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Earth Sheltered Homes

"Another type of building is emerging: one that actually heals the scars of its own construction. It conserves rainwater and fuel and it provides a habitat for creatures other than the human one. Maybe it will catch on, maybe it won't. We'll see." - Malcolm Wells, 2002.

The earth sheltered house uses the ground as insulating blanket which effectively protects it from temperature extremes, wind, rain and extreme weather events. An earth sheltered home is energy-efficient, quiet, freeze-proof and low maintenance. Aesthetically an earth sheltered home blends in with the natural environment, leaving more yard space and more space for wildlife.

Fifteen feet below ground the soil maintains a fairly constant temperature equal to the annual average temperature of the area's surface air. If the average temperature in your area is 55, that means the soil temperature at 15 feet is 55 degrees and in the winter you will only have to bring the temperature inside your earth sheltered home up thirteen degrees, to bring it up to a comfortable 68 degrees. Versus bringing up the inside temperature 68 degrees, if your home is above ground and the outside windchill is 0. In the summer, that 55 degree soil will also keep your home much cooler than an above ground home. Many earth homes incorporate passive solar designs lessening even further the need for fuel for heating or cooling.

There are two types of earth sheltered building. Earth Sheltered - where dirt covers three exterior sides and the roof (the walls are most often concrete). And Earth Bermed - where dirt is pushed up against the exterior walls only, and not onto the roof, yet the roof is usually super insulated.

earth sheltered home

Honingham Earth Sheltered Social Housing. The Uk’s first earth-sheltered social housing scheme. Each two bedroom home has a high thermal mass superstructure, is super-insulated and orientated south. These characteristics have enabled some of the households to reduce their total annual energy consumption by two thirds of what a convential home would use.

earth sheltered home

Looks like vertical placed logs are helping to support the berm on the right. "We do not have any heating on at all in the winter and the building still stays at 72 degrees. The light comes in through the full-length windows in winter but in the summer the sun’s heat does not penetrate so you stay cool" say the owners.

earth sheltered home

Earth sheltered home with conventional facade. Dig out a pond (raise fish or create a natural swim pond) and place the soil on the house. By Formworks.

earth sheltered home

Earth sheltered home, as above. See the kit and plans at:

earth sheltered home

The facade may accommodate any architectural styling of the home owners choosing. Here the structure is a bolted together skeletal steel system which is then sprayed with pressurized concrete, same process as a gunite swimming pool.

earth sheltered home

This earth sheltered house, in the wilds of the Outer Hebrides, provides a perfect living environment for harsh weather. This home's support walls are constructed of PolarWall (polystyrene).

earth sheltered home

An award winning earth shelter dwelling by Cam Architects. The Sedum House incorporates green technology in the form of ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels and a whole house ventilation system. The use of highly insulating ICF in the walls makes for a very low energy use dwelling. Gimingham, North Norfolk, UK. Note the sunken room on right. More photos:

earth sheltered house

Side wall of above Sedum House:

earth sheltered home

Earth sheltered Pinnacle House is an award-winning, sustainably-designed home in Lyme, New Hampshire. The home was designed and built by architect Don Metz in 1971, a pioneer in green home design and construction. The north-side of the house is built into the hillside, creating a green roof through the use of earth-sheltered building techniques. The house faces due south, offering passive solar gain and spectacular views from every room.

earth sheltered home

Inside of above.

earth sheltered home

"Underhill", near Holmfirth, Yorkshire, UK.
'The first “modern” earth-sheltered house in Britain and the home of its architect Arthur Quarmby, a pioneer of earth-sheltered buildings. The house features earth embankments, turf roof, lots of insulation and a visual impact that not even the pickiest of neighbors could fault.'

earth sheltered home

Earth Sheltered Rainbow Valley Farm.

earth sheltered house

This bermed house in California is also passive solar. Image courtesy of NREL

earth sheltered home

Earth bermed home. Back and one side covered with soil.

earth sheltered home design

Plan for above home. In a rainy climate, with this design, it would be necessary to create a waterproof channel along the north wall of the home to direct water away from the home, or possibly into a tank that could also store heat.

earth sheltered house

Malcolm Wells Cherry Hill Office.
A quiet, light filled office beneath a meadow that physically impacts its immediate environment as little as possible, yet is adjacent to a six lane highway.

