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Alternative Living: Earth Berm Homes

Earth berm homes are indeed an invention of the hippies, but for those who are environmentally-conscious in the 21st century or are just interested in alternative forms of housing outside of the traditional stick-built home, earth berms are certainly worth looking into. 

Why They’re Unique

Earth berms provide unique features that traditional homes don’t, such as being soundproof, more energy-efficient, more resistant to natural disasters and fire, and require less maintenance overall. 

Due to the earth insulation, there’s natural climate control, making it more efficient to heat and cool, and it makes the home less susceptible to the impact of extreme weather. An earth berm can save you as much as 60-85 percent on bills, and, because it can better withstand weather, insurance can be cheaper as well. 

However, the practical qualities aren’t the only thing that draws people’s interest – it’s the one-of-a-kind look of this type of home. While some may enjoy the hobbit hole aesthetic that’s usually associated with earth berms, a quick Google search will show there are a wide variety of styles that appeal to any taste. 

What They Are

There’s two main types of earth berms: elevational bermed and penetrational bermed. The common trait amongst the two is that they use the earth as insulation. 

Elevational Bermed

In this type, the front of the house is exposed while the other sides are covered with earth to protect and insulate the house. The exposed front allows the sun to light and heat the interior. 

The fact that might be the most important to you, though, is that they are the least expensive and easiest to build. 

Penetrational Bermed

Here, the house is constructed at ground level and earth is built up around and on top of it, covering the entire house except windows and doors. This allows cross-ventilation and multiple natural light sources rather than just from one side of the home. 


Earth berms are typically more expensive to build upfront than a traditional home, sometimes up to 20 percent more. Moisture from the earth, both during construction and after, is an issue, but modern building methods have helped to alleviate this. Additionally, they can be difficult to resell since they are unconventional.