Tiny homes have become quite a prominent trend in today's housing situations. They can be eco-friendly, affordable, easy to maintain, and promote a slower lifestyle. Not to mention, living in a tiny home helps get rid of unwanted clutter and helps you stick to a minimalist way of thinking. There are many creative ways tiny homes have manifested. One of these ways being homes that resemble those from The Hobbit. Magic Green Homes is the creator behind hobbit houses that you can build yourself.
A Tiny Hobbit House in the American Shire
This adorable prefab is a 400-square-foot hobbit home that almost anyone can build in only three days. Okay, that may be using "build" a bit loosely. The manufacturer claims that you can construct the prefab shell of the home in three days. This is not counting any site work (foundation), interior finishing, or exterior planting. But even so, that's a very fast assembly time for any prefab―and even more amazing for an earth shelter.
What's an Earth Shelter?
Tiny homes have been quite the trend in the past few years, but traditional earth shelters have been around for centuries and are so named because they are built partially underground. They rely on soil and plants to protect the home from the elements and to help regulate the indoor temperature—naturally. However, buildings like these are very difficult to waterproof and offer few options for finishing the interior.
The Magical Hard Shell
Enter Green Magic Homes. They have developed a modular home building system that modernizes the humble earth shelter using vaulted panels. The panels are made from a fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) and are designed to work in conjunction with Earth covering. The assembled structure is rated to hold 8 inches of soil and, in addition, a live load of 44 inches per square foot. The additional load might be imposed by things like plants, snow, or people walking on the home.
So what makes these structures so easy and fast to assemble? Two words: perforated flaps. They make it a snap to attach and seal the vaulted panels together. A 400-square-foot module can be built in three days using three people with limited construction skills and no heavy equipment. Also, channels or ducts for plumbing and electrical runs can be added at any point during the assembly process.
These tiny dome-shaped homes can be adapted to suit different regions. They can also be personalized based on your housing needs. And future expansion is possible by adding more modules to an existing home.
Currently, Green Magic Homes has one distributor in the US and their website has more information about costs and features and you can view photos and renderings of these seemingly magical structures.
Getting Down to Earth
So, are there downsides to these seemingly magical hobbit homes? Of course there are, just as there are with any type of home construction. For starters, these structures seem to be suitable only for warm climates, at least without some additional insulation beyond an earth layer. The estimated R-value of soil is only about 0.125 to 0.25 per inch (at 20 percent moisture content). That means an 8-inch-thick soil cover provides no better than an R-value of 2, which is about as good as a single-pane window with a storm window.
Another consideration is cost: Green Magic estimates the "turnkey" cost of building one of their homes at $125 to $200 per square foot. This is excluding the foundation, which is a significant cost for any home. Turnkey means the home is built by professionals from the ground up and is move-in-ready at the end of the job. By comparison, the cost to build a conventionally framed and insulated home with the highest energy-efficiency standards is around $150 to $200 per square foot.