Once upon a time, not so long ago, in an upstate New York, on a farm dedicated to energy efficiency, a world renown architect decided to built himself a home into the side of the hill. Using the technique known as earth-berming, he built a humble abode from recycled materials, used lots of help from the sun to power it up, and made himself famous by presenting the world a carbon neutral house at the cutting edge of green building revolution.
Allan Shope, the master behind the project, says “As I abandoned various preconceptions about architectural styles and how materials should be used I gained nothing but freedom. A freedom of seeing things in a new way that allowed different influences to guide me.”
In Bob Villa’s show, Allan explains that earth-berming is an undeniably seductive way to mitigate freezing cold and blistering hot temperatures, and human beings have done for centuries. Obviously, a modern society doesn’t want to live in the cave or a basement but its possible to take a sunny hill side and simply insert a house into it. This way the earth around the house warms it in the winter and cools it in the summer, keeping the temperatures rather stable all year long.
Using the principle’s of passive solar heating, a two feet thick slab of recycled concrete is used as a thermal mass for solar gain, which slowly releases heat throughout the night even during the harshest of winters.
Perhaps the most exciting detail of the project is that the house was actually all built using nothing but local and recycled materials:
- Facade is made from recycled metal sheets from a nearby factory;
- Roof made from recycled copper pipes from an old institution (melted down and made new copper);
- All wood was came from black cherry trees harvested onsite, then treated and sawn using the energy produced by the home’s PV panels;
- Most surprising part – the home’s terrace in front of the house is from the old NY prison’s cells.
Earth-bermed homes do not receive a lot of light or ventilation but Allan made up for these limitations by installing super tall glazed windows and an air exchanger on the roof.
Allan’s sustainability quest doesn’t end with his house. Boston press reveals he is also working on a project called Studio 99 (reference to everyone not in the wealthiest 1 percent), a house that will be the “VW bug … denim jeans of housing”.
Though he is keeping the details under wraps for now, he says “I’m doing it because I have a social conscience, but I’m also doing it to make money. I’m doing it because I think the ocean is rising, cities are sinking, the weather is wild, and we need it.” I just can’t wait to find out what his ingenious solution will be. (Images: Durston Saylor)