Earth-bermed houses built with the Passive Annual Heat Storage (PAHS) approach are a little off the beaten track for most builders and prospective homeowners. These houses go back a bit: John N. Hait described the construction of an early “umbrella house” in the 1980s.
As unusual as they may be, PAHS houses have their advocates. One of them is Laurel Davison, who is planning to build one in Missouri on a gently sloped lot with an unimpeded southern exposure.
In a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor, Davison outlines the basics of her proposed new house: a shell made by Terra-Dome Corporation, heated mostly with passive solar with a minisplit air-source heat pump for backup heating and cooling, and a variety of energy saving electrical appliances.
Davison sees several advantages to this approach, including little to no required exterior maintenance — not something she’d get with an above-ground house — and protection from tornados, always a threat in this region.
“Please review my plans… and pick holes in them,” Davison writes. “I don’t guarantee to change my mind, but I do promise to research varying opinions thoroughly and supporting data would be appreciated … I have an interested builder, land, money, and a quiet winter to get all the details addressed.”
The merits and pitfalls of this type of construction are the topic for this Q&A Spotlight.
No data to back up claims
“I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings,” writes GBA senior editor Martin Holladay, “but I am going to give it to you straight: You have decided to adopt a discredited approach to residential construction. The design approach you are discussing (the passive annual heat storage approach) has passionate advocates but little data to back up its claims. In those respects,…