Monthly Archives: April 2013

Another way to go underground…


Posted on April 30, 2013 by

Personally, I preferred the style of the earth sheltered “home” shown in the last post.  I liked everything about it from the organic lines to the tropical color palette and location.  But there is more than one way to go underground.  Here is another option.

If you live in a cloudy, wet, windy maritime climate and want a very modern earth shelter with just a little bit of earth, a wide view and room to breath…   Maybe the Malitor house is what your are looking for.

This is the "back" of the Malator house. The front has similar windows, so you can imagine the cross breezes...

This is the “back” of the Malator house. The front has similar windows, so you can imagine the cross breezes…

This home was built in 1998 for a wealthy Welsh Member of Parliament   There were strict rules in place against “visible construction, destruction of the landscape, or disruption of wildlife” on this site.  Earth sheltering was really the only solution.  Even the drive way and walking path are hidden just below the sod.

The structure is only one room deep and 3 rooms wide with a “pod” hiding the bathroom and other pluming.  The roof is contoured to fit naturally into the hilly site, and like the surrounding hills, it is covered simply with grass.  In fact, I suspect the roof is mowed by Welsh sheep.   Looking thru these links, I noticed that they went with the same wood stove that I was initially considering; before I saw the price.

This is the front door of the home.  This angle hints at the expansive view seen thru the back window wall...

This is the front door of the home. This angle hints at the expansive view seen thru the back window wall…

With its small scale and other clues (such as no garage), I suspect this is more of an occasional weekend retreat rather than a full time home, but it is still very interesting and shows some of the flexibility of earth sheltered design.

Malator made it into Forbes magazine as “Incredible Fortress Home”,  and Architectural Digest listed it as one of the “Most Innovative Homes of the Last Century“.   But this link has the best slide show…

Trip to Grenada anyone?


Posted on April 27, 2013 by

The color pallet of this hotel is very tropical

Mt Hartman Bay Estate

Hey all, I saw something fun recently… (Click on the Mt Hartman Bay Estate gallery)
Obviously the tropical location and ocean views are fantastic, and I love the tropical color palette and organic feel.
But what caught my eye is the roof line with its dormers…   Check out slides 3 and 5 in the web gallery.  There are some big differences from our plan, particularly in the scale and proximity of the dormers, as well as the depth of the earth.  But this is the first time I have seen this idea (dormers in a forward sloping earth sheltered roof) used anywhere else.   Too many earth sheltered homes are only earth sheltered int he back and display a large flat wall, made even taller by the height of the parapet wall, on the front.  Some try to improve the front elevation by hiding the parapet with a mansard roof.  I much prefer the way the forward sloping earth puts the green roof on display.
Dormers on a forward sloping earth sheltered roof...  Our dormers will be wider (a product of my roof structure) and more buried, but the idea is similar.

Dormers on a forward sloping earth sheltered roof… Our dormers will be wider (a product of my roof structure) and more buried, but the idea is similar.


This is the inside of one of those dormers...  My roof won't be high enough to fit a second floor...

This is the inside of one of those dormers, very modern and spacious… My roof won’t be high enough to fit a second floor, but I might put in a balcony in the back of the playrooms with closets below ;^)


They also have planted terraces, which is something we will have on the north west side of our house.  And the below picture shows a glimpse of the water management system on the top left.

Check the websites for other views of the terraces.

Sherri pointed out how they used prickly things instead of fences to keep people off the edge.  This next pic shows that well.
The rest of the slides in the gallery are pretty nice also.  You can get a closer look at the water management system on slide 6.  Slides 15, 25 and 29 will make you want to earth shelter.
Check out the “Suites” gallery to see inside the rooms.
You can see the stiffening members in the dining room roof.

You can see the stiffening members in the dining room roof.

It is a hotel and you can stay in on of the “cave suites” for 259$/night…  I am sure the helicopter and yacht are extra.
It looks great lit up at night too...

It also looks great lit up at night…


April 2013 Update…


Posted on April 21, 2013 by


Well, it’s April.  Its not that nothing much has been happening; its more like I have been waiting for the April story to have a full arc.  It doesn’t have an ending yet, but I figured I could post a cliff hanger.

As you may recall if you have been following the whole story, the original time line called for completion of the drawings and engineering by fall of 2012.  (The original post about finding an architect here) By September, it became clear that we were not going to hit that target.  At the November meeting, the architect and engineer agreed they would be done before the end of February.  So, now at the beginning of April, I got a set of drawings labeled “penultimate update”…

The “next to last” update had some things fixed, such as the concrete sunshade from March, but still had a number of issues, almost all of which I had reported earlier.  Most of the fixes would be relatively easy, the biggest remaining issue was updating the drawings for the windows details…   The problems with the engineering pages were more serious but could also be fixed quite easily.  For instance, the foundation plans did not include one corner of the basement, and the plan for the entry was missing vertical supports.   I sent in a list of issues and asked if we could sort these out by the end of April so I could stay on track for building.  I did not get any response at all for over a week.  When I did get a response, they said they would work on the changes and get back to me, but there was no comment on when they might be ready.

One of the remaining engineering problems; should be a 2 minute fix.  It looks like they just followed the second floor walls to create the foundation plan...

One of the remaining engineering problems; should take the engineer just a little longer than it took me to make this graphic for him.  They just need to continue the foundation 2 more feet to form a corner behind the basement stairs.  At the bottom of the basement stairs, there is nothing bearing on the footing, but it might help to continue that ring anyway…


Then I got a “final” bill saying they were 100% done…  The last page was a note saying that the engineer may want more money.  It didn’t actually say he was charging more, and the additional cost was not included in the bill, but obviously this would need to be sorted out before I would get the problems fixed.  I am sure that, like most disagreements, it is mostly about a difference in perspective.  My engineer thought there was scope creep, something no one on a fixed contract likes to see, but I felt I had sufficient documentation, in the form of emails and meeting notes, to show that the design had not changed.  I called the architect about the bill and explained why I thought they should just finish up for the agreed upon amount.  I really am happy to pay my dues, so I told him that I would just keep the final bill handy so I could send in the check as soon as the work was done.   He said he would discuss it with the engineer, but they have not got back to me since.  Hopefully that is a good thing?

I did get one little update from the architects assistant since, he added a fence to the front and back of the garage.  It was just one detail, but it shows the work is not stopped.

Ever the optimist, I think it will still work out and I am trying not to worry about the lack of any real information.  In the mean time, I have my own list of tasks to complete including  putting together a landscaping plan, shop drawings for the curved steel beams quote, finding a couple more shotcrete companies to ensure a competitive bid, etc.   On the first of May, I plan to start the construction loan paperwork.

Eye Candy

In this months eye candy, I have a few interesting things including an earth sheltered office tower, the AcrosFukuoka in Japan, some interesting ancient underground water cisterns (and a dog house cistern) and a cool Escher lizard floor.   The Musmuci Bridge in Italy shows how you can make cement very interesting…  There is even a shot of the 3D model that I got from the Architect last month.   Have fun.