Good Life

Home is where the hill is for Curtin Township man

Doyle Heaton is putting his Curtin Township home on the market.The two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot ode to southern exposure sits up on a hill overlooking the creek across the road. Oh, and it’s also largely underground.

Heaton has instead encrusted his house in grass and topsoil, eliminating the need for insulators like fiber and foam.

“It looked just a regular house until I started throwing dirt on top,” Heaton said.

The Curtin Township house is the third of its kind that Heaton has constructed, inhabited and sold. He can trace the origins of the unusual design all the way back to his freshman year of high school, where the curriculum required him to complete mechanical and architectural drafting courses. One of the assignments was to design a house.

“There’s about your whole summer just drawing roof,” Heaton said.

As it turns out, a singular patch of grass on top is much easier to sketch than hundreds of little shingles. The design that Heaton submitted was his idea of a prank, but now it’s possible that the joke was on him.

He’s a learned a lot since high school — the experiencing of owning and operating a construction company will tend to do that for you — and after years of building cookie-cutter townhouses, Heaton was looking for a challenge.

“I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to do something different,’ ” Heaton said.

The first two “earth houses” that Heaton designed were built with a flat roof, but their Curtin Township counterpart has an arch that yields a higher ceiling. He faced the front of the structure 12 degrees off of true north to make the most of the natural light that bathes the front yard, all the better for the passive geothermal heating and cooling system.

“I tried to build it as green as possible,” Heaton said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready