Earth homes, or earth-sheltered homes, are homes that use the terrain to conserve energy and protect the home from elements such as wind, rain and winter weather. Earth-sheltered homes are a great way to create unique architecture that produces an energy-efficient environment, according to the Department of Energy. There are two types of earth homes: underground and bermed.
An underground earth home is a home that is built completely below ground or under grade. Generally, underground earth homes have a central atrium to which all glass windows and doors point, allowing for light, solar energy and a stairway access to ground level. This particular type of design allows for a private outdoor area that is protected from elements such as harsh winter winds. However, disadvantages such as rain drainage and snow removal should be considered before building.
A bermed earth home may still be partly below grade and has earth covering one or more walls. Typically, the home has all but one wall covered in earth to allow for energy-efficient insulation and protection from elements. The exposed wall usually faces to the south, providing sunlight and heat from the sun. Some bermed designs cover all four walls and the roof with earth, leaving only the doors and windows uncovered.