The Earth-Sheltered House [Giveaway]


We're giving away a copy of this book to one commenter below, so make sure to comment with a valid email before midnight on Friday, July 24, 2009.*

Chelsea Green was kind enough to provide a copy of The Earth-Sheltered House: An Architect's Sketchbook by Malcolm Wells, and I'm glad they did.  The book is full of his sketches with handwritten notes — it feels like I'm reading something that's handwritten just for me.  Wells tells it like it is with his own voice.  He drew me in, and before I knew it, I was already on the last page. 

Within the pages of The Earth-Sheltered House, Wells invites you to think about underground buildings, although he nudges that it's not as simple as covering a building with dirt.  But if done properly, an underground building will be silent, bright, dry, sunny, long-lasting, easy to maintain, easy to heat and cool, and fire-safe.

Wells explains how structures can be restorative and powered by harnessing the sun's rays.  I'm sure architects all across the country have had a chance to read and be influenced by his ideas, but if you haven't, I recommend sitting down with this treasure of a book.  This newly revised edition was just published in May 2009, and I think you'll enjoy it. 

[+] The Earth-Sheltered House on Amazon.

*If you're interested in the book, drop a comment by midnight MST on Friday, July, 24, 2009.  Say where you're from if you don't know what to say.  By leaving a comment, you agree to the terms and conditions relating to book giveaways on Jetson Green.  Shipping only within U.S.

  • Anonymous

    I have always been intrigued by the earth sheltered homes, but it is hard for me to imagine it being “bright” once you get past the front wall. Hopefully I can actually see the inside of one of these homes someday and discover that is not the case. I have seen a few that use the entire front as a greenhouse to get that passive solar gain.

    Pretty cool.

  • David Jr

    Ever since I saw an earth sheltered house design in Popular Science back in the 80’s, I have been dreaming about them. I had no idea that there were architects that really designed them, let alone wrote books about them! Very very cool! Interested to check this out!

  • Janelle @ Brimful Curiosities

    My husband loves energy efficient (and odd) architecture. I’m sure he’d be very interested in reading this book. Thanks.

  • boone

    I am glad to see this book and hope it inspires more earth shelterd design. It is the cheapest geothermal approach. I have built several houses with a significant portion earth sheltered and they all preform well. There are a lot of advancements in water management that makes this approach easier and less expensive while reducing the problems of dampness though dehumidification is often a needed aspect for some areas. We live in Western North Carolina where summers have some periods of high humidity and even the best waterproofed walls that are underground will condense water from the humid air mostly during a 2-3 month stretch. We installed radiant floor heat in our earth shelterd, passive solar area of our house but have not been using it as it never dips below 63 degrees. I look froward to winning the book. thanks for the update.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard much about this book. Two decades before its time. Please send a copy to Rochester!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been fascinated by earth homes ever since I was a kid when there was one on my paper-route. I’m especially curious about the description that “if done properly, an underground building will be . . . bright [and]. . . sunny,” since my major objection to one was that it couldn’t have as many windows as I would like and therefore wouldn’t have as much natural light as I’d like.

  • Anonymous

    I first came across this book in school at a point when the architectural world’s focus was more on intellectual interpretations. I was moved by the practical approach the book had taken, and how earth dwellings could be built appropriately in different climates. Now as a practising architect & urban designer it is good to see this book re-emerge as a resource and I would love it was a part of my library for another generation to be inspired.

  • Rick Thomas

    It’s cool in Atlanta this week, but I don’t look forward to those August days when the A/C blasts and blasts. Earth cooling would be so nice.

  • michaeljanzen

    I love books by Malcolm Wells. As a kid one of the first architecture books I owned was one of his and I spent hours transfixed on his drawings. Amazing stuff.

  • Anonymous

    As a young architect and LEED-AP this book would help me help humanity… one step (in the right direction) at a time.

    Thanks from Brooklyn

  • Anonymous

    I was in University when Malcolm released this book. It was inspiring because it caused us to stop and think about some of the important things we weren’t doing.

    I want my daughter (3rd year architecture student) to know Malcolm’s work — 99% of the time RIGHT NOW we’re getting it wrong.

  • Jeff Bower

    My father designed many earth homes back in the late 70s and 80s but no one wanted to build one in his area….This would be a great gift for him now that he is retired.

