Where the uphill patio is not converted into a greenhouse it still saves energy by sheltering the windows from the worst of the wind. Houses, like people, are subject to a chill factor of the wind. Windows especially, since they lose as much as fifteen times the amount of heat as does a well insulated wall. The higher the wind the greater the heat loss. The Uphill Patio makes sheltered windows possible.

The last four benefits—barbecue windows, views, cross ventilation, and balance of light—will be covered in later sections.

The next four sections deal with posts and elevation changes and their special uses— features which are either common to or unique with underground housing.


Who wants posts in the middle of the room? No one. They interfere with traffic, view, continuity of the room and are sure to be bumped into in unwary moments.

So you will try to design with most or all of your posts along the walls. In some cases this may mean putting in an extra beam or two. In other cases it may mean designing the room a little longer and narrower than you otherwise might. Or it might mean dividing a room into several elevations and using posts as shoring retainers at the elevation change.

Posts along the walls can have three or more functions. In the corner of a room they can not only provide roof support but could be shoring retainers for both east/west and north/south walls and possibly the jamb for either a door, window, or closet besides.

Remember that your posts are things of beauty. They are not cold concrete columns in a parking lot supporting the tier above, nor are they some monstrous pillar painted a pathetic pastel which carries the burden of six floors of department store junk over your head. Instead they support living soil and vegetation. They are trees which needed thinning, cut so that others might grow better. Hopefully they were from your own building site and have been lovingly handworked to bring out the grain and insect markings. Varnished and perhaps stained, they become works of art.

But you can still bump into works of art. Sometimes you may need to design with posts in the center of the room. Don't despair. Multiple use may be made of these posts, also.

One such center post in my house serves in Aeven capacities. They are: (1) Roof support; (2) Psychological assurance of strength; (3) Psychological divider of one section of the house from another; (4) Retainer for the north/south shoring of a mini-level; (5) Retainer for the east/west shoring of the same mini-level; (6) Visual reminder that there is a mini-level so that you do not trip; and (7) Something to grab onto in case you trip anyway.

There are other uses you may put to posts in the middle of a room. If it is a single post vou might want to make it the center support of a round table. Such a table will certainly never wobble because the leg was unstable. Or you could use it as the end support of a work counter or book case, or for a stack of cabinets.

Two or more posts can be used as both ends of tables, bookshelves, counters or cabinet stacks. Cleverly placed these items will add to the utility of the room by channeling the flow of traffic, providing quiet nooks, or serving as function separators (physical barriers within a room which serve to delineate space used for one function from space used for another—e.g., bookshelves separating a TV area from reading or conver sation areas). In addition, posts may be used to hang lanterns, lamps, coats, artwork, clotheslines or other items.

Don't design with posts in the living area of a room if you can avoid it, but if you can't avoid it, make full use of the ones you must have.

Elevation Changes

Since we are dealing mainly with houses on hillsides, attention must be paid to ele-vational differences both between rooms and within the rooms themselves.

As with the case of having roof-supporting posts in a house, having elevational changes may be viewed as either a detriment or as a bonus. Those who think of it as a detriment will bewail the fact that they must climb stairs. Those who recognize it as a bonus realize that elevational differences add character to a house; help separate various areas for different functions; help distribute heat in homes without central heating; and make it possible to have spectacular views through the use of clerestories. They also make possible some interesting special features.

In my $500 house the elevational differences within the essentially one room structure came about for a more pragmatic reason than any of the above: it saved us considerable digging. (It was entirely hand dug, you'll recall.) Yet three of the above benefits became apparent very quickly: the house was much more interesting than it would have been had it been one level; the heat rose to make the study/bedroom (where the least physical exertion occurred) the warmest part of the house though it was the furthest away from

the stove; and it made the three sections of the house both psychologically and physically separate by function while allowing visual sweep, air circulation and balance of light.

Had it not been for the four foot elevation rise of the study/bedroom, the north wall of that area would have been nearly twelve feet from floor to ceiling making it a most uninteresting dark and difficult wall to liven up. It would have also added four more feet of potential drainage problems since with its existing six foot rise from floor to windows .it already comes close to violating our cardinal rule of not allowing the drainage to back up against a wall.

I don't think, as a designer, I'd particularly go out of my way to add elevational differences on a house built on a flat area. I suspect that could look a little contrived unless one were making use of the clerestory concept— but I surely would work with the idea on a hillside home.

Be wary of elevational differences within a room of heavy use such as the kitchen. You don't want to be climbing up and stumbling down stairs in a work area.

Be wary also of elevational differences between rooms of related use such as the kitchen and dining rooms for the same reasons.


One of the interesting uses for an elevation change is the table/seat concept. A person may sit on the upper tier and dangle his legs down into the elevation below while dining, writing or whatever at a table specially constructed in the lower elevations to meet these needs. Portable back rests may be used if desired. People may sit at the other side of the table on conventional stools or chairs.

Photo at left shows post with seven functions. An elevation change is seen in midpicture with a mini-level at lower right.

A variation of this theme is to mold seats with backrests right into the elevation change itself. These may be to service a table such as the dining room table, or they may be simply a row of seats, or they may be built as an "L" or "U" shaped conversation pit. TO KEEP CHILDREN, PETS, DRUNKS, ETC. from falling off, a desk, work bench, bookcase, home entertainment console, bar or other feature may be built along the upper edge of the elevation change. This would also serve as both a sight and sound barrier to separate the activities at each elevation while still allowing clerestory views, light balance, and cross ventilation.

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