Compared to traditional residential houses built on the ground, the aim of building an earth house is another: Not to live under or in the ground, but with it.
If ground and house are separated, a house is built “into the air”, resulting in the loss of heat and humidity, and the exterior shell of a building loses lifespan. The earth-house concept uses the ground as an insulating blanket that efficiently protects it from rain, low temperatures, wind and natural abrasion. An earth house does not have to be built under the ground, it can be placed onto naturally grown terrain. The earth house is a flexible construction which can be built according to the wishes of its owners, fulfilling the need for individuality, environmentally friendly construction and energy saving.
The structural engineering of an earth house provides for an organic design requiring spatial sense and creativity. Earth house architecture brings to mind habitable sculptures, incorporating artistic claim and sculptural quality.
Earth houses by Peter Vetsch are based on the interpretation of an environmentally conscious, ecological and progressive architecture. They stand out due to their closeness to nature and allow an experience beyond the usual four walls and their right angles. The earth house concept uses its surroundings as an advantage – the surroundings are not adapted to the building, the house is shaped in order to preserve the natural environment.
Modern earth-house architecture incorporates the latest interior finishing, such as contemporary kitchens, bathrooms and house-control systems. Furthermore, every house is newly designed in accordance with the wishes of its owners. Every earth house can therefore be considered a highly individual object. The focus of this planning process is the human being, who is given the opportunity to integrate a “third skin” into his own architectural language. Earth houses can be built as single residential houses or housing estates.
The unique architecture of earth houses is characterised by multiple beneficial features:
Earth houses are designed as integral arches - one of the direct consequences of this kind of engineering is highly efficient insulation. The reduction of heat results in energy savings of up to 50%. Considering the fact that heat and energy requirements of badly insulated houses contribute a big share to climate change, earth-house architecture can be considered highly CO2-friendly. Earth houses by Peter Vetsch meet all the high requirements of the Swiss Minergie standard.
The specific architecture of earth houses makes them nearly airtight:
Rooms are completely draught-free.
Humid room air cannot penetrate the structure and therefore prevents structural damage.
As earth houses are impermeable, they can be considered ideal for controlled air conditioning.
Allergens and harmful substances cannot intrude the building.
The impermeability protects the structure from fire transmission.
Improved sound insulation.
If ground and house are separated, a house is built “into the air”, resulting in the loss of heat and humidity, and the exterior shell of a building loses lifespan. The earth-house concept uses the ground as an insulating blanket that efficiently protects it from rain, low temperatures, wind and natural abrasion.
Sustainable usage of energy and renewable energy
Due to the unique architecture of earth houses, they are particulary suitable for alternative heating systems.
Air: ambient air is abound and can be easily used as a heat source.
Ground: By using thermowells, heat which is stored in the ground can be utilised.
Water: Ground water and water from lakes and rivers can be used as an efficient heat source.
Sun: A single solar cell of only 4 sqm can supply a family of four with 50 to 70% of their warm water demand.
Unheated rooms should not randomly border on heated rooms – a building should be divided into several heat zones. The specific architecture of earth houses leads to an efficient subdivision of the building into several heat zones.
Convenient climatic conditions
One of the main ecological benefits of earth-house architecture lies in its convenient climatic conditions. The unique architecture cools the house down in summer and keeps it warm in winter. A further advantage is the higher air humidity of 50 to 70% as opposed to overheated rooms of conventional houses in winter. The interior walls of an earth house are furnished using loam rendering which provides superior humidity compensation. Furthermore, as earth houses are impermeable, they can be considered ideal for controlled air conditioning.
Controlled and integral air conditioning
As earth houses are impermeable, they can be considered ideal for controlled air conditioning. Integral air conditioning systems provide for ventilation and deairing, warm water and floor heating, using free energy from the environment.
Windstorm, Earthquake and Fire Protection
The unique architecture of earth houses protects them extremely well against severe windstorms. They cannot be torn away or tipped over by strong winds. Structural engineering and, above all, the lack of corners and exposed parts (roof), eliminate vulnerable surfaces which would otherwise easily suffer from storm damage.4 Furthermore, earth houses benefit from improved stability due to the organic shapes of arches and, compared to other building materials, such as wood, earth houses feature efficient fire protection owing to the use of concrete.
Landscapre protection and land use
Compared to conventional buildings, earth houses fit perfectly into their surroundings. Their soil-covered roofs incorporate the environment and protect the natural scenery. Soil-covered roofs (0,8 to 3 Meters soil cover) return parts of the green landscape and, therefore, contribute to the oxygen-nitrogen balance. Contrary to conventional roofs, earth-house roofs bring back useable surface. They can also be built as terraced structures if the slope is appropriate, thus using far less land area, because the structure can be built right up to the property boundary. Owing to the condensed means of construction, more green space remains available. Furthermore, earth-house structures can easily be built into hilly terrain, compared to conventional houses, which require flat land.
Earth houses are built using wide glass facades and dome-lights, allowing rooms to become bright and suffused with light. Dome-lights provide natural light for bathrooms and secondary rooms.