earth sheltered house

Earth Sheltered Homes, Parame, St-Malo, France.
Photo by: John Leather,

earth sheltered house

Robot Ranch, seven interconnected earth sheltered domes. This home built into the side of a hill has 4,144 square feet of living area, yet it disappears into the landscape.

earth sheltered home

Earth sheltered homes in the eco-village at Dyssekilde, Denmark.

earth sheltered home

An earth sheltered home in Oregon being readied for its earth covering. A whole blog devoted to the construction of this home here:

earth sheltered home

Allan Shope designed an ecologically focused house for himself and his family in Amenia, New York. The triangular house is built into the earth, and covered with native flora transplanted from other parts of the property.

earth sheltered home

Interior of earth sheltered home, above. Interior wood was milled from trees on the property. Image copyright Architectural Digest:

earth sheltered house

Earth sheltered dome home in Vermont.

earth sheltered home

The Walled Garden, Barnsdale with greenhouse by Search Architects. The home is single room deep, facing the sun, super-insulated, cut in to the landscape contours, covered in earth and overlooking the open countryside.

earth sheltered home

Dani Ridge House in California by Carver + Schicketanz is tucked into a hillside. Gorgeous house, see more pics:

earth sheltered home

An earth-sheltered dwelling (Jag Hol) on the outskirts of the Norfolk village of East Tuddenham. A self-built insitu concrete, single story dwelling with exceptional insulation levels which costs less than £10 a week to run.

earth sheltered home

Underground home by local architect John Bodger. This two-story house is burrowed backwards into rock at the site of on an old quarry. In Cumbria, UK. Plans and lots more about the project:

earth sheltered home

Underground home by John Bodger. As above.

earth covered home

Dutch Mountain House, Huizen, Netherlands by denieuwegeneratie.

earth sheltered home

Earth sheltered home, Saint Jeannet, France, photo by
Jean-Pierre Cavelan.

earth sheltered home

Earth House Estate Lättenstrasse, Dietikon, Switzerland.
These earth covered houses are centered around a small artificial lake with the entrances well hidden and integrated into the sides of the settlement. The residential settlement consists of nine houses, one a 7 bedroom home! The daytime areas are situated towards the south, the night time areas towards the north. In the middle, you find the bathrooms and the connecting stairs to the basement. All the bathrooms get natural light through rooftop windows.

earth sheltered house

Hobbiton, as used in The Hobbit film. Near Matamata in New Zealand. Photo: Rob Chandler.

underground home

Underground home, Hobbiton, New Zealand.

earth sheltered home

Casa Organica. This underground house was built in 1985 by organic architect Javier Senosiain. Naucalpan, Mexico.

earth sheltered home

Use an umbrella to insulate the surrounding soil and increase inner temperatures even more. An umbrella house or PAHS (Passive Annual Heat Storage) home works on the principle that Earth is an ideal thermal mass for storing heat over long time periods. Summer’s heat is absorbed out of the home into the surrounding dry earth, keeping it cool and comfortable. This heat reserve is then conducted back up into the home when winter temperatures prevail, heat is available even through an entire winter. To contain the heat, the heat should flow between the earth and the home, rather than the earth and the out-of-doors. Keeping the earth dry around the periphery of the home is necessary. The umbrella's sandwich of polystyrene insulation and polyethylene sheeting (about R-20) insulates a huge mass of surrounding dirt instead of just the house. The lower, inside portion of the home needs but minimal insulation. See John Hait’s book: Passive Annual Heat Storage, Improving the Design of Earth Shelters.


Earth Sheltered Dome Houses:

1) The Terra-Dome building system is a forming system that helps create a concrete steel reinforced structure in modular form of  24' x 24' or 28' x 28' (inside measurement). These modules are poured on location and can be arranged in a multitude of configurations.  The Terra-Dome module is used for earth-sheltered structures in most cases.
2) Concrete Earth Sheltered Homes:
3) Polarwall, UK:
4) Monolithic Dome Homes:
5) Bill Lishman's unique underground house was the culmination of years of research and countless hours of design.
6) Earth-Sheltered Home Kits for Owner-Builders:
7) PBS:


1) Malcolm Wells Designs:
2) Plans for an Earthbag-Earth Shelter:
3) Earth Sheltered Tech, Lots!:
4) Plans for a rammed tire home:
5) Earth Style Home Plans: www.c
6) Atrium style:
7) SolArc earth sheltered:
8) Earth Berm:


1) The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler.

