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Solar Passive Earth Sheltered Homes…Ready When You Are!!

The future appears bleak… many people, at this very moment in time, are being forced into their own "odd - even", heating or eating rationing plan… the price of home heating oil has risen over 50% in this year alone and has more than quintupled in price since 1973… electricity has risen at a 16% rate since the Arab Oil Embargo, well above any government-adjusted price index… gasoline is over $1.00 per gallon mark and no end is in site… Three Mile Island has more than illustrated the inherent problems with a technology run wild!! … Coal has its own environmental hazards and even if coal gassification or other synfuels were practical, there is no special guarantee yet that the price of these fuels would be any cheaper than current sources… Solar Energy (active solar and solar electric conversion), seems light years away from marketability, ( not feasible ), as government and industrial dollars are aimed at total control of the market and are certainly in favor of high-technology, highly centralized and extravagant installations… and is really solving a problem with another problem. Let's consider a solution!!

What Is The Answer?
We Are Standing Right on Top Of It!!

The earth… The good earth that is both warm in the wintertime and cool in the summertime. We hope to show you no more cost effective, no more readily available, no more safe and practical, and no more simple, low-tech and decentralized means of combating the double jeopardy and the ravaging effects of high energy costs and resultant double digit inflation.

Discard Your Aboveground " Gas Guzzler "!! Before It's Too Late!!

We are not doomsdayers by any means, but due to a recent Shelterra study that compared the cost of energy as a percentage of take-home pay, in both today's terms and 15 years from now, we are highly concerned! Using the "conservative", 1978 figures of: a combined family income of $30,000/yr.; b. energy inflation at 16%; c. rise in family income of 4%; d. heating/cooling costs of $1500/yr. (aboveground ) and $150/yr. (underground) on an average home of 2200 SF; we found: The current percentage differential was a factor of 10: 5% above and .5% below for 1978. Fifteen short years from now it would cost 100 times more, energy wise to live aboveground, (25.7%), than underground, (.2%). You will notice, also, that the overall percentage for underground actually decreased, because 50% of its entire heating source, the sun, is free and as the energy costs remains constant and your income increases, then the percentage of energy to income will decrease. In other words, fifteen years from today, when your sons and daughters can afford homes, fully of their income will be ripped away and squandered on heating and cooling their homes. And that is at 16% rather than the current 50%. Quite frankly, we are scared to death to draw that one up!!

But Don't Worry! Save 90% Of Heating And Cooling Costs Underground!!

These homes work!! Why? Because we attack the problem at its source: by eliminating the need for heating or cooling, by eliminating the extreme exterior temperature differentials of summer and winter. The temperature of the earth approaches a constant at various depths, depending on local conditions and it can be shown that roughly, just due to earth temperature alone, heating and cooling loads can be reduced by a factor of 5. Secondly, by eliminating any major infiltration, many times the largest single source of heat loss in the home, and capturing, storing and redistributing a maximum of passive solar energy on the south side of the home, this reduction factor is on the order of 10. Other concepts such as the elimination of "wind chill" factors, 3 months "thermal flywheel effect" of earth mass, reduction in day/night, hourly and seasonal fluctuation, delayed reaction of the structure to sudden temperature dips, the drawing in of make-up air when the structure has already peaked in heat loss, the evaporative cooling of the earthen roof and the slight warming of surrounding steady-state soil conditions from the structure all contribute to an increase in thermal efficiency and a resultant savings of upwards of 90%. Not one of our homes has taken any more than $100-$150 per year to heat and cool. Now your talkin'!!

No Maintenance
"Everything-proof" Structure
Lower Insurance Premiums

The savings, thus far have been quoted on energy alone. One can expect the additional savings of no painting and no staining, usually. Even if the south facade is wood you are painting and staining one wall and not four!! Also, the tremendous durability and strength of concrete translates into a more tornado proof, weather proof and fire proof structure, which will soon translate into lower insurance premiums. Since openings are fewer, but larger and well-zoned, the structure is more burglar proof with no sacrifice in lighting quality. And you certainly will never have to replace your roof due to weathering. The concrete and earthen roof as well as being a solar collector and storage unit and highly protected fortress, acts as a perfect acoustical barrier from exterior noise. In fact, one of the only complaints from our owners is that "it's so darn quiet in here!" And for those who believe a nuclear Armageddon is near, we are not sure, but the structure should have much fallout shelter potential. Although we are the first to admit that their clean, bright, airy interiors are far from that image!!

Earth Homes May Be Tax Exempt!!

For an extended discussion of this phenomenon, please consult the reverse side of this brochure.