  • Anonymous

    would like:)

  • angela talley

    I would love to win this book. I’m from Round Rock Texas

    • Preston

      Angela, congratulations on winning The Earth-Sheltered House book giveaway. I’ll email you directly to get your address for mailing. Best of luck to everyone else with the next giveaway. We have 5-6 coming soon.

  • tom

    This is a really nice book! I love the hand written notes aspect of it, too. You get a sense of the thought process…

  • Steve Fox

    This would be very interesting for us – we work in an area with very steep hillsides, so building into the slope makes a lot of sense, but clients are so conservative! Perhaps they can be persuaded by this book? Thanks, Steve

  • Michael D Long

    We have several of these type homes in our area they are great, the most I have seen in one location though is Northern Ms, just south of Memphis.

    I had the pleasure of touring them and found them very livable.

  • Anonymous

    Back to the Future – a 10,000 year old idea with a modern a twist. I hope to win the book and I look forward to reading Wells idea. Could SCIP panels be incorporated into earth shelters or would it be overkill?

  • RA

    These are great concepts to pursue, and I would love to see more.

    There is a Swiss architect Peter Vetsch who has a neat portfolio to look at:

  • Ken Stokes

    Because the Hawaiian islands will face hotter, stormier weather in the decades ahead, I’m especially curious about the earth-sheltering techniques as well as special conditions in the tropics.

  • Collin McGann

    This would be a dream of mine to read…

  • Anonymous

    i would love to get my hands on this book for the concepts but also for the gorgeous sketches and watercolor

  • JIM

    I live in Asheville, NC. I visited friends’ earth-sheltered workshop yesterday! 600 sq. ft. Constant comfortable temperature. It had a living roof. You just walked up the bank and could get right on the roof.

  • M Realty

    Ever since I was a kid I thought this would be a good idea. You just insulate your house with the dirt that is around it anyway, that way you get free extra insulation and a wind buffer. If you did it properly you could even have a lawn or a garden on top of your house.


    • Anonymous

      I have been asked to design a Earth Sheltered home. And this would be a great reference Book for this home!

  • Linda

    I would like to read it.

  • Anonymous

    I’m from the Seattle area, and I’ve always been interested in unusual (and green!) architecture – something I inherited from my dad, I think. I’d love to win this book!


  • Anonymous

    Really ironic, as I just told my lady friend last evening that an earth sheltered home would be nice this time of year… (107 headed for 110 later this afternoon)… I’ve followed a web site, for years that tells of underground or earth sheltered construction, but you seldom ever see one just out and about.

  • Anonymous

    I work in a partly earth covered building and it always is cool. Now I would like to see how to build one.

  • robbieross

    Build it down in the ground!

  • Chuck

    I am so glad to see you are promoting a real solution, instead of this present product, “pat yourself on the back” based LEED solution. As designers we can finally recycle old ideas that were disregarded years ago by naysayers. Keep unearthing the past, we had a lot of good ideas already!

  • Anonymous

    The idea of a home being sheltered by the earth was given to me as a teenage boy from my father. I became aware of the constant temperature of the earth and the quiet calm inside it. I look forward to these ideas too and the ones that may someday come true.

  • Paul

    Who can resist a giveaway – especially one on a subject that I think we have much to learn from. I see very little on earth-sheltering in the current crops of sustainable buildings. There are lessons for us here, especially for suburban and rural settings (that comment will be sure to set off a debate about urban earth-sheltering!)

  • Kevin

    A beautifully obvious idea, work with nature and the land, as opposed to fighting it-I dig this book! The hand sketches and emotive water colors are evocative of a time when architects actually could draw and communicate the essence of a entire design with just one image; architect as artist as opposed to CAD monkey. I hope I win the giveaway, so I can enjoy the whole volume start to finish.

  • Anonymous

    ohmygod want want want. i’m designing my own earth sheltered house. this would be perfect reference.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been very intrigued with earth-based homes since I’ve learned of earthships created by Mike Reynolds… I’d love to see a different means to a similar ends!

    Sign me up!

  • Anonymous

    I live in Australia…Several months ago we had some very destructive bush fires that burnt down whole villages and a number of people, even whole families died…It looks like these earth sheltered homes may also provide decent bush fire proofing…PS I have an US mailing address.

