May 12, 2023

Architectural glazing for earth-sheltered home designs

Written by Michelle Martin

Guide to specifying architectural glazing for earth-sheltered homes 

An earth-sheltered home design is a conscious consideration of combining your home with the external elements in order to create a thermally efficient home. In principle, earth matter can be used to surround elevations and roofing of homes to provide thermal mass and insulation which in turn regulates the temperature of your home.  

There are various examples of how earth-shelter designs can be achieved, including a bermed house, earth-covered home, in-hill and underground.  Many earth-shelter designs are built within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

Several key considerations must be taken into account when building an earth-sheltered home. These include waterproofing the home using special materials to reduce the risk of water damage and stopping the water from absorbing the heat. The groundwater level must be considered so the drainage travels away from the home to combat moisture. Windows in earth sheltered homes are recommended to be south-facing to absorb the most heat and pass this natural heat through to nearby rooms. Finally, the surrounding earth must maintain a stable indoor temperature by absorbing heat and preventing air penetration. 

A house in the Garden earth sheltered home.

When building into the ground, the green matter acts as a thermal mass, which maintains a comfortable internal temperature which can sit on the roof and at various elevations for maximum exposure to the heat. These retaining walls must be constructed to hold the weight of the earth, especially when water is absorbed into the earth, the hydrostatic pressure can exert stress on the structure below.  

Due to the properties of the earth not being able to adequately insulate the internal of the home, a layer of insulation must be added to ensure the internal is able to retain the natural heat source as well as keep the heat regulated to limit the use of heating technology.  


Architectural glazing for earth-sheltered home designs  

There are several technical, energy efficient glazing solutions that can be specified with any glazing system to improve the thermal performance and insulation of your home. Low E glass, short for low emissivity, is known to improve the thermal efficiency of glass and uses a transparent coating that does not alter the appearance of a glass unit. The glass coating will reflect a significantly higher percentage of the heat back into the internal living space, rather than allowing it to escape to the external face of the building. Low E coatings are typically used in slim sliding glass doors or large elevations of architectural glazing in a south facing orientation. 

Due to large areas of earth-sheltered homes being covered in insulating earth matter, the need for natural lighting is extremely important for strategic placing and designs which solutions will benefit the external appearance of the property. In order to combat darkness and claustrophobic feelings, various glazing applications should be considered to lighten as well as ventilate these internal spaces.  

Implementing glazing solutions with multiple functions such as lighting a space as well as creating ventilation, such as the A.R.E.S automated ventilation rooflight. The A.R.E.S aluminium frame is fully thermally broken in order to achieve exceptional thermal performance, with heavy-duty perimeter seals to ensure water tightness and overall protection from the elements; these features paired with an oversized upstand can create an exceptional way to have natural light infill into internal spaces while appropriately ventilating. The specialist solution has various controls which can be integrated into smart home technology systems, there are also considerations of how the weather could affect the internal spaces; to combat this IQ engineered weather sensors which detect rain and wind, to ensure automatic closure if strong wind or rain is detected.  

A house in the Garden living roof with structural walk on glass roof 

 Triple glazing for earth-sheltered home designs 

Triple glazing is available to specify within our slim framed aluminium and structural glazing systems, achieving a specific Uw value enhancing the overall performance of the building. Triple-glazing by IQ appears as minimal as double-glazed systems with triple-glazed sliding glass doors being as little as 26mm, resulting in a slim sightline appearance with elevated performance values which can achieve Passivhaus status and lower carbon footprints. In addition, buildings that achieve the Passivhaus standard can reduce their carbon emissions by up to 80% and energy consumption by up to 85%. This all means that energy bills can be significantly lowered when the Passivhaus standard is achieved. 


Structural glazing for earth-shelter homes 

Frameless glazing is the best way to bring natural light into an interior space and our Invisio structural glazing system has been specifically developed to offer the highest performance levels. Solar gain can also be utilized to reduce c02 emissions, as the heat from the sun’s rays can be incorporated into the heat source for the home. 

As the first fully thermally broken structural glazing system, the Invisio system delivers high thermal performances to keep highly glazed spaces to promote unobstructed views while creating thermal insulation for the internal of the property.  

Triple glazing can be specified to accommodate this, enhancing the wind load and thermal performance of the structural glazing in earth sheltered homes. Performance requirements should be considered at the earliest stages of the project and discussed with our technical team to ensure we recommend glazing solutions that are functional and durable as well as minimal.   



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Built into a gentle slope, the entrance is found on the upper floor while the underground section of the two-storey home remains brightly lit by a fixed structural glass roof. To the side, tall brick feature walls with integrated… 

Find out more by reading the Cedar View frameless structural glazing project. 

For more information on appropriate glazing for earth sheltered home design, to discuss glazing for your next project, or to book a showroom visit, contact the IQ team today.