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Less water: Grass grows right up over the house

January 23, 2012

In the wake of creating the organic pods for the Gingerbread Octopod, I am drawn to the rounded forms of the following three designs. It’s funny how structures are rarely straight in nature, but almost always straight when made by humans.

Here is a collection of nine homes in Switzerland, described in the article: Awesome Hidden Lair Tucked Under Mounds of Green Grass. Design and images by Vetsch Architektur. The homes are integrated into nature, as well as offering ample opportunity for living in community.

One drawback of many earth-sheltered homes has been the lack of light from more than one direction. While they can have expansive south-facing windows, these houses feel buried to some degree.

A cool design in the UK incorporates a flower shaped collection of outdoor terrace areas that bring light into the house from many different directions in the 8000 SF zero carbon underground home. Described in the article: Gary Neville’s Underground Eco Home Blends into the Earth, it is designed by Make Architects.

And another home built in Wales shows the power of this type of design to enable people to use local materials. It doesn’t have to be an expensive technology and can be quite low impact on the surrounding natural environment.

A quote from the builder Simon Dale:

Simple, low-impact homes can be built where they are needed, with natural materials and accessible methods. These buildings can easily provide high levels of comfort and efficiency at a tiny fraction of the cost of their conventional equivalents. Effective and reliable systems for water, sewage, heating, refrigeration and even modest electricity can be simply made in low-tech ways with reused and natural materials.

For more information see the article: Extraordinary Off Grid Hobbit Home in Wales Only Cost £3000 to Build, or check out the builder’s website: A Low Impact Woodland Home.

Buildings are straight and square because it is easier to mass-produce, transport, store, and plan for straight and square. While I would certain advocate caution about using this style of buried building for our waterlogged soils in Seattle, it is always interesting to look at the many ways of doing things. There is certainly an appeal to the organic forms and integration with nature that could be integrated into more urban designs as well.

One concept gaining popularity is the use of vegetation on the building, whether on the roof or exterior walls. It is a great way to integrate nature, create natural habitat, reduce stormwater impacts, add visual and acoustic buffering, increase insulation, provide shade, and reduce the urban heat island effect. Plus it looks cool. Interested in green walls? Check out this groovy infographic about all of the different types.

There are many great technologies being developed to support the integration of landscape and buildings, and some of them are possible to do as a retrofit on your existing home. You can see these and other lovely images of green walls at the blog post: growing a green wall.

I’m particularly interested in the idea of growing food on a vertical system, such as this beautiful installation in South Korea.

As I type this post under the green roof on my home office, I am considering how best to incorporate a future planned green wall update, as well as how to plant the green roof on the chicken coop. I would certainly call this a growth opportunity!

Related blog posts:
Less water: The aesthetic of living walls
LemonDrop Addition Update: State of the Green Roof
2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 11:44 am

    FOOD! “Food is not an option”! aka George Irwin …..Cant help but to chime in…we are the most successful org to grow food vertically! Contact Pam directly at I will be glad to show you the variety of options and opportunities!

  2. February 23, 2012 11:01 pm

    Great images above. I’ve been wanting to make a succulent wall myself. Thanks for the added inspiration. Hey, have you seen Garbage Warrior, the movie? If not, I highly recommend it. I got it from the library but I just found it (full length) online here:

    Really enjoying your website, Parie.

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