  • Val in Cary, NC

    I have imagined living underground for quite some time. I don’t know why the thought appealed to me initially — I was so young and that was long ago. Now, my mind and life has matured into a greener way of thinking and living. I gave up my day job as a chemist and returned to school, for an Environmental Science degree, to learn how I could give back a little extra to the earth. An earth sheltered home makes so much practical sense, mainly by limiting the use our natural resources. My husband and I are in the process of looking for the perfect site. This recent book on earth sheltered homes would make an excellent reference guide.

  • Anonymous

    What a great book to be offering. And what a great idea to offer up a book. Thanks Preston.

  • Anonymous

    This book looks super sweet! Saw it on amazon…sooo i want it!

  • Anonymous

    As a Architect it is important to know that everything has been done before and that looking to the past is important in solving all issues. This book is one of those types of resources.

  • Anonymous

    please let me win this time! 😛

  • Krista

    Looks like a good book.

  • Anonymous

    I wish more design books would “tell it like it is” – would be helpful to the whole building industry. The idea of thinking of buildings as a spiritual endeavor is refreshing – I’d like to see more of this at the multi-family level, in affordable housing and rentals. Sustainable lifestyles shouldn’t be reserved for home owners.

  • John Umland

    I like earth sheltered houses.
    God is good

  • Anonymous

    I’m planning to build an earth sheltered house next summer. I haven’t decided where yet. I want it to be a prototype for a retired couple living on social security. Low maintenance and expenses made me decide on an earth sheltered design.

  • Debbie

    I have a deep interest in natural building and particularly in earthen
    homes. It would be amazing to have this book!

  • Ethan Levine

    Its awesome to see hand hewn work from one of the greats from the early green movement. Simple, straightforward passive solar design did and still does make total seance! I’ve only had the privilege to see a handful of his sketches in the past. As a young architect, I hope to have the chance to use this book for reference on future projects!

  • chris

    Great illustrations…

  • Annie Anderson

    Earth sheltered homes are some of my favorite designs. Often so simple, clean and unobtrusive – just the way architecture should be. I would love to build one some day, way out on the “back 40″ and use it as a quiet retreat away from everything else.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like a great book. I put it on my Amazon Wishlist! I would love to do a site visit of one of these earth sheltered designed homes some day.

  • zoic

    This reminds me so much of an old book that I love called Homes In The Earth. If I win a copy of this book… I’ll pay for the shipping to Canada.

  • Anonymous

    I would love this copy!

  • jonathan charak

    I want free book

  • Anonymous

    I would love to give this to my husband. He has been intrigued by underground houses forever.

  • hthompsen

    I ADORE the concept behind earth-sheltered homes.
    Which, of course, makes me ecstatic that it’s being shown here.

  • Anonymous

    Fourty years ago a neighbour built an earth house and we all thought he was nuts. Now I see he was a visionary and I can only wish more people had his foresight.

  • Anonymous

    It is rare to find ideas illustrated through watercolor.

    Seattle, WA

  • Benjamin Boyd

    I would love to take a look over this book. Im hoping as an aspiring landscape architect, I could help our profession do an even better job integrating the landscape into buildings. Just discovered your blog too – definately will be following from now on!

    • Preston

      Glad you stopped by Benjamin. You have a nice little resource brewing over there at Landscape Invocation. Let’s stay in touch.

  • John

    Interesting….. maybe I will check it out.

  • Val in Cary, NC

    Was a book given away? Who won the book?

  • sonnyvinberg

    I’ve always admired the designs and concepts of earth-sheltered designs. My ancestral tribe in Alaska, used the concept over 8,000 years ago, in what we called the “barabara,” where the dwelling was partially submerged and constructed of driftwood timbers, sod, and mud. Access was through a central port at the top, utilized for access and ventilation. It was symbolic and reverent of the mother, entering and leaving through the mother’s womb. She was the giver of life.

  • Gay Wescott

    We were considering a monolithic dome for retirement but when we saw pictures of an earth sheltered house we fell in love with the look.

  • klipsan

    There’s a certain grace to not only building a home that’s in harmony with it’s surrounding environment, but also to living in one. How odd that we continue to build ridiculous free-standing contraptions that then are subject to weather, decay, require constant maintenance, exorbitant ($$$) climate control (heating & cooling!

    Gee, evolution is soooooo slooooow.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! This would be awesome to read about. I really love looking at architecture renderings. This would be awesome to read about being a student of landscape architecture!

  • Grace James

    All comments are more than four year old … cani still get thisbook? thank you!!

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