Deano’s answer to: “How practical are underground homes?”

Practical can mean a lot of different things… Let me give this a whack, though…

Benefits of an Underground Home

(Photo courtesy of http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo…)

Underground homes (earth shelters) have several advantages:

  • Less affected by/vulnerable to extreme external temperatures, and sudden temperature changes;
  • The stability of temperature within the interior makes rooms feel more comfortable;
  • Lower heating and cooling costs;
  • Less exterior maintenance (painting, gutter repair and cleaning, etc);
  • Naturally soundproofed (varies by design, but still much quieter than surface dwellings);
  • Much better protected against storms, high winds, hail, etc.;
  • Because of temperature, weather protection and maintenance benefits, well-designed subterranean homes in geostable locations are cheaper to insure.

Issues with Underground Homes

(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/viz…)

On the downside:

  • Such homes are generally more expensive to build – requiring additional expenses for earth removal, higher load bearing walls, moisture control, venting and drainage construction, etc;
  • Any newly constructed underground home will have a somewhat harder time getting a mortgage from a lender inexperienced with the home type and builder;
  • From an architectural perspective, there are additional design challenges to provide sunlight to the interior, creating large open interior spaces (depending on budget and materials), or making the home appear “beautiful” in the more conventional sense – though these issues are not unique to earth shelters, and may not affect overall “practicality”.


(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/wol…)

In conclusion, an underground home can be extremely practical if you fit at least a few of the following categories:

  • Can afford the additional (~20-30%) premium on initial construction and/or do not require a mortgage
  • Love the look of a house blended into the surrounding landscape as much as possible[*]
  • Do not enjoy housepainting
  • Do not require extraordinary or constant exposure to the sun[*]
  • Are keen on reducing your ongoing utility bills/lowering your carbon footprint
  • Live in a tornado, wind storm, or other non-flood-related susceptible area
  • Desire to be less visible to satellite surveillance[*]

[* Actually, these factors are related to very specific but common design choices – your mileage may vary]

This answer originally appeared on Quora: How practical are underground homes?

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