Less Construction Time!!
Less Construction Costs!!

Costs for the Shelterra system structural shell which includes the excavation, walls, footers, drain titles and gravel, winged retaining walls, precast roof with cap slab, required structural steel, water stops, insulation, waterproofing membrane, blockouts and nailers, and backfill run locally about $21 per SF. Moderate range finishing costs locally of between $15.50 to $18.50 can bring the cost of the entire home to 10% less than a comparable aboveground custom home. We emphasize that these figures are only a ballpark estimate of local jobs, (a home in Massachusetts came out 25% below normal and some of the Minnesota Test Homes are slightly above normal), but with a maximum of planning and design, the homes are indeed affordable. Construction time is severely reduced, should one erect a shell before bad weather sets in. Our shells go up in three to four weeks in good weather and the backside finishing is child's play, usually finished in 1.5 to 2 months. The shell concept allows him to really finish the home "at his leisure", if it is 'buttoned-up" in time. Even for the professional contractor, a maximum of construction time is saved in bad weather as the interior can be worked in even the harshest environment due to the constant earth temperatures involved.

What Other Advantages Are There?

Firstly, the health and and psychological advantages of more security and less anxiety in the homes are well documented there have been isolated cases of less pain from arthritis from the underground living environment. The interior of the home, generally an open plan, results in increased command of the entire space when one has little children to watch over. A northside "solaratrium" allows light to virtually flood the backside of the home and it can be shown how more light per square foot can enter the underground home than a comparable above-ground home due to a simple and efficient zoning. Natural ventilation is also a benefit of the "solaratrium" scheme as natural "venturi effect" can create quite a breeze if need be in the summer. The home is more adaptable to active solar hot water, wind generators, attached greenhouses and other alternative energy devices you've been reading about. But the most important and often overlooked advantage to the underground home is this: survival !! If the Arabs cut us off for good again… if the gas industry has another shortage… if the whole country blacks out one day…if the fuel is just plain unavailable !!…. then you can survive in a sweater, at no less than 55 for long periods of time. Body heat alone can raise that temperature extensively; and any heat source: cooking, a hot bath, a compressor motor can make this home function well. To heck with OPEC, to heck with DOE and to heck with all the other shenanigans beyond your control.

Lead A More Secure, Peaceful, Simple And Independent Existence.

You are your and your families best asset. The underground home isn't just a house; it will become a life-style. It is cheap, safe, practical and you can do it now!! With fixed energy costs and no maintenance costs, lower insurance premiums and a possible enormous reduction in property tax, soon Mr. Banker will realize that the home is a more affordable loan and the aboveground home will soon be a financial liability! Think of the type of home though… a living, breathing, splendid green roof, producing oxygen and food, at one with its surroundings and with nature as a whole. Do it now!! He who hesitates with this business shall most surely be lost!! Let us help you make it happen!! We're ready if you are!!


Underground Homes Exempt From Real Property Tax?

The changes in State statutes determining tax credits for solar energy vary from state to state these days, but in Ohio a very interesting phenomenon has recently occurred. House Bill No. 154 signed into law on August 14, 1979 provides for the following type of state income tax credits:

A. INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX CREDIT - A tax credit is allowed amounting to 10 per cent of the cost of the purchase and installation of a solar, wind, or hydrothermal energy system in a building or structure that is owned by the taxpayer and located in the State of Ohio. In no year may the tax credit taken exceed the liability for that year, and credit will be allowed only in the year after installation and operation of the system. However, any unused amount of the credit may be carried forward and used during the two years immediate following. No credit can exceed $1,000 and the full credit can be claimed only one time for a given structure.

B. CORPORATE INCOME TAX CREDIT - A tax credit is allowed amounting to 10 percent of the cost of the purchase and installation of a solar, wind, or hydrothermal energy system in a building(s) owned and operated by a corporation and located in Ohio. In no year may the credit taken exceed the tax liability for that year, and the credit shall be taken only in the year after the installation and operation of the system.

C. EXEMPTION FROM SALES TAX - Solar, wind, or hydrothermal energy systems or components of these systems purchased between August 14, 1979 and December 31, 1985 will be exempted from State sales tax.

D. EXEMPTION FROM REAL PROPERTY TAXATION - A solar, wind, or hydrothermal energy system that meets the guidelines and is completed between August 14, 1979 and December 31, 1985 is exempt from real property tax.