2) The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book by Mike Oehler.

3) Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable... By Rob Roy:
4) Building Underground: The Design and Construction Handbook for Earth-Sheltered Houses by Herbert Wade, 1983.

4) The Earth-Sheltered House: An Architect's Sketchbook:
5) How to Build an Underground
6) Underground Plans
7) Book Download by Jeremy Harrall - Search Architects:

8) Solar-Heating a Subterranean

9) Earth Sheltered Housing Design: Guidelines, Examples, and References,
10) Minnesota Underground Space Center, 1979.

11) Breathing Walls A Biological Approach to
12) Healthy Building Envelope Design and Construction, 2008:


1) "Efficient Earth shelter homes." U.S. Department of Energy. 2012.
2) "Digging for the green: Underground architecture and sustainable design." Hall, Loretta.

3) ACU professor Ronnie McQueen teaches benefits of earth house:

4) "Underground urban farm." Trends in Japan. March 17, 2005.

5) Cooled soil as a cooling source for buildings:

earth sheltered house

In Coober Pedy, Australia daytime highs often climb into the 100s and many have taken up residence in abandoned opal mines to beat the heat.





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Showing comments 1 to 50 of 54 | Next | Last
Posts: 53
Reply #54 on : Thu September 17, 2015, 14:43:37
It was about Sun Ray Kelly. I cannot find the video, it appears to have been erased from the web. Here is a reference to it:
April Curry
Posts: 53
Earth home
Reply #53 on : Thu September 17, 2015, 09:48:47
While discussing earth homes with family. I remember seeing a home featured on MTV Cribs. This home was earth friendly to the point that tub/shower water was drained to the garden. Hot tub was heated with hot rocks. I cant seem to find this home anywhere online. Please help!!!
Posts: 53
building bunker but love this better
Reply #52 on : Fri September 11, 2015, 14:11:25
in process of building a large bunker under ground, prepper, but love this idea a lot better. Have seen a program about grey, waste, water with green house that is part of house and you can live off of Grid and have your own food. any ideas or phone numbers who can help me design better?
Posts: 53
blueprint for a earth home
Reply #51 on : Sat July 18, 2015, 17:06:52
looking for some blueprints for a earth home or a earth sheltered home i really would like to make my first and only house a earth home but cant find a good blueprint
Posts: 53
Reply #50 on : Tue June 16, 2015, 00:05:40
I found a high tech and beautiful technology at Green Magic homes dot com, a new generation of earth sheltered homes.
patty mead
Posts: 53
Re: Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #49 on : Tue April 14, 2015, 23:17:52
We have a 30 yr old underground concrete house. It has a few leaks.I feel we need to reroof the whole roof to last another 30 yrs. How to do this and who to contact in British Columbia, Canada
camille Gans
Posts: 53
Information regarging Earth Home
Reply #48 on : Mon March 23, 2015, 16:36:15
I live in Big City Houston TX, everything is big, however I'm middle age my husband and I, we both want to retire in a self sustaining home, I love the idea of a Earth Home, at first when my husband showed me the home online, I was like have you lost your mind. But I'm now sold.
Posts: 53
Student of Arch.
Reply #47 on : Sat March 14, 2015, 07:00:31
I had a doubt. what can the minimum height of slope under which you wish to build the earth house? and also, for how many years can this last if the best materials are used?
Jeff Hickock
Posts: 53
Earth Home Builder
Reply #46 on : Tue November 18, 2014, 18:39:33
We have been building earth sheltered homes across the country for more than 40 years now. Our home is the most unique earth sheltered home on the market today, as no other earth sheltered structure offers a true domed, cathedral-type ceiling. Our clients are finding that it costs less than half as much to live in one of our homes as it does in a conventional home.

