Underground Homes: Hip or Hype?

The concept of living underground may sound like a strange and unusual idea, but the idea of an ecologically friendly and low maintenance home is growing in popularity.

There are several interesting designs for underground houses you may be interested in, especially if you want to design your own unique home. However, some home designers who are interested in this design approach are also worried the style might lose relevancy over the next few years.

Trendy or not, building codes, construction methods and other issues could dampen your enthusiasm for such a project. There are advantages to consider when looking at an underground home, but there could also be significant drawbacks that you initially overlook in the excitement of finding a new design concept. When planning to build a home from scratch, it is important to consider both the positives and negatives thoroughly. Learn more about underground homes below to find out if this style is perfect for you.

Design and Construction

There are several ways in which an underground homes are constructed, each with its own unique attributes. When choosing to build your own underground home, you could consider the following options:

  • Elevated underground homes are built into the sides of hills.
  • Caves or dugouts are made by digging a hole and constructing the home inside.
  • Bermed homes are built on flat areas, with earth raised up around them on three sides.
  • Culver designs use premade concrete pipes that are placed into a hole and fitted together for construction.

There are many beautifully designed underground homes. Even larger structures such as hotels and warehouses, are also sometimes constructed underground. The unusual method of construction can sometimes mean a great deal of creativity is found in the design, though there are strict limitations on the design structure itself.

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You may find you are unable to build in certain areas, such as those prone to flooding. In fact, it can be difficult to obtain planning permission for such a project. While certain aspects of design, such as the exterior of the home, are not as important, the interior requires careful consideration. For example, you may struggle to set furniture comfortably within the curved walls of a culvert. Safety issues with the design, such as the ventilation system, must be dealt with in minute detail as well.

Cost

The initial cost of construction for an underground home can be high, due to its complexity. You may require a custom-made structure, and installation is often difficult. Waterproofing and other practical measures are important steps, and the materials used are generally specific. As a result, you may have difficulty finding contractors or construction companies with experience in the necessary areas.

On the other hand, the maintenance of an underground home is minimal after the initial instruction. For example, there is no external upkeep to consider, such as painting or gutter maintenance. The insulation from the surrounding earth also keeps heating and cooling costs low. It is worth noting you may even be able to lower the time spent on construction, as certain aspects of traditional housebuilding are not necessary with this style of housing.

Ecological Impact

For many, reducing the ecological impact of their home and lifestyle is a high priority. An underground home may be able to help with this goal, particularly in terms of its insulating abilities. The earth on the surface can be used for other purposes, perhaps as a garden or to grow food.  In addition, the natural surroundings of the home might be less disturbed once construction is finished, compared with the surroundings of a standard home post-construction.

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However, when considering ecological impact, the materials used to construct the home might be a cause for concern. Many of the materials needed for the sturdy structure of an underground home are not environmentally friendly. There could be a possibility of using recycled materials, but this may not always be an option.

Comfort

An underground home means many areas of your home life experience change. When considering the level of comfort you can expect from an underground home, take the following into account:

  • Space might be a concern for some homeowners. An underground home might have spacious rooms, but you are ultimately limited by its structure. Additionally, some homeowners might feel claustrophobic when underground.
  • Light is limited in underground homes, as there are few opportunities to get sunlight into the home. Some designs may allow for windows on one side of the structure, or skylights, but there is still less natural lighting available overall.
  • Sound insulation can be an advantage of an underground home, as the earth dampens any nearby noise. This might also cause noise inside the home to undergo strange effects.
  • Temperature is generally comfortable in an underground home. The earth absorbs heat from the sun, as well as heat from inside the home, cooling it. Therefore, it can be easier to heat the underground home during cooler weather periods.
  • Safety issues are mixed when it comes to underground homes. There is less chance of burglary due to fewer points of entry, but this lack of access might be a safety concern in the event of another type of emergency. Underground homes are considered quite safe against external fires and earthquakes, but internal fires, bad air quality or floods could pose a risk.

The Future

While underground homes may seem like a recent trend, there are certain areas where they have been used for a long time. In hot places for instance, living in underground homes means being able to keep your residence cool with minimal expenditure. The success some communities have found in this type of living situation indicates that the trend of underground homes is expected to continue.

When thinking of the future of this trend, another incentive to consider is land scarcity. In crowded cities, finding space to live is already difficult. Building homes underground can offer a solution, and has already been brought into effect in certain areas.

Long term conservation efforts could prove another reason for underground homes to increase in popularity, as they can minimize disruption to the landscape, as well as your carbon footprint. However, the inconveniences and difficulties of these constructions must be taken into account when considering whether to build your own underground home.

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