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Solar Pit House

Solar Pit House (click to enlarge)

Solar Pit House (click to enlarge)

Specifications: 1,127 sq. ft. interior living space, 441 sq. ft. interior greenhouse, total = 1,568 sq. ft. interior, Footprint: 36’x53’

Description: This modern solar pit house is based on the traditional pit house. The construction is much the same. Additional ‘modules’ have been added to create an elongated rectangular design for added living space and windows added on the south for solar gain. Each module is based on wood posts set in geopolymer or concrete footings. Wood beams approximately 10”-12” diameter are joined at the posts with half lap joints and pinned in place with rebar or logging spikes. Smaller poles around the perimeter lean against the beams. 24” wide earthbag walls with a reinforced geopolymer or concrete bond beam rest on rubble trench foundations.

Solar Pit House (click to enlarge)

Solar Pit House (click to enlarge)


Solar Pit House Section View (click to enlarge)

Solar Pit House Section View (click to enlarge)

Complete drawings available at http://naturalbuildingblog.com/house-plans/free-house-plans/.
More information at our Natural Building Blog:
Solar Pit House Building Details
Evolution of the Pit House
Affordable, Superinsulated Cold Climate Homes

Note to other designers: I’d like to refine this design with input from other design professionals and make all drawings freely available on the Internet. Please email me at strawhouses [at] yahoo.com if you would like to contribute. Or just leave a comment here if you’re short on time.

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Earthbag Dome Fort

Earthbag Dome Fort (click to enlarge)

Earthbag Dome Fort (click to enlarge)


The Dome Fort is my latest castle design. At 100’ x 112’, the 10’ high by 3’ thick (at the base) fortified walls enclose 9,964 square feet.

The Dome Fort showcases individual designs and combines them into a self sustaining, fortified homestead, where a group of 5-20 people could weather economic and social upheaval. This is a concept drawing that does not show every possible type of defense. Custom designs can be created to meet your needs.

Structures include:
Roundhouse/Dome Cluster 1,330 sq. ft. interior
2 Fortress Towers 1,717 sq. ft. interior each
Castle Tower House above Survival Shelter 880 sq. ft. interior
Carriage House with second story garage apartment 806 sq. ft. interior
2 Round Guard Towers 227 sq. ft. interior each, plus roof deck
Observation Tower 313 sq. ft. interior, plus roof deck

I’ll be glad to discuss all details, including the below grade structures (not shown), with serious clients who hire me at my hourly consulting fee. All plans can be modified for a modest fee. Send inquires to: strawhouses [at] yahoo.com.

Earthbag Castle

Earthbag Castle (click to enlarge)

Earthbag Castle (click to enlarge)


My goal with this project has been twofold: 1. showcase individual designs (which included some designs that have been on the drawing board for months), and 2. combine them into a self sustaining, fortified homestead, where a group of 5-20 people could weather economic and social upheaval. It is not designed to withstand a direct missile or tank attack by governments, or total nuclear Armageddon. All bets are off if things get that bad. But the 10’ high by 3’ thick walls (at the base) should go a long way toward deterring attackers if things do unravel. Anyway, this has been an interesting project and I’m glad to see the high page rankings. It’s definitely been a lot of work.

Earthbag Castle summary:
– The castle consists of four structures – Custom Chonburi main residence, Two-story Roundhouse Above Survival Shelter guesthouse/office, Carriage House with second floor garage apartment, Guard Tower tool shed.
– All structures include a waterproof roof deck with ladder access and crenellations capped with cement or geopolymer
– All structures are also available with more standard roof designs at no extra charge (example: trussed gable roofs).
– Renewable energy systems not shown, but there is ample roof space for solar panels, solar water heaters and wind generators
– Due to a lack of protective roof overhangs, this castle is best suited to dry climates, although a reader pointed out how similar castles have stood the test of time in European climates.
– All plans can be modified for a modest fee. Just email me at strawhouses [at] yahoo.com.

Observation Tower (click to enlarge)

Observation Tower (click to enlarge)


Observation Tower
Specifications: 123 sq. ft. interior, 104 sq. ft. 2nd story, 86 sq. ft. upper floor, total = 313 sq. ft. interior, plus roof deck, Footprint: 15′-6” diameter

Description: The Observation Tower for my Dome Fort (coming soon) could also be used for other purposes such as an office, pantry or even spare bedroom. The kids would love it. A spiraling staircase joins the first three floors, and a ladder provides access to the roof deck. Total height is 31’. The same tower is used in my Native Spirit home design.

