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In the U.S., where wood-frame homes are the most common form of single-family housing, the concept of underground or bermed homes is nothing new, but still a bit of an oddity.

Underground homes are generally built at ground level and then all or partially covered in earth, or built directly into the side of a hill. They are hailed by proponents as being exceedingly environmentally-friendly and representative of green, sustainable living. These homes are also criticized by traditional homebuilders as being dark and claustrophobic—generally not pleasing to the eye. However, it is important to note that there are certain design innovations taking place in the architecture of underground homes that are increasing their aesthetic appeal. After all, interior attractiveness is vital if eco-friendly homes ever expect to have a more mainstream appeal.

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For instance, one builder of these homes, R.C. Smoot, runs a Texas-based construction business in the U.S. called Earth-Sheltered Homes. One way he brings natural light into these dwellings and increases visual appeal is to incorporate domed ceilings and roofs, which he says allows light to travel on it, reflecting light more effectively than flat, vaulted or cathedral ceilings. The dome also contributes to a feeling of spaciousness. Another way is through the addition of skylights, which are already popular in more traditional homes. Smoot incorporates luxuries such as indoor swimming pools and rooftop putting greens into his earth-sheltered homes, making the dwellings a place to exercise and play as well as a place to sleep. Rooftop putting greens are made possible by the fact that the roof of the house are grassed over, or incorporate some other type of vegetation to combat erosion.

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The aesthetic appeal inside some underground homes simply cannot be denied. More and more of them are designed to feel positively light and airy. For instance, check out the lovely, almost ethereal interior featured in this photo in The Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living. The interior radiates cleanliness and serenity. Also, take a close look at these photos of the stunning interior and exterior of an earth-sheltered home in New Hampshire conceived by architect Donald Jasinski. Jasinski Architects International adheres to a “humanist design philosophy.” For lovers of nature for whom the central principle of aesthetics is to interrupt their natural surroundings as little as possible, the underground or earth-sheltered home is also a design solution. See another example here.

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This guest post is contributed by Kristie Lewis, who writes on the topics of construction management degrees.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: Kristie.Lewis81@gmail.com.