We received a call regarding a house on the corner of East Fulton and Ohio 498 South Ohio is the address. Someone is knocking in the bricks to the basement. This is happening in the evenings and nights. Looks like squatters to the person who called. The house is in good condition. If your in that area keep your eyes open and please report anything out of the usual to the police at 645-4545. Thank you
Slaymaker, a 56-year-old draftsman from Columbus, has come up with a modern take on the most ancient form of housing — the cave.
He is seeking investors for his invention, a concrete block that Slaymaker says can be formed into an arch that can be covered in dirt to create an underground home.
Slaymaker is shopping around a model of the home, which he calls the EarthArch, but otherwise his home is little more than a concept. He does, however, have his first client: his mother in northern Indiana.
“My mother is 76, and she wants an underground house in the worst way,” he said.
Slaymaker hopes to start work this summer on his mother’s 2,000-square-foot two-story home, which will be full of sunlight from an 810-square-foot atrium and windows at the ends of the arch. The estimated cost (not including the land): $160,000.
EarthArch is the latest incarnation of underground homes, sometimes called earth-sheltered homes or earth-berm homes.
Caves may have been our first home, but once humans emerged from them, they didn’t look back. Despite all the advantages of underground homes, they have never truly caught on, although they did enjoy a bit of a heyday during the 1970s energy crisis.
Some of the obstacles are physical. Earth is a useful insulator, but it’s very heavy and damp, requiring an extremely strong and watertight shell.
Rob Roy, who has written books on earth-sheltered homes and teaches others how to build them at his Earthwood Building School in upstate New York, thinks poorly built homes during the 1970s scared consumers away from the concept.
“There were people building houses that leaked, with structural problems,” he said. “That gave earth-sheltered housing a bad reputation. It got very big very quickly, then died off just as fast. But done properly, it really works well.”
The biggest advantage of earth shelters is the energy savings they can offer. Dirt creates a natural insulator, dramatically narrowing the temperature extremes inside the shell.
Another advantage is their resistance to tornadoes or other storms.
That’s a virtue that Rick Ohanian, a Columbus man who runs Home Sweet Earth Home (www.Underground Homes.com), hopes to capitalize on. He has been building earth homes for 30 years.
“I’m doing two right now, one in Wyoming and one in Oklahoma,” he said. “I think the market has picked up a tad. It was in a lull last year.
“Prompted by a tornado in Oklahoma last year, I thought if I could beef up materials on the front wall of the home, we could have America’s first tornado-proof home.”
Ohanian and Roy don’t dismiss Slaymaker’s version of the earth home — without having a home or even the concrete block to examine, there’s nothing really to evaluate — but they point out that building earth homes from concrete block or from arches isn’t new.
Roy included a striking arch home in Colorado in his 2006 book Earth-Sheltered Houses.
Ohanian builds his homes from poured concrete and is confident enough of his method to offer a lifetime guarantee against leaks.
Still, he is well aware that earth-sheltered homes aren’t likely to put conventional builders out of business any time soon.
Among other challenges, underground homes require large lots and are difficult to finance because finding comparable homes for appraisals is nearly impossible.
But Ohanian is also well-versed in the virtues of earth-sheltered homes.
“No. 1, you’ll save 80 or 90 percent on heating and cooling. No. 2 is the tornado-proof aspect, and No. 3, the temperature without any heat source never goes below 40 and above 68. You can survive in one of these without any heat source with a sweater.”
Given this winter’s arctic chill, that’s a virtue Ohioans can understand.
Jim Weiker writes on home and garden topics. Reach him at 614-461-5513 or by email.