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Deep underground building

                          


Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Posts: 23
Most if not all "underground homes/building" are only 10 or so feet deep under ground. Does anyone know of techniques and ideas for deeper building/living? I know some mining companies dig caves for vineyards.  I would assume that type of construction would be extremely costly.  Pumping out and throwing a glazed roof on an old rock quarry would be pretty cool. Growing full size trees indoors and and such. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14951
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
First ...... why do "some mining companies dig caves for vineyards" ??

Next:  I'm trying to wrap my head around your mission to have something really, really deep.  Is there a particular situation you want to take advantage of?  I've heard of people renovating abandoned missile silos.  And I suspect some people might live in abandoned mines.


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Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Posts: 23
Mining companies dig caves for vineyards to provide storage for wines while they age primarily.

The reason I am interested in deep under ground homes is because they take less space up then earth sheltered homes. Overall providing more woods, pasture, field, etc. 
Neal McSpadden


Joined: May 04, 2009
Posts: 269
That makes much more sense than the grape vines growing without sunlight


Although you could probably do it with hydro or aquaponics and grow lamps


Check out my Primal Prepper blog where I talk about permaculture, prepping, and the primal lifestyle... all the time!
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
The only really deep homes I know of are one that some old guy built in California and some in Australia.  The reasoning in both areas was getting down to a cooler layer of earth in a very hot desert location.  The one in California is actually quite intriguing, as he had small 'courtyards' or light tubes that each had a peach tree planted in them, down where they didn't get the extreme desert heat.  It's been a long time since I heard anything about it so I don't remember what that one was called, but the ones in Australia are at the opal mines, Coober Pedy maybe?  And Alice? 

I understand what you want to do, Paul, but the structural issues might outweigh the gains.  You could still plant grass, veggies, and herbs on an earth-bermed house, so it wouldn't be a total waste.

Kathleen
                          


Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Posts: 23
I was viewing the websites regarding the underground Fresno gardens.  The guy who build them in the 40s has some locations 30 feet deep. It seems like this was done using bricks and mortar.

I know the best way to take the loads for deep underground homes/buildings is poured concrete. 

If I could build a house 3 stories under ground I could have many people live there rather then having to build 3 homes 10 feet deep taking up plantable space.

A lot of the multi floored structures have an open south side and a filled in back and sides.

I seem to be drawn to the homes which do not even look like houses 3/4 of the way buried like current bermed or earth sheltered homes.

IS there any do it yourself friendly building materials that can withstand relatively high pressure loads required for 30-40 depths? 

Concrete geodesic domes maybe? 






                                      


Joined: Apr 14, 2009
Posts: 8
Forestiere Underground Gardens and not build using bricks and mortar.
build using hardpan and mortar. if you read more on it. hardpan is harder than brick but softer than rock. It's compacted red clay what I would call it.

Baldassare Forestiere  "Instead, he spent the next 40 years of his life carving out the "useless farmland".
only to tragically discover that the California land he
purchased for growing citrus trees would be useless for such." 
Ok reason being is because of hardpan. Wiki defines it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardpan
what you think is brick is hardpan. all the building material except mortar comes from that same area he picked out and dug out.
In central Valley, CA there is a strip that runs thru it under the soil. it useless for growing only certain crops and that is to go in the fields and rip it with CATS and ripper shacks twice and then go in and pick up the biggest chucks of hardpan. This is where citrus and grapes vines are grown at the cost of $200 an HR. that was 8 years ago when I done that.
In his time it wasn't  possible.
                          


Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Posts: 23
Thanks for the correction. Interesting about the clay. Is hardpan stronger then concrete blocks and mortar?
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
travisr wrote:
Thanks for the correction. Interesting about the clay. Is hardpan stronger then concrete blocks and mortar?


If you build your concrete blocks around re-bar and pour concrete in afterward, absolutely not.

If you leave them hollow, where the hard pan would be solid, probably. 

But I think the important thing is that hardpan can be much, much more cost-effective: it was a by-product of Mr. Forestiere's digging.

Related: http://www.appropedia.org/Compressed_earth_brick_press

A worthwhile fictionalized account of hardpan and the challenges it poses in agriculture can be read in East of Eden.

Edit: The following is wrong, please disregard it.

One way to parse the construction project is that previous decades of tillage and irrigation acted as a compressed earth brick press and source of stabilizing minerals, respectively. California irrigation water tends to have a lot of dissolved calcium, and lime-stabilized clay gives a stronger brick than concrete-stabilized silt, so this method of brick-making, while slow, gives a very good-quality product, much better than fired brick. Mr. Forestierre simply had to un-earth and shape the resulting building material.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
This one reaches pretty deep:

http://www.silohome.com/

In general, though:  A parabolic trench reflector plus a fiber-optic cable would be one way to give such a structure "natural" ( :roll light.  If you wanted to live in the upper section of a particularly deep mine, geothermal heat would be an option for a modest home and greenhouse.  In many such cases, a natural source of methane would also be available for fuel.  There are also some mines that produce a steady supply of CO2, which could be very useful for a greenhouse and for food storage.

