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Old 03-20-2018, 02:09 PM
Location: Raleigh
8,186 posts, read 6,074,910 times
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I wish I had more advice for you. I know a little more about designing for hot areas than cold, not that I know much at all...

Remember don't get caught up in something that's faddish. My College built some student housing that was supposed to be Super Eco-friendly; it was dug into a hillside. The problem was, that in order to allow even a modicum of natural light in, they had to have two floors of windows, which meant that the heating costs were through the roof in the winter (when students were there.) The architect they hired to design it was based out of somewhere far southwest of MN...and it showed.

I'm with you though...I think grass on the roof is eventually going to cause problems. I'd be more inclined to put Solar panels up there and grow things in the yard.
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Old 07-08-2018, 02:41 AM
Location: The Driftless Area, WI
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Originally Posted by sallink View Post
Hello, my name is Sal, I'm thinking of building a house according to my needs and I have few ideas, but would like to hear from someone who already done it. I like the idea of the grass roof, but I am kinda skeptic that the water will find its way. Any advice regarding that and some other things?

I wasn't able to respond to this when it was first posted. We were in the process of moving from our temporary trailer domicile into our newly constructed earth-berm house and were without internet access until things thawed out in the spring.

My original plans for an underground house called for concrete walls and roof. But here in WI where our frost line is 6ft down, I'd either have had to build a roof strong enough to bear interstate truck traffic (cost prohibitive--wet dirt is very heavy) or go with a thinner roof and insulate the heck out if it. You are right-- concrete will crack and the waterproof layers of rubberized material used as moisture barriers can fail. Always build things under the assumption they will need repairs--and it will be very expensive to excavate & fix a concrete roof.

If you still insist on going that route, a small house with a rood span of ~15 ft or less can be framed and poured without need for steel girder support. For greater spans, you'll need girders or go with pre-cast concrete beams.-- both very expensive. Either way, you'll have to pitch the roof so penetrating precipitation will not stagnate on the roof.

For my situation, I went with a conventional wood truss/metal roof with blown-in, cellulosic insulation in the attic. From behind, the house looks like a roof sitting on the ground. From the front, it looks like a conventional house.

We installed a wood burning boiler with in-slab hydronic heating. With a very cold winter and having had to start up the system before the ceiling insulation was in and having had some inefficiency while experimenting to dial in the furnace operating parameters, we still only used 4 1/2 cords of wood between late Nov to early May. (2800 sq ft living area/garage/utility area)

Up 'til now, we've had a half dozen days with temps in the 90s and the house stays <78deg (usually ~72) without air conditioning, despite having a front wall wall that's half glass and facing directly into the afternoon sun. (I haven't finished building the porch roof that will block a good deal of that exposure.)... Remember, that advice to face your house south to take heating advantage of the winter sun will also have a cooling disadvantage in the summer.

In regards solar for power: it depends on your location & needs. If you're located in the SW, then there may be a slight financial advantage but more inconvenience with going solar. For other areas of the country, the financial advantage disappears as your grid costs go down. If you were to conserve a great deal to allow installation of a smaller, cheaper PV system, then conserving that much on grid power would cost you next to nothing anyway.... I use solar only to power my well pump (to ensure my water supply when the grid goes down) but it sure is nice to have all the power I want when I need it to power electric tools, air compressor, heated livestock water supply, light in barns, coops etc etc.
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Old 07-16-2018, 01:12 AM
18 posts, read 4,345 times
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Grass roof? You are probably right with the water going through. I would prefer a very modern house, not so big and one that runs on solar energy.
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