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Practical Advantages and Disadvantages of an Underground House

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Underground House
Are you thinking about buying an underground house? Then this piece is a must-read. DecorDezine deals with the pros and cons of underground houses.
Akshay Chavan
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Did You Know?
May 14 is celebrated as Underground America Day every year.
When our prehistoric ancestors began shifting from caves to constructed houses thousands of years ago, it was earlier thought that they had made a smart decision. However, according to modern scientific knowledge, they should have changed their minds. It is now clear that underground houses, rather than being claustrophobic, dark, and smelly, have many more advantages over traditional above-ground houses. The most important advantage of these houses, especially in the current scenario of environmental degradation, is that they have the potential to tap the Earth's heating or cooling power, and thus negate the requirement of artificial heating or cooling techniques.
Types of Underground Houses
Underground houses are of different types, depending on their location, depth, or construction method. The most common of them are:
  • Artificial cave houses/dugouts are built by drilling a cavity into the earth.
  • Culvert houses are those made of concrete pipes that are prefabricated before placing them into an excavated pit.
  • Earth berm houses are subterranean structures that are covered from three sides by placing earth on them.
  • Elevational houses are constructed on the side of a hill.
Now, let us check out the pros and cons of an underground house in some detail.
► They provide a safe refuge from extreme weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes, high winds, and hailstorms.

► The earth surrounding the homes provides natural soundproofing, creating a quiet living space with privacy.

► Underground houses blend well into the surroundings, i.e., unobtrusive architecture is possible, unlike above-ground houses, in which it is difficult to match the house with the surrounding landscape.

► Soil being a natural insulator, keeps such houses warm in winter and cool in summer. This reduces the energy requirements of the house, especially in windy areas.

► Due to the constant temperature of underground houses, the energy costs are substantially reduced. In fact, these houses cost 80 - 95% less than traditional houses to heat and cool.

► With proper planning and construction, these houses can have good light conditions.

► These are environmentally friendly, owing to the fact that the construction does little damage to the surrounding ecology. High energy efficiency also helps in safeguarding the environment. Also, they can be constructed from recycled materials.

► An underground home exudes a feeling of being close to nature, owing to the fact that it is surrounded by the earth on all sides.

► Since more than 90% of the house is made up of concrete, there is less part of it that can catch fire, thus ensuring good fireproofing.

► Underground houses are well protected from earthquakes. In fact, even a high magnitude earthquake above the ground will be only one-fifth as destructive below it.

► There is no need to lay a foundation, which cuts down on construction and labor costs, besides making construction faster.

► The material required for construction is much lesser, due to lack of a foundation, small building surface area, and also because the material dug up in excavation can be utilized during the construction process.

► Due to the lesser dangers, it is easy to obtain insurance, and that too at cheaper rates.

► These houses require little or no exterior maintenance, like re-painting, thus reducing maintenance costs.

► These houses, being built from strong materials like concrete and cinder blocks, are strong and durable.

► Due to the insulating property, they provide a greenhouse-like environment for plants to be grown indoors. Besides, the extra space left above the ground can be used to grow a lawn or even food.

► Underground houses can be constructed on steep surfaces, like caves, which is unthinkable for traditional above-ground houses.

► These houses ensure proper usage of the land, since the structure of the house is below the ground. In fact, building an underground house is a good way to increase the value of a plot of land.

► These houses offer fewer opportunities for insects and other pests to enter, due to the less number of openings. This is completely contrary to above-ground houses.

► These houses are virtually safe from robbers and thieves when compared to traditional houses, since there is only one side of the house to protect, instead of four.

► They are safe from the radioactive fallout of nuclear explosions and other explosive situations, in case of a global conflict. The house can be made air-tight in case of a biological attack.
► There may be a psychological adjustment needed for a person shifting from a traditional above-ground house to an underground house.

► These houses are unconventional and require careful planning.

► One of the main problems with underground homes is that they cannot be built in a flood-prone area.

► These houses require significant care to keep out moisture, both during construction and the life of the house.

► Due to the rarity of these houses, prospective customers may shy away from buying them. The mortgage application process may also be challenging for such houses.

► It is challenging to fit square appliances or frames which are designed for straight walls in underground houses because of the wall curvature.

► Constructing such houses requires complex ventilation procedures.
While the advantages far outnumber their drawbacks, it may be a good idea to wait a little longer for these houses to come into the mainstream, before selling them. This can fetch your house the price it really deserves.