You will find that we are able to save you up to 80% on your energy costs while practically doing away with maintenance costs. Our homes are drawing a great deal of national attention. Earth Sheltered Technology, Inc. has won national design and building awards over the last several years. We are undisputedly the oldest earth sheltered builder in the nation who has built nothing except earth sheltered structures over the past 40 years. We are also the only known earth sheltered builder to offer a written warranty against leakage. Visit our new website at
Posts: 53
Reply #45 on : Wed September 17, 2014, 03:17:41
Simply wanna remark on few general things, the website style and design is perfect, the content is rattling wonderful: D.
Posts: 53
Re: Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #44 on : Fri August 01, 2014, 12:51:39
Hi Richard,

I am sorry to hear about your challenge. I must admit I am not an expert on financing green building though...

Do you know about

Here is a link to there building topics page....I do not see earth sheltered so you will have to fish out where those experts are...

I am sure someone there will be able to answer your question.

Best! Good luck! Keiren
Richard Clark
Posts: 53
Financing a Earth Sheltered Home
Reply #43 on : Fri August 01, 2014, 09:13:28
I have lived in my earth sheltered home for over 8 years, completely remodeled it and was financed with Fannie Mae and serviced by Chase. I refinanced it locally with a bank with a loan that balloons every 3 years. I am trying to sell and all the appraisers say no one will finance it because no comps. Any suggestions?
Cosmic Sunshine
Posts: 53
EVAC Earth House in 1970s
Reply #42 on : Mon July 28, 2014, 08:04:03
My dad designed and built this house - back in 1970s north of Seattle Washington. My parents lived there for over 20 years. The new owner added grapes vines (to make wine!) and lots of vegetable gardens and chickens and ducks and lives there happily using the water from rain. My dad had designed a windmill as well, to give power, but there was not enough wind. It was written up in Mother Earth News in 1979 entitled The Energy Efficient House That Jack Built. I have the original plans.
Brad Peceimer
Posts: 53
We built a earthsheltered home
Reply #41 on : Sun June 22, 2014, 02:56:21
We built a home in Grass Valley, California that uses @10% of the energy that our stick framed neighbors use.

We used a kit from Performace Building ( and it was pretty easy to get it approved as it meets all building codes. The advantage of this is that we could get a loan for the construction and then for the final finished structure.
Posts: 53
Reply #40 on : Wed June 11, 2014, 11:07:18
I have just started my dissertation on earth sheltered curious enough to dig deep (literally)..and see what come out of earth sheltered homes,Lets GO!!
Posts: 53
Crowdfunding our Green Roof
Reply #39 on : Wed April 30, 2014, 15:26:17
My family and I are building an Earthship inspired house. We have started a crowdfunding campaign to finance a green roof. Please go here and check it out www dot fundedbyme dot com/.../green-roof-over-our-heads We could really use some help!! So if you want to be part of the story please back our campaign. We offer really cool rewards!!
Posts: 53
Southern us
Reply #38 on : Tue April 08, 2014, 08:55:45
I'm very interested in the green lifestyle and love these homes. My husband and I have a huge disdain for fire ants and termites, as well as roaches - what bug-life do you have to deal with? Do you think having a green roof would encourage an ant colony? They like to infest yards and can be challenging to get rid of- I would hate to open my pantry and find them burrowed into my ceiling. *shiver*
hernando acosta muñoz
Posts: 53
decorator and designer
Reply #37 on : Fri March 14, 2014, 15:45:25
good styles and desingns
Posts: 1
To Bethany
Reply #36 on : Tue March 04, 2014, 08:42:25
As Fairbanks is in the center of Alaska, close to the Arctic Circle, I question whether permafrost is in your area? I am afraid submerging a house in permafrost is not a good idea. But building a berm house might be okay. Earth sheltered dug into soil is perfect for many northern locations, but not for 'extreme' northern locations with frozen subsoil.
Posts: 53
ground temperatures
Reply #35 on : Tue March 04, 2014, 06:36:23
For those that are worried about cold climates, if memory serves me right, the PAHS book was written about a house in Minnesota. Once you go below the frost line the soil remains a relatively constant temperature. The home mentioned in that book survived its first year with a brutal winter, somewhere around 1980, with temperatures ranging from 66-74 degrees and no additional heating.
Bethany H D
Posts: 53
Insulation in extremes
Reply #34 on : Mon March 03, 2014, 11:55:08
I live in Fairbanks, Alaska. The summer temperatures often reach the mid to high 90s and the winter temperatures often drop to -40s.
Have houses like these been successful in areas with extreme cold?
Karen J
Posts: 53
Sustainable Homes
Reply #33 on : Sun February 16, 2014, 15:44:00
I am so happily amazed by these earth, steel and assorted sustainable homes. I would love to throw off my debts and get back to not only practical but beautiful living space like this. I think I am hooked. I feel like my mind has been given room the breath with all these ideas. Thanks for sharing.
Posts: 53
about houses
Reply #32 on : Thu February 13, 2014, 01:55:20
houses are excellant. just like heaven on earth.
Posts: 53
Re: Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #31 on : Wed January 15, 2014, 05:34:07
Interesting to see the different approaches. In the 1970s (could even have been earlier) there were pictures of a bungalow built into the slope of a mountain. The writing was explaining, the architect built this as the house of the future in South of France. Unfortunately the magazine got lost some when, and never cold find word of this anywhere again.
Posts: 53
Re: Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #30 on : Fri January 03, 2014, 20:41:09
Dwayne - seems you might need to add some plastic sheeting above your home if it is already leaking. This is sure to stop the leaking.

