House 16
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House #
House Style
Size Ft2
Year Built
Cost/Ft2
16
Earth-bermed, passive solar, green roof
1640
2005
$80 *
Architect/Designer
General Contractor
Sub-contractors (significant) & Type
Doug Potter Owner Doug Hass—excavation
Dwight Filer—plumbing
Scott Alexander—roof membrane and bermed wall coating
Mark Robertson—cabinets
Primary E-Design Factors
Significant E-Products Used
Results—Positive/Negative
Earth-bermed
Green roof
Radiant heating
Passive solar
Recycled materials
Large root cellar
Cork flooring from Ecohaus in Seattle

Recycled timbers and glulam beams from Havillah Shake

Bosch low energy washing machine

Berming and green roof provide thermal and sound insulation and lessen visual impact. It can also provide more habitat for flora and fauna.

They regret not making a greywater system.

* Partially owner built
This house was built to accommodate four people. It is a passive solar earth-bermed house, with a beautiful green roof that is a continuation of the hill behind it. The house almost disappears into the landscape. Trees planted in front of the house shield it from the road. Massive recycled timbers and recycled glulam beams, from Havillah Shake in Tonasket, are used throughout. The owners noted that recycled glulam beams, unlike solid beams, are quite inexpensive. The reused decking wood came from the Silver Line Trucking warehouse in Wenatchee.

The non-bermed walls are conventionally framed 2x6 with blown in fiberglass, the ceiling uses 8" of rigid foam sheeting plus 6" of soil, it is rated at R-54 (the owners stated that there is no significant insulating value in soil which is less than 2 feet thick because the water in the soil is a good conductor of heat). Two inches of foam are sprayed on the outside of the bermed wall and footers; this foam is then coated with a sprayed on layer of acrylic to minimize moisture. The roof is not completely flat, but slopes 1 inch in 19 feet for drainage (a flat roof may be hard to insure at a reasonable price {see house #15}, so a slight slope for drainage might be worth considering). In this case, the owners had no problem getting homeowner insurance from Safeco.

Radiant heat is used, but like many passive solar houses, the wood stove, and passive solar heating are enough to supply most of the heating needs. The concrete floor and berm are integrally colored with lamp black, producing a lovely gray color—this is especially nice on the exposed bermed wall in the bedrooms, and bath. The floor is finished with the non toxic Osmo hard wax from Twisp Environmental. The house has a good sized root cellar, and a wonderful large garden—both of which are a part of building and living sustainably. The root cellar is built into the north facing bermed wall and stays cool. It has a self regulating vent system to provide the correct ventilation level for food storage.

The greatroom floor is built only two inches above ground level, integrating the indoor environment with the outdoors; it also helps the house visually blend into the site.The large roof over hangs, beams, and earth-berming make this a very successful strategy. One feels close to the outside, but tucked comfortably into the house.

Owners Advice:• Don't settle for contractors or subs who don't know what they're doing.
• Budgets are usually an issue, incorporate the things that are most important to you.
• In both design and construction, take your time and go slowly.
• A few small things might not turn out quite as expected, try not to get too upset about them. It will not seem so bad when you finally live in your house.