Monday, May 24, 2010

Greetings From A Green Bed & Breakfast!

Inn Nature earth-sheltered, solar-powered house.
Here I am enjoying the sun in Sarah's organic garden
I just returned from Amherst, Massachusetts, where I attended the college graduation of my son Maxwell. The Amherst-area hotels and inns were booked months in advance, so I did a web search for accomodations further west, toward the Berkshires. That is how I discovered Inn Nature, a solar-powered, earth-sheltered, "off the grid" bed & breakfast in Chesterfield, Ma.

Built into a hillside on twelve acres of woodland and meadow, Inn Nature provides an opportunity to reduce one's carbon footprint while enjoying the peace and quiet of this tranquil, rural area. Inn Nature is completely off the grid (no utility companies), harnessing the power of the sun for all its electricity.

Owner and inn-keeper, Sarah Prince, gave me an informative tour of the house and property. Because the house is built into a hillside, the rear and top are covered with 4 feet of earth, thus we were able to climb up on top of the roof, which is covered with plants, grass and solar panels (which provide power for the house).

"Earth sheltering is an effective way to regulate temperature in a home. It works well in almost any climate. Just below the frost line, the earth stays a fairly constant temperature: 50 degrees F, plus or minus a few degrees, depending on where you live. The surrounding soil provides natural insulation, making these houses inexpensive to heat and cool. The best location for an earth sheltered house is on a well-drained hillside. Windows facing the south or an overhead skylight will fill the interior with sunshine.

In the winter, earth-sheltered homes require very little additional heat to warm them. In the summer, the interior stays cool — while it may be 100F outside, the house will stay at comfortable 70F, thanks to it’s earthen wrap."

(from Optimal Green: Modern Earth Sheltering (

"Earth-sheltered homes are very energy efficient. This type of construction can save as much as 85% on your home's use of fossil fuels for both heating and cooling. In fact, you can even incorporate passive annual heat storage, that effectively allows you to save heat in the summer to use in the winter!

Surprisingly, you also can save on lighting. Most designers of these homes recommend a south or south-east exposure, which guarantees a lot of light, as long as the home has a window for most rooms on the exposed side. Any additional needs for natural light can often be addressed with tubular skylights that can actually funnel light to the place where it is also save a bundle on maintenance. Because your walls are poured concrete, you don't have to do a lot of upkeep. In fact, an earth-sheltered house won't need a new roof or many other kinds of regular upkeep to either the exterior or interior. If you pick the right interior finishes, you could have a virtually maintenance-free home."

(from Mortgage Guide 101 Blog "Going Green: The Earth-Sheltered Home")

Berkeley College is working to reduce its carbon footprint. Click HERE to read the Project Greenpath newsletter.

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