Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

In Support of the Earth Roof

If you think grassy, earthen roofs are just for Hobbits, you’ve got another think coming…

The following is an excerpt from Mortgage Free! Innovative Strategies for Debt-Free Home Ownership by Rob Roy. It has been edited for the Web.

Houses do not absolutely have to have earth roofs, even earth-sheltered houses, but the advantages are compelling and worth illuminating:

  1. Energy efficiency. While earth is not a particularly good insulator, the vegetation does provide extra R-value and holds the snow better than any other kind of roof. Light fluffy snow is worth R-1 per inch, so a fresh two-foot snowstorm can add a free R-24 to your roof insulation, like manna from heaven.
  2. Aesthetics. Of all shelter designs, an earth-sheltered house has the greatest potential to minimize the visual impact of housing on nature. It would be a shame to fall just a few inches short of the goal line with a conventional roof.
  3. Cooling. An earth roof stores moisture. The evaporation of this moisture on a hot day keeps the house cool, thanks to a phenomenon called, appropriately, “evaporative cooling.” Try this experiment: put a cool six-pack of beer in an empty bucket. Drape the open top of the bucket with a wet towel. The evaporation of the water will keep the beer cool . . . until the towel dries out.
  4. Ecological harmony. Here’s the choice: One, a black lifeless moonscape of asphalt shingles; or, two, green oxygenating habitat for billions and billions of tiny little life-forms.
  5. Longevity. Build it properly and forget it. In a properly built earth roof, both the soil and the insulation are on the top side of the waterproofing membrane, protecting it from the two things that break down almost every other roof: the sun’s ultraviolet rays and constant freeze-thaw cycling in the winter.
  6. Drainage. On an earth roof, drainage is slow and natural. During an Arkansas frog strangler, other roofs need systems to deal with thousands of gallons of water in very short order.
  7. Protection. What kind? All kinds: sounds, tornados, fire, radiation, U-2 spy planes . . .

If Malcolm Wells had his way, all new construction would have to go underground: houses, industry, parking lots, even bridges. I’m not kidding. To give you an idea of how this guy thinks, he’s the same one who drew all the funny little cartoons in the book.

 

Related articles:


Get Ready, Get Resilient

Are you resilient? How about we put your answer to the test, literally. Now, we know that assessment is always an important, albeit imperfect, subjective, and incomplete tool. In order to understand one’s skill in living a resilient lifestyle, Ben Falk, author of the award-winning The Resilient Farm and Homestead, developed the following assessment tool. […] Read More

Happy Holidays from Chelsea Green Publishing!

Today we kick off our Holiday Sale — with 35% off every purchase at our online bookstore. Simply use the code CGS16 at checkout from now until the end of the year. Along with this great discount, we are offering free shipping on any order over $100*. Are there homesteaders or organic gardeners on your […] Read More

The 5 Rules of Lean Thinking

Are you ready to co-create the future? These 5 Rules of Lean Thinking are a useful tool as we set out to collectively invent a post-market future. Surviving the Future is a story drawn from the fertile ground of the late David Fleming’s extraordinary Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food. Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive […] Read More

Using Permaculture Principles to Design Resilient Cities

The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures. Author Toby Hemenway (Gaia’s Garden) lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com