Saturday, July 26, 2014

Timeline - Education on Earth Sheltering (Cont'd)

About 7 Years Ago

This is the second of two posts on the subject of Education on Earth Sheltering. The first post can be found at first ES post..

A Game-Changer
Even before latching onto the Carmondy and Sterling's book, "Earth Sheltered Housing Design", I ran onto a web posting that made overwhelming sense despite my limited understanding of earth sheltering at the time.  I put it on the back burner but kept going back to it.  The posting was by Don Stephens, an architect from Spokane. The long title was ""Annualized Geo-Solar Heating as a Sustainable Residential-Scale Solution for Temperate Climates with Less Than Ideal Daily Heating-Season Solar Availability". Unfortunately, all of Stephen's postings -- such as --  appear now to be  inaccessible.  However, the following link is a round-about path to the Original Paper.

Annualized GeoSolar
I will have at least three posts upcoming regarding the details on  AGS.  (Recent update: You can now click on the "Featured Post" in the column to the left to access the three posts).  At this juncture, just a brief description should suffice.  Instead of typical passive solar heating that depends upon the whims of winter sunshine, AGS uses a homemade solar collector to harvest heat from the summer sun and pipe it under and around the house for storage in the earth for wintertime heating and summertime cooling.  And, unlike the Rob Roy type house, the waterproofing and insulation are not in intimate contact with the house but are laid horizontally a couple of feet below grade, thereby keeping dry and warm a thermal mass that is much larger than the footprint of the house.

Passive Annual Heat Storage
As it turned out, Stephens was merely improving on the groundwork laid by another out-of-the-box thinker, John Hiat, who had established the "Rocky Mountain Research Center" and self-published a spiral-bound book, "Passive Annual Heat Storage -- Improving the Design of Earth Shelters".  As he says on the cover, his concept "takes solar energy out of the dark ages".  Unfortunately, the book is out of print; I checked it out through our inter-library loan then bought one on EBay.  I would give anything to talk to John Hiatt before we start our project and but my attempts to connect with him have failed.

Just like AGS, PAHS is earth sheltering protected by the horizontal waterproofing and insulation but does not use a solar collector.  The thermal mass under and around the house is more gradually heated to a year-round stable and comfortable temperature by summer and winter solar gain through windows as well as heat generated by merely living in the house such as water heating, cooking, clothes drying, light fixtures, even human body heat.  

Our Commitment to AGS
Stephens writings about AGS are not loaded with how-tos whereas Hiatt's book is all about them, without which I would probably be reluctant to go with AGS for us.  (His book, in my opinion, is a must read for anyone contemplating building or buying an earth shelter and Carmondy and Sterling's book is a close second.) In a sense, Stephens planted the seed for us and Hiat and Carmondy and Sterling did the fertilizing and watering to the extent that I feel like we can follow, with minimal deviation, the prescription for AGS-PAHS and get it right the first time.

Later, when discussing AGS in detail, I will tell about an interesting visit to a home near Spokane that Stephens designed.  Google searches have not turned up any other homes that followed Stephens' design precisely -- most of the chatter is about modifying and adapting it instead of buying the complete package. There is one mention of a couple of homes that seemed to have faithfully followed Hiat's design: PAHS in Missoula.  (Recent update: The latest description of AGS in Wikipedia references two current projects in North America -- Drake Landing in Canada and our project in Collinsville, although its link to our blog doesn't work.)  Unlike that of Stephens and Hiat, earth sheltering for our iteration will be limited to the story-and-a-half back (north) wall and half of the west wall instead of the roof and east wall being sheltered as well.