彭蒙惠英语：20110126 MP3在线课程 Living Underground
by Rachael Jackson / (c) 2010, The Orlando Sentinel (Florida). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
For some, home is where the earth is
Down a dirt road and between thickets of trees, Paul Queen lives inside a grassy, man-made hill.
Deer try to stroll across his rooftop.
Gopher tortoises attempt to tunnel into the walls.
But inside, Queen can barely hear the rain or deer hoofsteps. His home is earth-sheltered, meaning it's not exactly underground but is surrounded and insulated by a massive mound of soil.National builders of the obscure style, which first grew out of hillsides and rural grasslands during the energy crisis decades ago, say that amid concerns about power bills and natural disasters, more people are burrowing into the earth.
Although Queen estimates the building style reduces his cooling bills by 40 percent and says he will probably never have to evacuate for a hurricane, the housing concept remains rare in Florida.
"Until you're really in one, you really don't realize how wonderful they are," Queen, who works in marketing, said of his Florida home. "The way it's laid out, it has as much light as any house."
[However,] Stephanie Thomas-Rees, a research architect with the Florida Solar Energy Center, said the state's sandy soil and high water table make managing moisture difficult in an earth-sheltered home. Others suggest that without hills, which provide a natural construction site, it's harder to find good locations for such homes here.
How much does it cost?
Dale Pearcey, president of Formworks Building Inc. in Colorado, said prices are on par with traditional homes, though mortgages often are paid off faster because of reduced heating and cooling bills.
"If some contractor came up with a bunch of model homes and put them all in one place where the general public would just walk through them, it would change a lot of people's minds in a hurry," he said.