Thursday, May 7, 2009

DOWN TO EARTH: 10 Modern Earth Sheltered Homes

1. R.E.A.C.H (Rural Earthship Alternative Community Habitat) in New Mexico

One type of home using earth-sheltered construction is known as an ‘Earthship’. Earthships, created by US architect Michael Reynolds, are dwellings created from recycled products that minimize the human impact on the earth. The homes are generally made of earth-filled tires utilising thermal mass construction to naturally regulate indoor temperature.

Earthships are built to utilize the available local resources, especially energy from the sun. For example, windows on the sunny side admit light and heat, and the buildings are often horseshoe-shaped to maximize natural light and solar-gain during winter months. Likewise, the thick, dense outer walls provide effective insulation against summer heat. The roof of an Earthship is heavily insulated - often with earth, for added energy efficiency.

For over 35 years, pioneering architect Michael Reynolds has developed housing constructed of recycled materials.
R.E.A.C.H., the original Earthship community founded in 1989 is located in a high mesa valley tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, near the outer fringes of Taos, New Mexico. The off-the-grid community does not produce the same human imprint of most suburban households. However, this is a private community, therefor one cannot 'pitch up' uninvited. With invitation, the only way to reach the village is via 4 x 4.

2. Eco-friendly home, California

This modern eco-home designed by eco architect Mickey Muennig is found in Copper Point, Big Sur. Built into the lush landscape overlooking the California coastline, this innovative, home literally blends into its surroundings, with only strategically placed doors and windows peeking out from beneath its sod roof. The Cooper Point house literally becomes the landscap following the natural contours of the site. It’s built like a bunker with massive concrete retaining walls at either end and all-glass walls in between. There isn’t really a roof in a conventional sense—it’s more like a continuation, an enhancement of the Big Sur environment, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers.

3. The Underground House in Cumbria, UK

The project to build the house started in April 2002 and the proud family moved in just over six months later. The site also includes a farm animal veterinary workspace. The house has been built into the hole left by the removal of stone from the quarry, making it invisible from behind or the sides.

All that can be seen from the front are the double height conservatory and a small array of photo-voltaic tiles above the front door. The family is surrounded by 350 million year old sandstone, and is covered with soil. The home is warm and quiet, light floods in from the front, the ventilation system means that the air is always clean and fresh.

4. Earth House Estate L├Ąttenstrasse, Switzerland

This earth covered homes by architect Peter Vetsch, are anything but traditional. The nine private houses that make up the estate are grouped around a small artificial lake. The basement, as well as the parking lot is built with conventional techniques, not so the ground floor, which is constructed with the typical earthhome construction principle of sprayed concrete.

The insolation consists of recycled glass, an absolute environment friendly product. The water protection is added directly on the sprayed concrete. On top of the isolation is a protective layer with natural earth, which can be used to grow grass or plants on the rooftop.

5. The Nautilus Earthship, New Mexico

The Nautilus Earthship, in Taos, N.M., was built in 1996 and is listed in the top 500 buildings of all time. It causes no conflict, no stress, no depletion, no trauma to the planet earth. It is built will recycled materials such as old car tires and soda pop bottles. It is constucted to provide stabilized temperature. The home makes use of renewable energy and integrated water systems that makes it functions without paying any utility-bills.

6. Sundown Gardens & Residence, LA, Mount Washington

One of LA's most unusual homes by far, owned by architect Fritz Haeg. The home was built in the mid-1980's by a doctor and designed by architect William King. The home has various dimensions, the cave part of the home is lit only by skylights.

The outer part of the house has s green roof for maximum thermal efficiency and the geo-dome shelters a vast interior studio volume for meditation, art, rehearsal, performance, or entertaining. Haeg bought the property in 2000, and is currently living in and working from his home.

7. Home in Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK

South Uist is an island of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. This is were you will find this interesting earth sheltered dome home. The stucture of the home is so that it maximises the views across the islands. Glulam beams are used to form roof of the earth shelter. ICF has been used to construct the walls of this earth sheltered dwelling. Steel mesh and Polarwall was used to form the earth sheltered house.

8. Geodome Montana, USA

It is the world's first earth sheltered geodesic dome with passive annual heat storage. John N. Hait, the inventor of passive annual heat storage wanted to build, not just one home, but to design and build a concrete precasting facility capable of mass producing. Thus began one of the most unusual construction stories of the 20th century.

Four inch thick steel fibrous reinforced concrete was used to built this complicated structure. The Geodome has 1.5 million pounds of fill on it and it is engineered to hold another one million.

9. Woodlands Hobbit Home, Wales

The home was built by the family themselves, they wanted to live close to nature. It was built with maximum regard for the environment by using natural materials. The home was dug into the hillside for low visual impact and shelter, stone and mud from diggings was used fot the walls and foundation. Straw bales in the floor, walls and roof provides super-insulation. A skylight in the roof lets in natural light. Solar panels provides the home with electricity.

10. Woodland Parks Hobbit Hotel, NZ

The Hobbits, like the other motels available at Woodlyn Park, are all self-contained with kitchens and own shower toilet facilities can accommodate up to 6 people in each unit.

Each have specially designed furniture and decor and having been built using polystyrene blocks this has given them added warmth in the winter and cooling affect in summer.


  1. Stunning! I love those properties. I wish someday I can also have that kind of beautiful properties. Thanks for sharing this inspiring places.


  2. Gorgeous house. I especially loved how they used so much wood on the exterior parts so it just fits with the environment seamlessly... Stunning!

    Thanks for all your hard work on this site, I really enjoy reading it.

    Houses in Australia

  3. We have an earth-sheltered house in Canada and are having trouble getting insurance... does anyone know of any insurers for these types of homes?

    Please email me at

    I would love any suggestions!!