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Thread: underground homes

  1. #1

    Default underground homes

    how far north or southwest of anchorage will start hitting permafrost still in the ground level
    i know i have been asking a lot of things about cabin building ,,but i can get a dome cabin for less than 35,000 and have shipped up there ..than haveing a home bult ..and belive me looking at the prices up there for some of the homes ..iam going to come out a head by doing it the way iam doing it..
    my plan is to build a monolithic dome cabin with a earth cover to help with the heating and cooling cycles with a small wood stove for heating and cooking as need in the winter time with a mircowave oven to use as needed..with a small outdoor typle kitchen set up on the front pouch area for cooking in the summer time with a bbq propane grill set up for makeing drinner as need ..with the plan for the grey water system to be pumped out to the road section of the house road system under the rock gravel that will layed down for the entance to the home for the road ..with a well system that water is draw up from ground water supply..part of the plan is to sink the base about three to four ft below the ground level to make the small cabin foundation concete pad system with rebar and well head entance with a composting toliet system as need to keep the black water problem down with black water drainage problems ..plus part of the want of a well water so not to have to depend on city water system .
    plus have a off grid style home that use a wind turbine system for winter time use to charge the battie bank and a solar panels set for summer time use to keep the battie bank charge as need for use..
    there is a company called www.pacwind,com they sale a model that is design to catch the wind in any typle of brezze dureing the day and help keep the batties bank charge as need...
    most of the earth covered homes that i have read about have been in heavy snow fall areas of the world..
    my plan is try and find a place about one to three hours southwest of anchorage on a main road into the area..so to be able to travel back and forth as need to anchorage for diff things as need..like go to the movies and bookstores and other things as need

  2. #2
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    http://nsidc.org/data/ggd320.html

    It's not just perma frost you need to be considered with, plenty of land is swampy, poorly drained and or in flood plains.

    The other thing to consider is how you are going to move the earth in your building site, are you going to take a skid steer, backhoe or bulldozer out there? Moving enough dirt to cover a house, or excavating can be a fair bit of work. The cost and hours required to do that work could be put into cutting and transporting firewood.

    Just something to consider.

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    Underground homes are almost always made of concrete. Rebar and concrete aren't in big supply in remote areas.

  4. #4
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Definitely restricts you to living on the road system! There is no way you are going to get enough concrete in remote to build a dome unless you have large amounts of money to burn. I am also not sure how a dome would handle frost heaves, but a good engineer I am sure has the answer to that question.

  5. #5
    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    with the plan for the grey water system to be pumped out to the road section of the house road system under the rock gravel that will layed down for the entance to the home for the road
    Bad idea. You want any water pipes (waste or supply) away from anywhere you regularly drive or have a trail over. They will freeze in winter.

    Depending on how small of a place you build, you may find that cooking on a wood stove will literally cook you out of the cabin.
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  6. #6
    Member garnede's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKDoug View Post
    Bad idea. You want any water pipes (waste or supply) away from anywhere you regularly drive or have a trail over. They will freeze in winter.

    Depending on how small of a place you build, you may find that cooking on a wood stove will literally cook you out of the cabin.

    Doug is right. Snow provides insulation for utility lines. Depending on where you plan to build you would have to bury your water lines 3-6 foot deeper under areas with the snow removed durring winter. Frost can penetrate as much as 8-10 feet in anchorage and even futher in other areas.
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  7. #7
    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    I think you are completely overthinking this whole project. By the description of where you want to have your place you are going to end up on the Kenai Penninsula. Most available land on the Kenai is going to be in a subdivision somewhere. Most of these lots are going to have power available at a reasonable price. Going all out to be "off the grid" will cost more in the long run than just having power brought to your place in most case. There is still land available that is off the grid, but on the road. If you end up on the Kenai Penninsula you really don't have to go to Anchorage ever if you don't want to. They have everything you need in Kenai/Soldotna.

    You really need to decide on an exact location of the property to make many of the decisions you are making. Soil types, weather type and location are going to dramatically change what you can do.

    In other threads you have mentioned a small cabin somewhere in the neighborhood of 14x20. I would highly suggest pushing that out to 16x20. 16x20 makes better and more economical use of your plywood sheething and saves labor. Forget about geodesic domes, underground houses, etc. Wood frame cabins are most popular up here because the work and they are economical to build and heat.

    A basic 16x20 cabin with a second floor loft will provide plenty of room for 2 people for a recreational cabin or even living full time if you don't mind the small space. They can be built for $25,000 (depending on foundation) of materials complete with metal 12/12 pitch roof to shed snow reliably, R21 insulation walls and an R38 roof (if you use 2x12's for the rafters) three windows and two doors.

    Place a small sized wood stove in the front of the cabin and the rear can be used for a small bathroom (under the stairs) and a small kitchen complete with an apartment sized propane stove. The rest of the space can be used as a living room. Using 12' walls on the eave sides of the structure allows a 16x20 bedroom upstairs that has an 8' ceiling height in the middle tapering down to 4' on the sides.

    Even better if you have electricity and a road is a Monitor oil heater. Even when it's super cold you would consume less than 2 gallons a day in a cabin this size. On a 30F day the heat didn't run if my wife was cooking. If she was baking on a 30F day we had to open the windows. This is with a mere 24" wide apartment sized oven.

    How do I know all this? This is how I started with my first cabin. My wife and I lived in it for two years before adding on. Both those years we burned less than 300gallons of heating fuel a year living there full time. This translates to less than 3 cords of wood a year if you heat with wood.

    I think that alternative construction designs are cool. However, they usually cost way more than they are worth when it comes to small square footage dwellings.

    Just the opinions of a guy that's been in the construction and building materials supply business for 27 years
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  8. #8
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    No matter how many times the wheel is invented it ends up being round.AK Doug has it pretty much dead on.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKDoug View Post
    Even better if you have electricity and a road is a Monitor oil heater. Even when it's super cold you would consume less than 2 gallons a day in a cabin this size. On a 30F day the heat didn't run if my wife was cooking. If she was baking on a 30F day we had to open the windows. This is with a mere 24" wide apartment sized oven.
    My cabin is 20x24 with a 1/2 loft. R54 ceiling, R21 walls, R38 floor, and R30 crawlspace walls. Primary heat is a Toyo stove and I heat the water with a Toyo boiler.

    I'm using a gallon of fuel oil a day or less this winter so far.

    Recently, I saw an article on an earth berm or underground home experiment that was being done in one of the villages. I'll see if I can find the article to reference it here. Maybe it was in the last issue of Alaska magazine(?)

  10. #10

    Default Power

    AKDoug pretty much nailed the cabin thing and heating. I'll address your power needs.
    The southeast has a lot of road areas with electricity. That said it's cheaper to buy than produce electricity. If your power goes out temporaily just use a small generator until service returns.
    The PacWind generators you reffered to are VAWT. A Vertical Axis Wind Turbine is more expensive, requires more maintenaince, and is less effeceint than a Horizontal model the same size. In a lot of places in the Southeast there is suffeceint wind to operate a wind turbine well. If you wished to use one as a backup or alternative system.
    Not sure what size place your interested in but remember the fall safety rule;The turbine should be 2 tower lengths from anything it could fall on.
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