Section 1551.20 of the bill defines the qualifying systems as: "Solar or wind energy system" means any method used directly to provide space heating or cooling, hot water, industrial process heat, or mechanical or electric power by the collection, conversion or storage of solar or wind energy including, but not limited to, active or passive solar systems. It does not include any equipment that is part of a conventional system for such purposes, that is, a system that does not use solar or wind energy; nor does it include a roof or any windows or walls that would be contained in a similar structure not designed or modified to use solar energy for space heating or cooling, except for those modifications to the design or construction of such roof, windows, or walls that are necessary to their improved use to capture solar energy for space heating or cooling.

This statute becomes particularly interesting with regard to the latter tax offering: "Exemption from Real Property Taxation". The final determination of eligibility rests with the State Director of energy who must "adopt rules in accordance with Chapter 119 of the Ohio Revised Code established guidelines for identification of such systems", but as the statutes now read, the entire structural shell of the underground or earth sheltered home should be totally exempt from real property taxation! And many times the cost of the typical shell is from 50 to 60 per cent of the total building costs.

Boy this is going to be fun to prove! But I feel that the validity of this claim may be determined from the following simple and logical train of facts.

Fact A: The entire structural shell of the underground home is, or should be, constructed of precast, (roof), or poured-in-place, (walls, floor, cap slab and footers), concrete that ranges from 2500 to 4000 psi.

Fact B: Typically the home faces south, (Southeast is better for Ohio), and glazing covers the entire south face of the structure which allows 1506 Btu/square foot, (in January), of passive solar heat gain to enter the structure at 40 degrees N latitude.

Fact C: This passive solar heat gain enters the structure and is absorbed by the North, East, West, and Middle structural concrete walls and the concrete roof via the "greenhouse" principle. The entire structure now, (instead of a remote passive rock storage system which is an expense that a home-owner must occur over and above the cost of a regular structure and has its own inherent heat loss in distribution and storage), becomes the passive solar collector … storage … and distribution unit!

Fact D: Concrete heats up very slowly, but by the same token, cools down equally as slow. Any heat gain to the structure passive solar or radiant heat from a wood burning stove or heat from cooking, people, lights, appliance motors or warm bath water is stored in the concrete structure at a rate of 22 BTU/cubic foot/degree Fahrenheit. The yardage of concrete on a 2000 SF 40 x 50 house would typically be 152.1 cu yards or 4111 cu ft. This means that there is a storage potential of 90,442 Btu per degree F of heat, which is quite comparable to the Colorado State University's "Solar House I" active solar hot water storage potential of only 9170 Btu/degree F. Without going into great detail this simply means that any heat collected in the home during the day will be re-radiated back into the home at night when the sun goes down to stabilize the performance of the structure.

Fact E: The concrete structure is insulated with 4" polystyrene on the roof and 2" on the walls and then covered with earth sheltering to improve the storage capacity of the concrete by minimizing any losses to the exterior and by virtually eliminating the need for heating or cooling in the first place, due to a number of reasons which will not be explained for the purposes of this particular article.

Fact F: By no means can this type of construction be considered "typical residential construction". This type of structure is selected specifically with passive solar collection, storage and distribution in mind as well as maximizing conservation via the earthen cover.

Since we can conclude from the above facts that the system is not typical residential construction and has been, to use the words in the State statute House Bill No. 154, "modified to improve the capture of solar energy and the use of captured solar energy", each and every homeowner who has the courage and foresight to choose this unpopular method, even though it is the most cost effective means of combating the double jeopardy of inflation and exorbitant energy costs, should be rewarded, by law, a 40 to 50 per cent reduction in their real property taxation.

Using the following hypothetical figures:

A. Home costs of $40.00 per square foot and shell costs of $22.00 per square foot.

B. Total square footage of 2000 SF and land costs of $20,000.00.

C. Total building cost of $80,000 plus land equals $100,000.

D. Shell costs of $44,000 equals 44% of total costs.

E. Real estate property tax of $56.50/$1000, (the mean for Montgomery County surrounding Dayton, Ohio).

There should be a 44% reduction in real property tax of $1977.50 or a savings of $870.01 per year in addition to the 90% or so reduction in home heating and cooling for the year.

Letters have been sent, along with a copy of this article to the Director of the Ohio Department of Energy and the Chicago Operations Office of the Department of Energy requesting a ruling on the concept. Look for further developments as announced in Earth Sheltered Digest and Energy Report.

If one would wish to investigate the same concept locally, I would suggest sending copies of this article to your Director of your local State Energy Office, (a listing of all the State Energy Offices entitled, "State Energy Offices", c. Sept. 1978 is available from the National Solar Heating and Cooling Information Center, P.O. Box 1607, Rockville, MD 20850, 1-800-523-2929). Let us know how your situation turns out locally … Good luck!