Round Guard Tower (click to enlarge)

Round Guard Tower (click to enlarge)


Specifications: 123 sq. ft. interior, 104 sq. ft. upper floor, total = 227 sq. ft. interior, plus roof deck, Footprint: 15′-6” diameter

Description: This guard tower for my Dome Fort could also be used for other purposes such as an office, pantry or even spare bedroom. The kids would love it (and big kids, too). A spiraling staircase joins the first and second floors, and a ladder provides access to the roof deck. Total height is 22’. The Round Guard Tower is the same as the Observation Tower except it is one floor (9’) shorter.

Observation Tower and Round Guard Tower plan

Observation Tower and Round Guard Tower plan

Fortress Tower

Fortress Tower (click to enlarge)

Fortress Tower (click to enlarge)


This is nearly the same design as my 33’ (10m) 2-bedroom Roundhouse except the roof. The walls have a slight taper to create a castle appearance for the Dome Fort I’m currently designing. In addition, a second floor with slot windows has been added.

Specifications: 855 sq. ft. interior, 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 855 sq. ft. upper floor, total = 1,717 sq. ft. interior, plus roof deck, Footprint: 36′ diameter

Description: 10 meters (33’) diameter is the maximum size of a round earthbag structure before needing buttressing (unless you use reinforced earthbags). This spacious design features a large master bedroom with desk and walk-in closet, efficient kitchen and south-facing window wall for excellent solar gain.

Fortress Tower (click to enlarge)

Fortress Tower (click to enlarge)

Disaster-resistant hemispheric dome made with double ferrocement shells with insulating fill (click to enlarge)

Disaster-resistant hemispheric dome made with double ferrocement shells with insulating fill (click to enlarge)


This 20′ interior diameter, 314 sq. ft. design is my proposed solution for houses that need to withstand repeat hurricanes. See How to Build the Strongest Buildings That Can Last Centuries for more details. Features include: lexan windows with removable window and door shutters, monolithic geopolymer slab floor that’s integrated with the walls, build on high ground, plastic mesh that won’t rust, geopolymer plaster both sides, geopolymer pumicecrete or geopolymer perlite fill. Integrating the slab and dome and building on a rubble trench is ideal for seismic zones. In an earthquake, the building would slide back and forth somewhat like an upside down cereal bowl on a kitchen table (meaning the whole house remains intact as one shell).

The design will have to be tweaked for individual homeowner needs, and some details worked out with the engineer. Note how a woodstove is shown to reach a wider audience, even though it’s probably not needed in Florida. The woodstove could be replaced with an emergency water storage and filtration system, etc. A fold-out bed saves space. Please email me and we’ll work out the details to fit your needs.

Disaster-resistant hemispheric dome made with double ferrocement shells with insulating fill (click to enlarge)

Disaster-resistant hemispheric dome made with double ferrocement shells with insulating fill (click to enlarge)

Castle Tower House

Castle Tower House (click to enlarge)

Castle Tower House (click to enlarge)


The Castle Tower House is largely the same plan as the 2-story Roundhouse Above Survival Shelter with a crenellated roof design. In the earthbag castle I’m currently designing it’s used as a corner ‘watch tower’. Its primary function in ‘peace time’ is a guesthouse or office. Compare this version to the original plan to see how a few minor changes can make a lot of difference in appearance.

Specifications: 20’ DIA roundhouse, 314 sq. ft. interior first floor, 252 sq. ft. interior loft, 314 sq. ft. interior survival shelter plus pantry), 880 total square foot interior, Footprint: 23′ DIA, 23′ x 31′ survival shelter

Description: Every castle worth its name has to have at least one underground survival shelter. In this case it’s underneath the Tower House. It’s prudent to have a safe place to go to in case of emergencies, and what better place than your basement. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and other natural disasters are all too common. While others panic and run for last minute preparations, you can calmly retreat to your basement (through a hidden trap door) that’s wisely stocked with everything you need to ride out the disaster.

More details on the Earthbag Survival Shelter that’s also sold separately (an excellent starter project and one of my most popular designs).