Is it Really a Berm Home?

Most lenders instantly reject Berm Home loans.

This presentation explains how appraisers unknowingly prevent loans by applying labels that misrepresent property liquidity.

The appraisers didn’t understand the question the lender was asking.

This home uses two upslope walls for thermal mass.  The structure was classified as a Berm Home even though 85% of the walls are above ground.

Building codes require excavation so that weight bearing footers are put in undisturbed earth to limit structure settling.  This technique is standard practice in split level construction.

Structures built on a slope will always have backfilled walls on the uphill sides.   This technique is standard practice.  Our house uses has backfilled wall on the uphill side of the grade.

A Berm Home is a mounded structure usually built on flat where dirt is mounded to enclose the living space.  They usually have earth roofs and create cave-like living spaces.

This disqualified us from a loan – Ouch!

This video illustrates why it’s important  to use disqualifying “labels” very carefully.  These labels often transform energy efficiency features into loan disqualifying liabilities.


Energy Free Buildings

How cool is elimination of the need for external energy altogether?  Think of a house as a free-standing energy system – without need for external energy sources to maintain habitability and comfort. So what makes a building sustainable?

Wikipedia defines Green Building here…  Does this definition make sense to you?

I hung on the word efficiency as a cop out.  Efficiency means to limit consumption of external resources – minimize waste.

Continue reading Energy Free Buildings

Sun Scoop – Solar Doubler

A typical rooftop installation of solar panels.  Points the same direction.
A typical rooftop installation of solar panels points the same direction all year long.  It rarely and briefly points directly at the sun.

Just about anyone who installs a solar panel has one simple question – where should I point this darned thing?  That silly sun moves around all the time.

It  moves sideways all day – every day, and up and down, all year – every year. Continue reading Sun Scoop – Solar Doubler

Download the Design Here

Download the sketchup model here.
Download the sketchup model here.

Here is the link to download the sketchup model of the house.  

Sketchup is a great freeware 3D modeling program formerly owned by google. It is now managed by a group out of Boulder. It’s a great program.

When I invested the 2 weeks of long days building the model, I often wondered if it was going to be worth the time.  In retrospect – yes it was – absolutely hands down one of the best investments I made.  The model enabled:

  1. Superior communications with the build crew
  2. The ability to “audit” materials – count sticks
  3. Communicate what the finished product would look like to my wife and others
  4. Helped identify mechanical defects with the engineer, Mark Benjamin, (970) 472-2394, during construction.  We were able to do electronic reviews of issues using screen sharing before we started.

You’ll need to download sketchup to utilize the model.


Chipcrete Floor Experiment

A section of my 2000 square foot floor.

This experiment is in search of an affordable floor.  At 2000 sq/ft, a 4 inch thick floor is about 25 yards, 3  truckloads of concrete, about $3K in concrete, delivered.

A week rental on a concrete sander prices out at about $1000.

So – the hard DIY price on a sanded concrete floor is $4k.  Since I have a mountain full of dead wood – maybe I can find a cheaper solution… Continue reading Chipcrete Floor Experiment