A Semi-Subterranean Home

This semi-subterranean home features the benefits of above and below ground housing, creating an energy-efficient "dream home" that benefits both the homeowners and the planet.

| January/February 1978

Gores and Sturges decided to design a glass upper area with a below-ground dwelling, a semi-subterranean home that features low heating, cooling, and maintenance costs.

Question: What has four bedrooms, three fireplaces, two greenhouse-courtyards, a "buried earth loop", and ten rooftop collectors? Answer: Landis and Pamela Gores's new semi-subterranean home in New Canaan, Connecticut!

"House for all Seasons"

New Canaan, Connecticut architect Landis Gores, F.A.I.A., and his long-time friend and energy consultant Paul Sturges (of Sturges Heat Recovery, Inc., Stone Ridge, New York) have been convinced for the past 25 years or so that the best way to design low heating, cooling, and maintenance costs into a building is to make the structure wholly subterranean. Architectural trends being what they are, however, the Gores/Sturges team has had to be content (over the past two and a half decades) designing open, airy, glass-filled, expensive-to-heat-and-maintain above-ground houses . . . just the kind their customers wanted.

Three years ago, though, it occurred to Gores and Sturges that they could have the best of both worlds if they were to [1] build an expansive, open, "glassy" structure on top of an energy-efficient, low-maintenance underground house . . . and [2] use fireplaces, solar collectors, sunken greenhouses, and a heat pump to warm (and cool) the piggyback structure. So Landis Gores, his wife Pamela, and friend Paul Sturges designed — and contracted the construction of — just such a dwelling . . . a dwelling that Landis proudly refers to as his "House For All Seasons".

Heat From the Earth

Much of the space heat for Landis Gores's new 4,000-square-foot house comes either directly or indirectly from the earth itself. Approximately two-thirds of the dwelling's living space is located below ground level, to take advantage of the surrounding earth's more-or-less constant 52 degrees-55 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. Thus, even when the air outside is below freezing, the underground portion(s) of the Gores house need only be warmed 15 degrees to 20 degrees Fahrenheit to be kept in the "comfort" zone. (See the Plowboy Interview with Andy Davis in MOTHER NO. 46 for a more detailed discussion of this phenomenon.)

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