Underground homes, and the process of underground house construction, have been a normal part of human habitation for centuries.
From early cave dwellers, whose cave houses stretched deep into and below mountains, through to 21st Century pioneers whose mission it is to show how comfortable this style of house can be, underground habitation structures are part of the fabric of our methods of dwelling and construction. Using what is below the soil, as well as what is above, is a natural instinct to many designers, as well as for those who wish to be hidden and literally, underground.
Underground or Overground?
Whole Cities have been built underground. Perhaps the most famous of these is in Turkey, on the Anatolian plains. Cappadocia is the most well known – it descends some 18 storeys below ground, and once housed 22,000 people. It was a highly organised and well-designed place, with water, sewage, and ventilation shafts, and the defensive capacity to withstand attack from marauders. This region actually has around 40 subterranean settlements, and is worth visiting for this underground experience.
Caves need little in the way of further deepening or widening to make them at least partially habitable. Doing too much construction on or inside the rock can make a cave vulnerable. However, they make ideal shelters, and can be exquisitely furnished. Cave dwellings, whether still used or shown as museum exhibits, exist in most Countries of the world, including the UK. It was fashionable in the Victorian era for large estate owners to have or create a cave on their property, and employ a hermit or solitary recluse to live there. In the Middle East – Israel, a unique tribe still live in rock caves in the Judean Desert near the South Hebron Hills. It is possible to visit them and understand how significant to them this style of living is. Caves maintain cool temperatures in hot sandy deserts, and can resist floods well.
To actually build underground is a big commitment. Most underground dwellers have been drawn to their place because a hole or cave structure already exists, and then this can be adapted to fits their needs. To build from scratch requires a vision of what is possible, and a good knowledge of the available means of construction. To be truly green in terms of building an underground house construction also means that careful planning must be taken to use or shift all the waste material from the build, namely earth and varying types of soil and rock.
A serious evaluation also must take place of the water table in the area, whether this chosen site could be susceptible to earthquakes or land movement, and whether the soil may be polluted or subject to soil or rock contaminants.
It can be a tremendous achievement to design and build a structure underground, which is more than just hollowing out a hole, or adding to what may already exist. Introducing construction materials, such as bricks made out of the soil and clay from the area, and wood or stone from the area, can all make an underground house construction an extremely special and exciting project to be involved with.