The Hobbitat: An Earth Sheltered House in North Carolina

In the late 1970s a North Carolina professor concluded an earth sheltered house would meet his desire for an unconventional yet affordable, secure, and structurally south dwelling.

| March/April 1981

  • 068 earth sheltered house 1 main view
    The Hobbitat is an earth-sheltered house that is also partially solar heated.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 068 earth sheltered house 3 earth berm
    Earth berming protects the home's west side.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 068 earth sheltered house 5 solar attic
    View down the length of the solar attic. 
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 068 earth sheltered house 2 wood stove
    A wood/coal stove supplements heat the home's heat pump.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 068 earth sheltered house 4 living room
    Natural light enters through solar attic.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 068 earth sheltered house - diagram - left
    Diagram shows the left half of the house.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 068 earth sheltered house - diagram - right
    Diagram shows the right half of the house.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 068 earth sheltered house 1 main view
  • 068 earth sheltered house 3 earth berm
  • 068 earth sheltered house 5 solar attic
  • 068 earth sheltered house 2 wood stove
  • 068 earth sheltered house 4 living room
  • 068 earth sheltered house - diagram - left
  • 068 earth sheltered house - diagram - right

Nearly a decade ago—when the general public had yet to be convinced that an earth-sheltered house could be a sound investment—about the only people who bothered with underground structures were either progressive architects who often had to "overdo" their designs (and hence raise construction costs) in order to suit the tastes of their usually affluent clients, or truly versatile folk who [a] more than likely couldn't afford a contractor, let alone an architect, but who [b] likewise realized the advantages of subterranean living, and so went ahead and built their own shelters on a "learn as you go" basis.

These days, however, earth-covered residences are becoming more popular. It's not unusual for the informed "average citizen" to consider building an underground abode.

One such person is Lloyd Remington, a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina's Asheville campus. Dr. Remington began building his home (he calls it "The Hobbitat") back in October of 1977, and moved in during May of the following year. Admittedly, the house was never intended to be either a public showplace or a demonstration of the latest in gadgetry, but the doctor feels that he has accomplished his goals: He built a pragmatically unconventional home which could nonetheless boast such traditional features as affordability, security, and soundness.

A Successful "Experiment" ...

Dr. Remington knew all the time what sort of "return" he wanted to realize from the time and resources invested in his project, and felt that "going underground" was the simplest and least expensive way to achieve his aims. Put directly, he figured it would be sheer insanity to lay out money to build a home, only to continue spending substantial sums— year after year—to maintain the structure and its interior comfort level.



All told, the professor based his decision to "dig" on four factors:

[1] The earth provides a stabilized energy "sink" to help buffer the extremes of seasonal climate.






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