PSP – Underground Housing

The next stop in my home design explorations was Post-Shoring-Polyurethane(Plastic). It was so interesting, I even picked up The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book. It’s a wonderful read. The writer really puts his whole opinionated personality into the book. The basic steps of PSP are;

Dig
Man do you dig. Dig out space for the whole darned house. Floor to roof. Room around it to build the walls. Even the back patio area!

Post
Use a post-holer to put in your support beams. Lots of them. 4-8 feet apart. Those beams aren’t little 2×4’s either, but big ‘ole 10’+ diameter logs. Backfill and tamp the earth around them REALLY well to make them secure. You want to use some as support beams for the roof, too, while you’re at it.

Shoring
that’s really simple. You just put boards (or old furniture, whatever you want your walls to be made of) on the outside of your outermost support beams. That holds the earth back, so make sure it’s something that can take the force of the earth. You do the roof pretty much the same way.

Polyurethane
That’s just plastic. Thick plastic. Like, the stuff people cover their pools with in bad weather, and line man made lakes with. Can you guess what that’s for? Why, to keep the water out. You cover the whole darned place in it! Walls, roof, floor, pretty much any part of the house that isn’t open to the air. Then backfill and tamp the earth around the house really well. Throw a foot or so of dirt on the roof and plant something with non-invasive roots.

Details
Ok, now you do the other outside walls…front door, back wall o’ windows to the patio/garden. Put in your wood stove, etc.

There are a lot of flaws in the PSP designs, but most of the actual structural ones have been worked out in the more recent editions of his book. For one, you don’t want a big long stove pipe running through your house unless you really like house fires. Put that stove somewhere you can run a short pipe! The author assumes you’ll have access to a well or stream. I’m planning to use rainwater, and collection just doesn’t fit into his plans at all. There are a lot of assumptions about lifestyle choices, and not all of them fit well with my own. While this is a wonderful method, it’s important to use it with a critical eye. If something doesn’t fit with your needs, toss it! Redesign it! Replace it!

There are a lot of elements I plan to keep though. I like the idea of earth as insulation, and will likely incorporate it into my *rain collecting* roof somehow. I love his BBQ stove idea, especially the pass through window. I’m absolutely putting that into my house! He has some wonderful information about acquiring cheap and free materials, as well as the dangers of some of the newer store bought construction material. Most of all, he really drives home the lack of logic in modern construction methods. Researching PSP really opened my eyes to the world of possibilities in the details of building my house. I had begun to think for myself about the larger methods, but was still falling back on mainstream beliefs about the details.

While I’m not planning to build an entirely PSP home anymore, I will certainly be retaining many of it’s elements.

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