provided thermal mass which helped to keep temperatures steady within the structure.

Check out Berm home plan

How eco friendly are BERM homes?

This idea experienced something of a revival in the 1970s, with the beginnings of environmentalism as people started to have concerns about the damage being done to the planet. Since then, the position has become clear; humanity has to act now if we are to rescue the environment - and ourselves - from disaster.

underground house in cumbria
underground house in cumbria

Using modern innovations, an increasing number of architects are designing berm homes that offer a way forward. Through the combination of an ancient idea and state-of-the-art technology, they are creating homes that have minimum impact on the environment, working with the earth rather than simply seeing it as a platform for their structure.

Hobbit Holes and Cavemen

The idea of living in a non-traditional house may not appeal to all - though thousands of people might love to live inside something resembling a Hobbit Hole. But - with the exception of a handful of examples - you can put the idea of berm homes being some kind of dingy cave far from your mind. These are designed by some of the most gifted architects and the results can be stunning. Yes, some are quirky and far from traditional. But they are fun, practical, and best of all they provide sustainable solutions for modern living.

In Hill Home

The architects and designers have taken an ancient idea and improved upon it, creating the following types of homes -

  •  Also known as an 'in-hill home', this is where three sides of the structure are covered with earth (and often the roof) with the fourth side exposed, usually being south-facing (or oriented towards the equator). The floorplan of the home is designed to allow maximum use of the heat and light on this side, with skylights and ventilation to ensure that the north side receives adequate light and fresh air. This type of berm home is considered the cheapest and is also the most efficient for temperate or cooler climates.
  •  This is where an earth bank, or bund, is placed against one or more walls (usually polar-facing, if only one wall). These tend to resemble more traditional houses.
  •  not strictly speaking a 'berm home', but this type has come to be included in the collective term due to its use of the earth and a similar set of environmentally conscious innovations. They are also known as 'atrium-style' houses as they often have an atrium built in to allow more natural light inside.
earth estate
earth estate

What are the benefits of Earth Sheltered housing?

  • First and foremost, these houses require little in the way of heating or cooling. The earth banks act as insulation that keeps the temperature almost constant- regardless of the air temperature outside. This fact alone means that heating or air conditioning costs are effectively zero.
  • The sturdy construction makes for a longer-lasting home. This has the added attraction of offering protection against extreme weather conditions - especially in places that are prone to tornadoes and hurricanes. Earthquake damage is unlikely to be a problem, and the building is effectively fireproof, resulting in lower insurance premiums.
  • Berm homes offer a level of peace and privacy that isn't possible in other houses. The earth acts as a sponge, soaking up sound. The berms provide a barrier that gives a sense of security and privacy.
  • Maintenance costs are lower as there is less weathering of external wall surfaces, and freezing pipes will never be an issue.

Earth Berm home problems?

Initial groundwork and construction can be expensive - but these costs can be recovered through savings on heating alone. Some countries have strict planning laws, so make sure you research these thoroughly. Likewise, some mortgage providers may have reservations because the home is so different and may be difficult to sell in the future. Some of the construction materials used may not be as 'green' as you would like - the foundations often require tonnes of concrete, which is not the most environmentally friendly material. The negatives of BERM homes.

Overall, though, berm homes provide an example of how we can create housing that won't cost the Earth.

June 13, 2024
Where To Put Stairs For Loft Conversion

Are you considering a loft conversion but unsure where to place the stairs? This article will guide you through the different types of loft conversions, benefits, and factors to consider when deciding on stair placement. Whether you're looking to create extra living space or add value to your home, choosing the best location for stairs […]

June 13, 2024
What Is A Velux Loft Conversion

Are you looking to maximize the space in your home while adding value and natural light? A Velux loft conversion might just be the perfect solution for you. In this article, we will explore the benefits of choosing a Velux loft conversion, the steps involved in the process, the requirements needed for a successful conversion, […]

June 13, 2024
Can Any House Have A Loft Conversion

Curious about transforming your attic space into a functional living area? We will explore the world of loft conversions, covering different types of conversions, costs, and benefits. Discover if your house is suitable for a loft conversion, the requirements involved, and the steps for a successful project. Elevate your living space with a loft conversion! […]

May 19, 2024
Can You Use Drain Unblocker In Washing Machine

Are you dealing with a clogged washing machine drain and wondering if a drain unblocker can help? In this article, we will explore what a drain unblocker is, how it works, and whether it can be used in a washing machine. We will also discuss the risks of using a drain unblocker in a washing […]

May 19, 2024
How To Unblock Drain In Shower

Are you tired of standing in ankle-deep water every time you take a shower? Blocked drains in the shower can be a common and frustrating issue. From hair buildup to soap scum and mineral deposits, there are several culprits behind this problem. We will discuss the causes of a blocked drain in the shower, the […]

May 19, 2024
What Drain Cleaner Works Best

Dealing with stubborn clogs in your drains? Drain cleaners can be a quick and effective solution to unclog your pipes. In this article, we explore the different types of drain cleaners available, including chemical, enzymatic, and homemade options. We also discuss important factors to consider when choosing a drain cleaner and provide a list of […]

April 23, 2024
How To Make Vacuum Lines In Carpet

Have you ever noticed those perfectly straight lines on a freshly vacuumed carpet and wondered how they were made? Vacuum lines in the carpet not only make your space look neat and clean but also help maintain the carpet's appearance and prolong its lifespan. This article will discuss what vacuum lines are, why they are […]

April 20, 2024
Home Remedies For Slippery Floors

Slippery floors can be a hazard in any home, leading to potential accidents and injuries. We explore the common causes of slippery floors and provide practical tips on how to prevent them. Learn about using non-slip mats, applying natural cleaning agents like vinegar and lemon juice, and discovering easy home remedies and natural solutions for […]

April 20, 2024
Best Way To Clean Laminate Floors

Wondering about the composition of laminate floors and their differences from hardwood floors? Discover the importance of cleaning laminate floors for their longevity. Explore the best cleaning methods for laminate floors, from regular sweeping to mopping with a vinegar solution and using commercial cleaners. Find tips for maintaining and protecting your laminate floors, highlighting the […]

March 20, 2024
How To Install Retrofit LED Recessed Lighting

Looking to upgrade your lighting fixtures at home or in your office? Retrofit LED recessed lighting might be the perfect solution for you. In this article, we explore the benefits of choosing retrofit LED recessed lighting, the tools and materials you will need for installation, and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to […]

1 2 3 8
beauty and mess
We hope you find this site informative and modern, and that you can learn a lot! We would love to work with you as well as engage and create content for the site. This is a collaborative blog and we welcome beauty tips from the world over. 
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram