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Underground living refers simply to living below the ground's surface, whether in naturally occurring caves or in built structures.
Underground homes are an attractive alternative to traditionally built homes for some house seekers, especially those who are looking to minimize their home's negative impact on the environment. Besides the novelty of living underground, some of the advantages of underground houses include resistance to severe weather, an exceptionally quiet living space, an unobtrusive presence in the surrounding landscape, and a nearly constant interior temperature due to the natural insulating properties of the surrounding earth. The greatest draw for most, however, is the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of such houses. Because of the stable subsurface temperature of the Earth, heating and cooling costs are often much lower in an underground house than in a comparable above-ground house.citation needed When combined with solar design, it is possible to eliminate energy bills entirely. Initial building costs are also often exceptionally low, as underground building is largely subtractive rather than additive, and because the natural materials displaced by the construction can be recycled as building materials. However, underground living does have certain disadvantages, such as the potential for flooding, which in some cases may require special pumping systems to be installed.
Underground living has been a feature of fiction, such as the hobbit holes of the Shire as described in the stories of J. R. R. Tolkien and The Underground City by Jules Verne. It is also the preferred mode of housing to communities in such extreme environments as Australia's Coober Pedy, Berber caves as those in Matmâta, Tunisia, and even Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Underground living is even being considered for the design of a future base on Mars. Completely underground homes need not be considered impractical or unaesthetic any longer. With today's technologies one can direct natural light into living spaces with light tubes.1 Virtual windows can provide any view one chooses by the use of cameras or internet cam feeds. Even whole walls can display whatever view one wants someday soon (wall-sized flat screen monitors are still too expensive to be widely used), possibly even with live ambient audio added. Also factories and office buildings would benefit too, for many of the same reasons (noise, energy use, security, community aesthetics, save space; park cars and trucks on top of it instead of next to it, etc.).
Often, underground living structures are not entirely underground, typically if they are exposed on one side when built into a hill. This exposure can significantly improve interior lighting, although at the expense of greater exposure to the elements.
There are various ways to develop structures for underground living.
- Caves (Natural) have been used for millennia as makeshift shelter.
- Caves (Constructed)/Dugouts are a common structure for underground living. Although the tunnelling techniques required to make them have been well developed by the mining industry, they can be considerably more costly and dangerous to make than some of the alternatives. On the plus side, they can be quite deep. One example would be the town of Coober Pedy in Australia, built underground to avoid the blistering heat of the Outback. One of the traditional house types in China is the Yaodong, a cave house.
- Earth berm structures are essentially traditional homes that have then been buried,2 typically leaving at least one wall exposed for lighting and ventilation. However, because they are to be buried, the structures must be made of materials capable of surviving the increased weight and moisture of being underground.
- Rammed Earth structures are not truly underground, in the sense of being below grade or buried beneath a berm. Instead, they are structures made of tightly packed earth, similar to concrete but without the binding properties of cement. These structures share many properties with traditional adobe construction.
- Culvert structures are a very simple approach. Large precast concrete pipes and boxes a few metres across are assembled into the desired arrangement of rooms and hallways onsite, either atop the existing ground or below grade in excavated trenches, then buried. This approach can also be referred to as Cut and Cover.
- Urban underground living is so common that few even think of it as underground. Many shopping malls are partially or totally underground, in the sense that they are below grade. Though not as exotic as the other underground structures, those working in such urban underground structures are in fact living underground.
- Shaft structures. For example, Taisei Corporation proposed to build Alice City in Tokyo Japan. The project would incorporate a very wide and deep shaft, within which would be built levels for habitation, all looking in toward a hollow core topped with a huge skylight.
- Tunnels, including storm drains, are used by homeless people as shelter in large cities.
- Dugout (shelter)
- Earth house
- Earth sheltering
- Green building
- Icelandic turf houses
- Underground city
- Underground home
- Matmata, Tunisia
- Roy, Rob (2006). Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable Underground Home. New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86571-521-9.
- Mars Foundation
- Bag End 2 - 21st Century Hobbit Hole
- Alice City, Japan
- University of Minnesota Underground Space Center
- The $50 and up underground house book home
- Modern cave construction in Spain
- Stockton Underground : An Owner-Builder Project
- Baldassare Forestiere
- Subterranea Britannica, a society devoted the study and investigation of man-made and man-used underground places.
- Underground home built from "The $50 and Up Underground House" Book. Book Author, Mike Oehler
- Underground houses - Pictures of some of the weirdest homes built under the ground.
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