What do you imagine the coziest type of home to ride out a particularly blustery winter to be?
A handsome stone cabin with a plus-sized fireplace that never stops cracklin’? A classic A-frame ski chalet replete with heavy wool throws, radiant floor heating and hot cocoa on tap? A sleek, modernist abode with massive glass walls perfect for peering out onto the snowy landscape?
Ask Rebecca Weitzel and Jeff Waschkowski of Omaha, Nebraska, what type of home that they’d prefer to ride out winter in and they’ll probably tell you that they’re partial to bunker-esque subterranean concrete dome homes.
In a recent video profile from Faircompanies, Weitzel and Waschkowski open up their earth-sheltered Omaha abode — the only of its kind in the city, apparently — for an explanatory tour.
Earth-sheltered homes usually come in two general types: fully underground residences where the entire structure is tucked completely beneath the earth and bermed homes, which are built fully or partially above grade but boast one or more earthen walls and sometimes a fully covered roof. When a berm home has an exposed exterior wall, it’s usually the south-facing one for optimum natural sunlight.
While more suburban ranch than Middle Earth in execution, this unique Omaha abode boasts numerous perks associated with earth-sheltered structures like energy savings and privacy. (Photo: Faircompanies)
With their front lawn — or is it their backyard? — doubling as their roof, Weitzel and Waschkowski claim to reside in the former type of earth-sheltered home (some commenters argue the latter as it technically appears to be aboveground but covered with dirt) with a south-facing exposed façade.
“This is the only earth-sheltered home and one of the only apex-style, or completely underground earth homes, in a pretty good radius,” Waschkowski explains. “A berm-style house is identical to this except for that it’s not underground. So, this is one of the more expensive ways to go because it’s completely underground.”
Year-round natural temperature control
While their hidden-away earth home stays naturally cool during the summer months, one of the main draws was that the interior of the structure, composed of three interconnected concrete domes, never gets unreasonably chilly during Nebraska’s often harsh winters. Given that it’s tucked underground, the interior climate of the home is dictated by the temperature of the earth and not the outside air. Normally, the temperature inside naturally fluctuates a mere 10 degrees — between 64 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit — year-round without any sort of mechanical assistance.
As Waschkowski tells Faircompanies, he and Weitzel’s first encounter with the home was during a "brutal cold" Omaha winter. “We were driving by one day and saw it was for sale. It was actually very cold out the first day we went in there. Because we’re completely underground, the entire house is geothermal so we didn’t have to worry about freezing pipes or anything like that."
Originally built over a 10-year span by Lloyd Texley, former head of science for the Omaha Public School District, this distinctive Midwestern dwelling does present its current owners with various quirks, challenges and perks including ventilation (yes, there are chimneys), harnessing the most natural daylight possible (privacy-affording sliding panel doors come in handy), noise (it’s like living in a tomb … they can’t hear a thing from the busy street) and financing (banks “have challenges with an underground house”).
What about you? Would you like to live in a geothermal house like this?