Moon - you can build an underground home for a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars...a big spread considering labor costs and size.
Moon Panther
Posts: 53
Reply #29 on : Thu January 02, 2014, 22:22:42
These are amazing!! I am so ecstatic to see these buildings and that people are working on this everyday! I would love to build a green eco-friendly house in the future, there's no other option for me!

But the question is.. how much do these cost? I imagine they range greatly, so I guess I'm asking what the range is, lowest to highest?

I know earth-bag building can be very cost friendly.
dwayne clark
Posts: 53
water proffing roof and walls
Reply #28 on : Thu January 02, 2014, 16:35:13
i have a 34 year old underground concrete house has a few leaks how to water proof it for remodel it used to have dirt on roof was removed and concrete pored over it needs dug out and re water proofed what to use and who does it arkansas
Posts: 53
Pics of other earth-bermed houses on FB
Reply #27 on : Thu January 02, 2014, 15:23:46
You can search formworks.building on Facebook and see pics of a TON of ICF houses built using their system. We are considering an earth-bermed house, but living in Interior Alaska with ground thaw issues, etc., is giving us second thoughts. If you know of anyone who has built on further north than Homer I'd be interested in knowing about it.
Tom Rault
Posts: 53
Re: Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #26 on : Thu January 02, 2014, 05:38:53
Very nice informative site. Would like to build one of these, but the cost?
Lovely pics!
Posts: 53
Earth Homes
Reply #25 on : Wed January 01, 2014, 07:01:09
I studied these when I lived in California, back in the 80's as an alternative to some of the poorly insulated, overpriced homes they had there. I'm glad to see that they're still being built. How cost effective are these to construct? If they are going to cost more than stick built homes, it will be only for the superwealthy. It would be great to make it possible for some of us middle class folks to enjoy and benefit from these homes as well.
Posts: 53
Gaston's comment
Reply #24 on : Sun December 29, 2013, 09:14:14
For the non French speakers, Gaston's question was thus:

It is very beautiful but who can offer this kind of house or will we find in France a Departmental territories and politicians willing to let implement this type of home??

Gaston, you will need to speak with the owners of the houses you see on this site, or start becoming best friends with the Mayor of your local town. ----------------

Gaston, vous aurez besoin de parler avec les propriétaires des maisons que vous voyez sur ce site, ou commencer à devenir les meilleurs amis avec le maire de votre ville locale.
John Lane
Posts: 53
Reply #23 on : Thu December 26, 2013, 14:27:00
Some of the French homes look alot like WW2 era fortifications/artillery batteries. Anyone know of any repurposed war remnants?
ACCESS Basement Conversions Ltd
Posts: 53
Access Basement Conversions in UK
Reply #22 on : Fri December 06, 2013, 03:56:32
Nice information and nice blog posting. Thanks for sharing it.
Jeff Stewart
Posts: 53
Reply #21 on : Sun December 01, 2013, 08:00:41
Nice site--very informative.

