Above, the Hobbit home’s front facade. Built to Passive-House standards, the home’s features include: low air infiltration; super-insulated walls, roof, and floor; high-performance windows and exterior doors; energy recovery ventilation; and ADA accessibility (inside and out).

For the past six years, when Jim Costigan wasn’t working on high-rise construction and battling long commutes in and out of New York City, he was building his dream—a “Hobbit” house. This civil engineer, self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings nerd, and father of four teenagers spent his weekend “down-time” building an earth-sheltered home in Pawling, N.Y., some 70 miles north of NYC.

Along with sons Ethan, Jude, and Terence, daughter Georgia, and wife Jo, Jim built what can best be described as a heavily-insulated arched highway overpass built to Passive House standards. One of the home’s most impressive features is its cast-in-place concrete roof.

In total, the crew installed tons of rebar joining the footings to the walls and the walls to the arched roof. Eighty-five yards (342,000 lb.) of concrete was needed to complete the roof—and the forms held without a blowout.

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