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Last edited 07 Jun 2023
An earth berm is a landscaping technique where a raised area of land is created as a feature or separation device, the term can also be used to describe smaller scale adjustments for example around a tree base to retain water during high downpours. The SuDS Manual published by CIRIA in 2015 defines a berm as: ‘A shelf or raised barrier separating two areas.’
The term earth berm may also be used to describe earth burmed houses or buildings, also called earth shelters or earth coupled buildings, these are buildings which are partially covered with earth on one side to create a berm, the other side is then open, with windows and openings. The design can create minimal impact as the earth bermed side is usually grassed and raises slightly to cover the building itself, keeping it relatively well hidden from most angles. Certain styles of these types of homes may also affectionately be called Hobbit houses.
One well known example of an earth bermed housing scheme is the Hockerton Housing Project, which is a linear cluster of five self-sufficient houses built in Nottinghamshire in 1997 by Brenda Vale. Although different projects take different approaches to detailing, one of the advantages of an earth burmed house is that if certain parts of the building are left insulation free the earth surrounding the building can help regulate temperature, this type of approach is known as earth coupling. The houses in Nottingham require minimal heating and have lower-than-normal energy consumption, supplied by onsite renewable energy generation from two 6 kW turbines and 7.6 kW solar panels.
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