When Al Schwarz moved from upstate NY near Dallas, TX, he wanted a home with low energy bills and protection from extreme weather, so he dug into a hillside, inserted cement domes and buried them again with enough earth and rock to guarantee protection.
source.image: Kirsten Dirksen
He spent 10 years stacking 230 tons of rock as a retaining wall and planting grass and trees atop the home. The final home is heavy enough to guarantee a steady temperature. “A normal house weighs about 46 tons,” explains Schwarz. “This one weighs between 600 and 700 tons, so it cannot change temperature rapidly – only about a degree in 24 hours. Therefore, it’s very easy to keep the inside comfortable.”
His 7 acres cost $49,000, though he took out a loan to build the domes which was not easy to find for such a non-conforming property. He finally found one that had financed other dome homes in the past.
With a greenhouse of vegetables and potatoes, and a lake in his backyard for fishing he is nearly entirely self-sufficient. The home is powered by solar and often feeds back into the grid. His earth-sheltered home has also become a refuge for neighbors during extreme weather. One neighbor was so impressed they have installed their own prefab dome for private protection from storms.