Posts: 53
Great report!
Reply #20 on : Mon November 25, 2013, 03:12:45
Nice job, really a never see so many idea in one page.
Posts: 53
Re: Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #19 on : Sun October 06, 2013, 11:12:01
If ever my house burns down, I will RE-build it in this fashion. It's perfectly sited for such a house, facing slightly west of due south, and the basement is already dug in - I'd just rebuild it using the basement level as the main level!
Alessandra Mariano
Posts: 53
Earth Sheltered Homes
Reply #18 on : Sun October 06, 2013, 10:25:01
Great great projects!
I would like to see more images and information about the quality of living inside these homes.
Want to know more about the different designs.
Posts: 53
list of builders by region
Reply #17 on : Sun October 06, 2013, 04:58:01
I am interested I a list of builders, contractors, etc kf earth shelter homes.
Is one available?
Brooke O
Posts: 53
Reply #16 on : Sun October 06, 2013, 02:37:06
C'est très beau mais qui peux s'offrir ce genre de maison et ou trouve-t-on en France une direction départementale des territoires et des élus prêts à laisser implanter ce genre d'habitation ???
humaira abbasi
Posts: 53
great ideas
Reply #15 on : Sat October 05, 2013, 15:53:24
My house is almost finished, I wish i had seen this earlier..
Allison Aeva
Posts: 53
Reply #14 on : Sat October 05, 2013, 13:10:33
I have to say tis is the best article / visuals I've seen in a while..just simply perfect...thank you very very much
Anita James
Posts: 53
earth houses
Reply #13 on : Sat October 05, 2013, 11:58:27
I just love them........When I win the lottery I will be building a ground house.........
Anthony Bates
Posts: 53
Earth Sheltered
Reply #12 on : Tue September 03, 2013, 04:57:52
These are amazing structure using local materials and landscapes to build a low impact home. Brilliant
Tracey Allen - Simplify and Save
Posts: 53
youtube video tour of an earth bermed passive solar house
Reply #11 on : Tue August 27, 2013, 08:03:09
If you go to youtube and search Earth Bermed - ICF - Passive Solar House - our house will come up and you can view a home tour after our house was built last year. We have been in the home for one full year and love it. The earth berming really kept the north winds at a Canadian winter.
Great website to share information....more berming less oil. :-)
Marc DiPinto
Posts: 53
Earthship Biotecture
Reply #10 on : Mon July 22, 2013, 17:59:55
This is a wonderful site! If these type of home construction is appealing, I URGE you to look into Earthship Biotecture, this is a system of home building similar to earth-sheltered home only earthship uses tires reamed with earth which acts as a more reliable temperature stabilizer year round.
Ed Hines
Posts: 53
earth sheltered structures
Reply #9 on : Thu July 11, 2013, 20:12:47
My studies from Fuller to James Lambeth, including Nervi and Wells, shows this is the new sustainable architectural wave. Orient for solar inception with shade for summers exclusion. I am happy to see that others are seeing this same vision. Goodness to you all, my brothers and sisters.
Amanda D'Aleo
Posts: 53
Earth sheltered, green-roof homes
Reply #8 on : Mon June 10, 2013, 15:51:26
Hello- I work for Formworks Building. Many of our project photos are featured on this site. Our structures meet all current building codes and have never been denied a building permit anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. We are currently building for roughly the same cost as a conventional house, making these homes accessible to the general home builder/buyer. Our homeowners are consistantly using 90 percent less energy to heat and cool their homes that their conventional neighbors. Please visit our website at To see many of our project photos, please also visit our FaceBook page (link on the top right of our homepage).
Posts: 53
Reply #7 on : Fri May 31, 2013, 14:40:32
Muchas gracias por tan buena información, excelente página
Jon Paynter
Posts: 53
Cool designs
Reply #6 on : Mon May 27, 2013, 12:20:40
These are all great designs for houses, but not practical for the average person, given the incredible cost of construction.
Posts: 53
Reply #5 on : Sat May 18, 2013, 22:19:06
I love it. Will it catch on? Probably not - 90% of the human race is selfish and has been since we stood up (I'm ashamed to say, I live more is this section). The Ten Percenters (as I refer to people like you) can't beat those odds - sadly! Very best wishes.
Showing comments 1 to 50 of 54 | Next | Last
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