The wine-aging tunnels I've heard of tend to be in limestone and reasonably shallow; the easily-cut but reasonably strong stone, moderate depth, and demand for the minerals removed, probably mean it isn't too expensive to dig one.

I don't think making such a place livable would be worthwhile in most cases.
                                      


Joined: Apr 14, 2009
Posts: 8
hardpan was there before any farmers started in that valley. That CA Central Valley in reality is desert before it was leveled and canals put in. Used to be a lake out in Corcoran before they put in a series of dikes and canals. Still places in the valley that you can see how it was before all that farming started just shrubs, tumbleweeds and alkali. If water was taken to Mojave Desert it would bloom also. But water is a valuable commodity there now what with the drought.
                          


Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Posts: 23
Reflectors and the fiber optic would be helpful but using lights deeper down may not be natural in a sense but  having a good amount of space without infringing woods/pasture etc is a bonus.  Naturalness for me is not required to be 100% the main reason why I like to use more natural things/techniques etc is because they happen to be smart, healthy, and effective.
Patrick Storm


Joined: Jan 03, 2010
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
I've been thinking of the same thing back and forth for a while, but I keep coming back to the same challenge; Walling material. Everyone keeps telling me the walls will cave in if I don't go get brand new materials and consult professional building companies.

In my case I would build an underground greenhouse, basically a square/ rectangular hole with used windows for roofing. The thought ocurred to me to just lower a used shipping container down that hole, and cut away the roof and put in the same windows here. Apparently the walls would either cave in from the pressure of the soil, or rust away within a year or two.

Does this seem plausible to you, or are the people I'm speaking to about this just being negative, which I'm getting a sense of? 


There is no box.
                          


Joined: Oct 31, 2009
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia

there are many shipping container houses in australia including underground types, try google shipping container houses/ architectiure and you may find many ideas and styles


Anyone who has never made a mistake
has never tried anything new
    -ALBERT EINSTEIN-
Patrick Storm


Joined: Jan 03, 2010
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
Right, that's what I did and it seems to me it should work fine.
I saw in a documentary film (The Union) that some people had buried old trains underground and used them just fine as well.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Depends on the ground.  Some shipping containers cave in.  Some don't.

My point is that some ground such as mine will pretty well stay open with no support.

Shipping containers are not made to take pressure loads from the sides.  Since soils, moisture, rust and corrosion vary so much it would not be safe to count on one as a living space.

We work in some mines that have no timbering through most areas, but conditions in some part of the mine require timbers.  We were 265 feet in horizontally and likely about the same distance underground, but some shallower areas required timbers due to faults breaking the formation.  So - it all depends.


- Glenn -
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Some shipping containers were designed for years of going back and forth across the oceans, so are quite rust-resistant.  Just have to make sure you get one of the ocean-going ones (seapak or some such name).

Kathleen
Patrick Storm


Joined: Jan 03, 2010
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
Ok so how can you tell if it'll cave in or not? Just try it? 
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
And end up like Ken Kern, dying in your experimental structure?  No, no shipping container was meant to be buried.  If you can reinforce around it, just using the container for waterproofing, basically, then it would work for underground. 

Kathleen
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Kathleen is right.  Shipping containers were made for vertical loads fastened at corners and certain other points.  Vertical loading at the proper locations and used in the proper manner. 

I only used Mike Oehlers designs for underground use - similar to square set mine timbering, because Mike paid an engineer to design it so it would be safe.  See the tables in the back of his book.  Shipping containers will not safely take the loads Mike's designs will.

The engineering was a key point for me before I put myself in an underground structure.  Dirt weighs from 100 to 150 lbs per cubic foot.  64 square feet per 8x8'section can be up to 16000 lbs plus or minus a bit per post with 2  of dirt on it.  I'll stick with Mike's engineered designs with reduced loading per his suggestion.


A failed shipping container could make you very squishy.
                                  


Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 26
Paddy82 wrote:
I've been thinking of the same thing back and forth for a while, but I keep coming back to the same challenge; Walling material. Everyone keeps telling me the walls will cave in if I don't go get brand new materials and consult professional building companies.

In my case I would build an underground greenhouse, basically a square/ rectangular hole with used windows for roofing. The thought ocurred to me to just lower a used shipping container down that hole, and cut away the roof and put in the same windows here. Apparently the walls would either cave in from the pressure of the soil, or rust away within a year or two.

