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Berm Homes - Living With the Earth

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Jennifer Jones  by Jennifer Jones

color rendering of berm home by lake

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Around for thousands of years, earth-sheltered homes, specifically berm homes, began rising in popularity in the 1970s as mankind became more aware and concerned about our planet. With this new energy conscientiousness and desire to live sustainably, we began to look to our past for solutions, leading us to the modern berm home.

Unlike fully underground homes, albeit even more environmentally friendly and cost effective, berm homes provide many of the benefits of earth-sheltered homes without moving completely out of the comfort zone for many homeowners.

Berm homes are usually built on flat land or a small hill where the earth is brought up and tightly packed against the exterior walls. Depending on the desires of the homeowners, earth could cover one or more sides of the house. You could even have a garden on your roof if you wanted! However, remember to keep in mind that more berming equals more efficiency!

Many berm homes look a lot like their above-ground relatives, but with the numerous additional bonuses that come with such close contact to the Earth.

well built berm home plan

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Climate Control
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for berming is climate control. By taking advantage of the Earth’s thermal mass, berm homes have fairly constant temperatures without much variation even through the seasons. Because the Earth itself is dense, it provides a constant moderating temperature even when the air is blazing hot or freezing cold. Therefore, the berming keeps the house relatively cool in the summer and relatively warm in the winter and many berm homeowners have drastically reduced or even nonexistent heating and cooling bills!


As mentioned earlier, many berm homes resemble their above-ground counterparts. They aren’t simply the dark holes in the ground that many imagine underground homes to be. Aesthetics can be set to match the homeowner’s desires. The only limit is your imagination! In addition, most berm homes blend in with the surroundings. For a society moving away from the McMansions, the unobtrusive berm home provides an appealing selection.

traditional style berm house design

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Low Maintenance
Another cost-effective reason to invest in a berm home includes the low maintenance and upkeep involved. Many homes have predicted longevities of a hundred years or more because, built to withstand the weight of the Earth, berm homes are constructed of extra sturdy materials. Extra sturdy materials mean less breaks or leaks that you might have to spend time and money fixing!

Disaster Resistance
Another money saver here, because the earth is essentially protecting the berm home, severe weather events such as tornadoes will likely cause little to no damage as they pass. Also, if there is an earthquake, the berm home will move with the earth and therefore you can expect less damage. Lastly, earth is essentially fireproof, so homeowners can live knowing that a fire will not devastate their home as easily as a normal house. With all of these damage resistances, it’s no wonder that the insurance costs for a berm home are much lower, which, coupled with the peace of mind, makes berm home living an attractive option.


Again, the density of the earth comes in handy for muffling the sound transferred from the outside world into the house and vice versa. So whether you need complete silence in order to catch a good night’s rest or you like to play the drums at four o’ clock in the morning, the sounds of passing traffic get lost in the earth barrier and your neighbor’s won’t be breathing down your neck while you are trying to practice because the earth is very effective at blocking the noise.

two-story contemporary berm style home


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Tired of your neighbors catching glimpses of you through your windows? Why not invest in a berm home? In your home, you want to feel completely comfortable to be yourself, however if you worry that others are invading your privacy, consider that berm homes, with earth packed against the exterior walls, can provide the utmost privacy. Not only will neighbors be unable to spy on you through the windows, but the sound blocking quality of the earth keeps them from listening to you as well.

All of the wonderful benefits of berm homes also include pipes that don’t freeze, increased yard space, burglar resistance, and a sustainable quality of life that can’t be paralleled. So who knows, maybe you could be the next proud berm homeowner as the flexible nature of the berm home specifically caters to your needs and wants!

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