Hzxiaoya the great majority of subterranean dwellings

Earth-sheltered and underground Container House are certainly nothing new to MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readership. After all, this magazine has been touting the advantages of such dwellings (low fuel costs, minimal maintenance, and superior durability to name a few) for some time now.

Recently, however, we've come across a new concept which might just alter the course of the whole "underground" movement: the prefabricated fiberglass house!

As most of us already know, the great majority of subterranean dwellings are at present made of concrete, poured into forms that have been carefully set into excavations. However, while this method does assure a rock-solid structure, the entire process can be expensive, and often forces the owner to hire a professional work crew to achieve satisfactory results. Not only that, concrete—because of its porous nature—must be thoroughly protected from the effects of moisture ... which will tend to seep through even the thickest of slabs and can actually deteriorate the cement-and-sand mixture.

But now after two years of research, Ralph Bullock (of American Solartron Corporation) has come up with an alternative to the usual underground building materials: his "answer" is fiberglass!

Strange as it may seem, Ralph wasn't looking for a concrete substitute when he made his discovery. In fact he had set out to develop and market a low-cost alternative to "standard" subterranean construction. His idea was to precast concrete slabs and join them together at the building site to form a "finished" structure.

Upon investigation, though, Mr. B. discovered that a prefabricated concrete home just wasn't feasible: "It was far too heavy to transport in sections, and even worse, the finished house would have been overly expensive. That's when we decided to try other materials." The "other material" that Ralph settled on was fiberglass, which is strong, inexpensive, lightweight, water resistant, fireproof, non biodegradable, and known for Its terrific insulative properties. Furthermore, this amazing substance has—for years—been used successfully in the manufacture of septic tanks, sewer lines, boats, and railroad cars—applications that demand a high degree of durability.

Of course, the individual "Solartron" panels are not made up of fiberglass alone. Instead, a section of 5/8" Prefab House plywood that measures 8' X 9'4" is "framed out" with 2 X 6's, which are glued and nailed on 16" centers and also fastened around the board's perimeter. Then the entire assembly is laminated with Hetron 92 FS (a fire-retardant resin) and covered with layers of fiberglass and resin alternately till a panel thickness of 7 1/8" is eventually achieved. Finally, a fine-mesh fiberglass veil is laminated to the exterior of the wall to guarantee a virtually waterproof outside surface.