Does this seem plausible to you, or are the people I'm speaking to about this just being negative, which I'm getting a sense of? 


I have seen buried shipping containers fail frist hand. We put one underground for a powder box (explosives container) with 2 feet of dirt on the top the walls caved in.

Not being negative and I would rather not have to tell you I told you so. But if you cut away the top the container it will be even weaker.


Patrick Storm


Joined: Jan 03, 2010
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
Alright if you have seen it happen I have nothing else to say about it other than thanks for the warning.
The question remains however, by the thread creator and myself on exactly how you could make these underground structures as easily, safely an economically as possible. At the moment it seems you need to turn to the money-grabbing excavation- design- and construction companies for a solution, as I mentioned above, which at least in my book negates the entire endeavour.

A structure completely surrounded by several meters of soil seems a lot more complicated than a submerged greenhouse though (with the ceiling exposed). Is there any other ready- made structure you can think of that can be lowered into the ground that would hold the walls vertical? Reinforcing a container sounds doable though...
If you can reinforce around it, just using the container for waterproofing, basically, then it would work for underground. 

Troglodyte, you have some experience in underground structures, do you agree with Kathleen on this? And how would you do it, practically?
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
You don't necessarily need to get a contractor involved, although I know Glenn has his own heavy equipment, which has certainly helped his endeavor a lot.  But that deep underground construction in the California desert was all done by hand, by one old guy (well, maybe he wasn't so old when he started).  It just depends on how much time you are willing to put in at it, and how determined you are!  (As a culture, we are all pretty set on 'instant gratification.'

Kathleen
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Conventional safe construction costs money.  I agree with Kathleen on her postings.

In my area multiple floors in 8 foot increments would be safe using Mike Oehler's methods in a mining square set timbering fashion.  That is because I know my soil conditions.  Soil that is unstable - mud - loose fill all present different problems.  I could safely go to any depth I wanted here, though I would hit water at about 300 feet.  The ground is self supporting.  The Oehler type structure would prevent the occasional loose rock from hitting me in the head.  I would be in hard rock at around 40 feet from my well log.  Continuing down would not be cost effective or practical.

You need to know your soil/ground conditions intimately to understand what you can or cannot do.  If you don't , then that is where an engineer comes in to assure your safety.  I am familiar with the properties of the soil here from cob building, well drilling and from numerous mines in the area for over 150 years.
                                  


Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 26
I keep thinking why is the people what to build this way??This isn't the first time I have had this discusion.
Kathleen said it "instant gratification" dig a hole throw in a container back fill and walla instant building.
I wish it were that easy I would have them all over.
If you are going to bury one would it be worth it to weld sopport around the out side.
IMHO NO! I have done it and it was a lot of work and money.
I could of built a nice block basement faster, cheaper, bigger and safer.
Or Mike's way a lot faster,cheaper,bigger,safer
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
The only other relatively cost effective *and* safe method of underground construction would be similar to the wood timber framing, but with structural steel beams and girders. But that would probably be the most expensive of the three.
If you know you have sufficiently load bearing soil, you could skip the digging down which is very costly. This also avoids digging up unexpected obstacles, like boulders, or woolly mammoths. Nothing slows a project down like a good woolly mammoth to turn your construction site into an archaeological dig site. Build up with one of the mentioned building methods. Then bury the structure in soil. Of course the structure would have to be engineered to support the added soil. Voila! Instant underground structure. The advantages of the high-ground and the underground all in one. A hybrid could be done with a partially dug out hole in the ground topped with a buried structure that extends above.


"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
--
Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Paddy, I would limit my structure to the Mike oehler method with wood -  I have currently got 2 stories 16  feet  under ground with a foot and a half of dirt on top - and that is in garden so there is no or little lost space on the surface.  There is plenty of exercise going up and down stairs as there are different levels too.
Patrick Storm


Joined: Jan 03, 2010
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
Ok, do you have a link to read about how he does it? Thanks
                                      


Joined: Jun 07, 2009
Posts: 5
Location: Tokeland, WA; Riverside WA
travisr wrote:
Most if not all "underground homes/building" are only 10 or so feet deep under ground. Does anyone know of techniques and ideas for deeper building/living? I know some mining companies dig caves for vineyards.   I would assume that type of construction would be extremely costly.  Pumping out and throwing a glazed roof on an old rock quarry would be pretty cool. Growing full size trees indoors and and such.   


Monolithic Domes (TM) (thin-shell concrete) have often been used for underground residences and buildings. They need to be engineered for the extra weight of the earth on top. If you poke around the http://www.monolithic.com website, you'll find a couple examples of Monolithic domes built completely underground.

