When no bank would give them a loan for an earth-sheltered dome home, Steve Travis and Jeff Ingram began to build the earth-sheltered hobbit villa on their own, financing each step paycheck to paycheck and getting creative.
They used recycled highway signs to lay the forms for the concrete foundation. They held a “dome-raising” party to erect the I-Beams (purchased as a dome kit). They tied their own rebar for a full year. They lived in a fifth-wheel trailer for 6 years before finally moving into a half-built house.
Their commitment paid off. Today, the couple have spent a decade living mortgage-free in a home that is built to “withstand a nuclear blast”, as well as hurricanes and earthquakes (they are in a fault zone). They have no heating or cooling bills since the home is hyper-insulated. “There are 1000 tons of earth on top of the house,” explains Steve. “The weight adds strength to the structure – like an egg, because of the barrel-hauled structure the weight of the earth compresses it and makes it stronger –, but the main aspect is the thermal mass insulation value.” Per code, the county made them put in two bedroom wall heaters, but they have never needed them.
The home is maintenance-free except for having to mow the roof which now bathes the entire home in green. “We’ve had people say it must be like living in a cave, but there’s light everywhere in this house.”
Because the walls aren’t load-bearing (the barrel vaults hold the home in compression), they were able to create huge windows on three sides of the home, allowing in plenty of southern light: “more than any home we’ve ever lived in.”