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Earth Sheltered Homes

If you’re looking to build an energy efficient home, you may want to consider an earth sheltered home. An earth sheltered home makes use of the natural terrain to form its walls and roof. This type of construction has been rising in popularity in recent years among those interested in sustainable architecture, but the practice nearly dates back to when humans began constructing their own shelters.

There are two types of earth sheltered homes: underground and bermed. In underground earth shelter homes, the entire house is built below grade or underground. These are ideal for hilly or mountainous terrain. In bermed earth shelter homes, the house is built above or partially below ground, with earth covering one or more walls. This earth sheltered home design is ideal for flat or very slightly sloped terrain. Earth sheltered home builders typically use concrete, but in some cases materials such as rammed-earth tires or cement blocks are used.

Earth sheltered homes are often combined with passive solar heating systems to boost their energy efficiency even further.


One of the main advantages of an earth sheltered home is that it is energy efficient. Because these homes make use of the constancy of the earth’s temperature and its thermal mass, they are less susceptible to weather extremes and can save you money on heating and cooling. They remain a relatively constant temperature – approximately 50-60 degrees F year round, depending on the average annual temperature in your area. Due to this, you’ll never have to worry about pipes freezing.

Earth shelter homes require little outside maintenance and are aesthetically less of an imposition on the natural landscape than conventional homes. They leave more yard space for gardening and wildlife. They can cost less to insure, as they offer protection from damaging storms, hail, tornados and hurricanes, and if built out of solid concrete, are fire resistant. These homes are very quiet from outside noise, and you’ll rarely find rodents and bugs that are able to get inside a home built out of solid concrete. Contrary to what you might think, if these homes are designed well, they can also let in an abundance of natural light.


Water seepage, internal condensation, bad acoustics and poor indoor air quality are all concerns with earth shelter homes, so it is important that you contact an experienced earth sheltered home construction professional. An experienced, structural engineer will also consider the type of soil on your property, loading conditions and adjust plans accordingly.

Additionally, earth home construction may be more involved than conventional home building, so contacting a professional with experience in this particular type of building is essential. He or she can also help you comply with building codes, observe fire safety requirements, and meet roof and insulation specifications.

Contact us:

BE Structural has experience engineering and designing custom earth sheltered structures. If you are interested in building an earth sheltered structure in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, or Michigan, fill the form out on the right to start a conversation about your unique needs. You can also call us at 1 (866) 682-2693. or email


Project spotlight:

BE Structural provided structural analysis, structural engineering and design, and preparation of construction documents for the Herceg residence in Mohnton, Pennsylvania. This two-story, 3,000 square foot split level house with a 3rd floor observatory is set into the side of a hill.  Eleven foot tall ivany block retaining walls act as basement walls and are supported at the top by heavy timber framing and a concrete slab on grade at the ground level.  The first and second floors are offset, allowing for a green roof at each level.  A detached two-story, 1,300 sq. ft. workshop was designed to emulate the house.