Check out
http://www.monolithic.com/stories/the-invisible-dome-home

I'm not exactly sure why you'd want to build deeper - once you get below frostline, the ground temperature stays pretty constant; going deeper wouldn't accomplish much for energy efficiency, other than to add significantly to the cost.

Cheers!
Douglas
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Paddy82 wrote:
Ok, do you have a link to read about how he does it? Thanks


About the best I could recommend is getting The $50 and Up Underground House Book" since it is copyrighted info.  Mike paid an engineer to design the structure so it would be safe.  Unlike code buildings it is a reusable engineered design that Mike made so that the cost of engineering would not have to be paid over and over and over.

http://www.undergroundhousing.com/
                                    


Joined: Jan 21, 2010
Posts: 12
In my case I would build an underground greenhouse, basically a square/ rectangular hole with used windows for roofing. The thought ocurred to me to just lower a used shipping container down that hole, and cut away the roof and put in the same windows here. Apparently the walls would either cave in from the pressure of the soil, or rust away within a year or two.


wow after stumbling on the web site about the fellow who dug into hardpan and created a under ground house and several under ground citrus tree gardens, I too want to build a green house under ground. since i have allready built a green house out of earth bags or sand bags I know this is the method I will use. The sand bags properly tamped with barb wire between each layer are incrediblely stroung. also I have discovered that you can build them into a dome.!! this is important. in so much that if I dig a 12 foot deep hole 10 by 12 feet take the dirt pilled up and fill sand bags then line the dirt walls with the bags slowly tapering them in to create a dome. leave the opening large enough to place a used window then back fill the rest of the dirt aginst the dome leaving the window at or just above ground level. I have reserched this on that site and found out the when the dude did it in california he also had to tunnels for air exchange.
                                    


Joined: Jan 21, 2010
Posts: 12
so I asked my buddy to come over with his back hoe he is going to dig a 10 foot long trench 3 foot wide at the end of it he will dig a 12 foot deep 10x12 foot room. at the end of this he will dig a 4 foot by 3 foot trench then a 12 foot deep 10x12 foot room then again a 4 foot trench. then at the end he will dig the last room 12 feet deep and 10x12 a long with the last trench 10 foot long. i will take the dirt and line the trench's with sandbags creating a arch about 8 feet tall then back filling to ground level. My wife is so excited. the reason for us is this, in our area in north east Arizona the fruit trees warm in spring time then the blossoms come out and next the 3 foot of snow fall or 76 mile per hour winds. so no fruit. our orchard has failed for 8 years running. also we are intrested in growing citrus however we live in growing zone 6 so we are unable. we did start growing citrus indoors in our house and it is flourishing. we also have a root cellar we built 4 years ago and i love the fact that it never freezes. this will be a large under taking however we like the work. and it is very rewarding to us. are green house made of sand bags is just finished and allready growing all kinds of lettuce and veggies. look up earthen bags and see all that has been done with the domes no roof just stack the sand bags to create a dome or arch!! we built a small test arch 3 foot high and 3 feet wide the width of a 3/4 filled sand bag. i drove my 3/4 ton ford f 350 4x4 on top of it no problem.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Mike Oehler's Earth Sheltered Greenhouse book tells you how to build a greenhouse in the ground using wood and it is safe. 

http://www.undergroundhousing.com/greenhouse_book.html

I drilled the water well for Forestiere Underground Gardens so they could remain open.  The uncle wanted to stop them and sell it to a shopping center to be destroyed, so I did it as a well repair and kind of snuck it in without a permit.  Baldassare Forestiere's grandsons contacted me.  The uncle was well connected with the government people and we got it done before they could say anything except that they would require a permit for the repair next time.

I did cable tool drilling for about 10 years and am currently consulting with a group building schools in Kenya, advising them on cable tool drilling.

http://www.forestiere-historicalcenter.com/

                                    


Joined: Jan 21, 2010
Posts: 12
after more thought here is some intresting thoughts instead of lining the rooms with sand bags i will build pillars of sand bags 8 feet tall. every 4 feet. next we have a lot of rail road ties here so i will place these ties on top of the pillars, creating a shelf to place the sand bags onto. creating the dome to the 12 foot level. with the tunnels in between each room i will line the walls with sand bags then taper them in to create a arch because of the intense strengh of the system. i will create a sand bag staircase at one end of the hallway. also i need to deflect the wind down into the tunnel to have adequate air exchange, so i will build a scoop out of sand bags at the entrance of the tunnel. the wind allways blows west to east here so it would work out perfect.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
The sandbag pillars will have little resistance against the intense pressure of the earth if they are not stabilized such as soil cement in the bags, and continuous to build a circle if I am understanding you right - that you are going to have earth around them.

Careful - earth is heavy and can make you all squishy. 
 
 
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