earth-sheltered homes: lot size and adjacent structures

Effects of lot size and adjacent structures on earth-sheltered homes

Effects of lot size and adjacent structures on earth-sheltered homes.

In an urban or suburban setting the size of a building lot and the proximity of structures on adjacent lots present some unique design considerations for earth-sheltered housing. Three issues in particular arise if an earth-sheltered structure is to be placed on a small site within a development of conventional above grade houses. The first is that some earth-sheltered designs may require more manipulation of the land forms on the site and the creation of earth berms around the house. The additional area to achieve this type of design would not necessarily be substantial but may require a slightly larger site than normal.


The second issue concerns set-backs in a conventional development. A clear understanding of set-back limitations may be critical to some earth-sheltered designs. It may be necessary to extend portions of a sub-surface structure beyond existing set-backs since arranging spaces around a courtyard is likely to take more area than a conventional rectangular house. A redefinition of zoning ordinances may be required in a case such as this.


A final consideration is the location and size of structures on adjacent property which may interfere with views, block sunlight, or simply create an unpleasant feeling of being looked down upon in an earth-sheltered house. Although these factors may present problems, they can often be dealt with effectively by the designer.


It is important to note that these issues only arise when earth-sheltered housing is used on smaller lots in existing developments. New developments which include only earth-sheltered housing can be designed at fairly high densities without encountering the problems of scale and set-backs mentioned here.