Below Grade Dwellings…an idea whose time has come.

Below Grade idea whose time has come.

Below Grade Dwelling by Dan Joseph Architects

BELOW GRADE DWELLINGS #djawestIf you have been watching the news lately you probably know a little something about global warming, peak oil, wildfires, and weather extremes like cold, heat, hail and tornados; not to mention home invasion or other security concerns.  For an environmentally conscious owner, a below grade dwelling may be just what the Architect ordered.  Utilizing modern means and methods, high design and cutting edge technologies, while also incorporating solar and geothermal heating (and cooling); a sub-surface structure is just about as good as it gets!

For instance:  reduced operating expense, reduced maintenance, naturally fire resistant, protection from environmental extremes and much easier to completely secure during extended absences.

In conclusion, don’t be fooled into thinking that the design of such dwellings or structures is just a singular approach, only available in a limited palette of appearances; in the right hands, a capable Architect can deliver a variety of vocabularies which are structurally expressive, transparent (generous natural day lighting) and site specific; precisely designed to meet personal taste and an overall project budget.

If you are thinking about a new home or business….it might be appropriate to seriously consider below grade dwellings.  Give Dan Joseph Architects a call and let us go to work for you today!


5 comments on “Below Grade Dwellings…an idea whose time has come.

  1. I did not think Yellowstone’s natural beauty could be improved upon, but Dan Joseph Architect has adorned The Park. My great grandmother was born in a sod house in Nebraska so building a below grade home designed to withstand weather extremes would be a return to my Nebraska roots and a “tornado alley” survival strategy. Lightening has recently started several grass fires not far from our traditional home so I wonder how below grade homes are fairing when fires threaten. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Dear Linda:

      Thank you for your interest and compliments. In response to your concern, fire requires three things in order to exist; oxygen, fuel and ignition source. Earth sheltered homes or more specifically soil robs a potential fire of all necessary components. Therefore the only question remaining is…what are the subsurface temperatures or heat radiated during a fire event?

      Fire studies on below grade sustainability have revealed that sub-surface temperatures are generally as follows:

      At Surface Temps: Light – 482 F; Moderate – 752 F; High – 1247 F

      Temp 2” Below: 122 F; Less Than 122 F; 167 F

      Find out more at: Sierra Forest Legacy

      Generally speaking, a surface fire is unable to directly threaten a below grade dwelling; although precaution should be taken during the planning stages to limit the use of combustible building materials, maintaining a fuel free perimeter surrounding the home (removal of deadfall, overgrowth, weeds or grasses, etc.), and installing a covering of soil as specified by an Architect.

      If however a home is breached during an event all bets are off. For instance if glazing has been compromised or destroyed, fire will then be free to consume all fuel found within the home itself. A few strategies to combat this circumstance might include fire rated glazing, integrated metal shutters, hardscaping and pool areas or water features adjoining view panels.

      In closing thank you for your interest…feel free to contact me anytime.
      Best, Dan

  2. Reader Interest: A recent a discussion referenced from LinkedIn….


    Been watching these designs since the 70’s, and they’re getting better.
    The proper site is so important for this type of design, and it’s rarely found in an urban environment, where the majority of homes are built.


    Hi Cameron….thank you for your comments.

    According to recent weather reports…July 2012 was the warmest month ever recorded; additionally NOAA has now declared this trend as the new normal. Coupled with increased energy costs, the most logical response is to improve efficiencies across the board; particularly within urban environments which would include subdivisions.

    When designed by capable professionals (not all professionals are capable), below grade dwellings can deliver energy savvy solutions and high-end finishes that exceed most standard stick frame homes currently available.

    I agree that site considerations are an important component for delivering the correct response to any need (conventional or otherwise), but by no means a limiting factor. Think of it this way, I recall an excavator once sharing that he “only needed to be smarter than dirt”, in other words accepting the challenge and providing a solution to a need.

    Below grade dwellings can be cost effective, attractive and responsible; defining a new era of sensible community growth the world over for years to come.

    Bottom line…we just need to accept the challenge and be a little smarter than dirt!

    Best, Dan

  3. I like the sounds of all of the advantages you listed. My biggest adjustment would be feeling a bit claustrophobic but I’m sure that would go away with time.

    • Hello Local Traveler…thank you for your comments.

      A talented Architect could use a multiple of methods to reduce, if not eliminate the feeling of claustrophobia; for instance mirrored walls, special light fixtures, careful paint selection, roof or ceiling day lighting, and a transparent exterior envelope constructed at right angles…defining a well designed perimeter and interesting outdoor spaces. As always…we stand ready to help those in need of unique solutions.

      Give us a call…

      Best, Dan

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