My goal is to rebuild my own home under ground to save energy and reduce risk from environmental hazards. I plan to make my home carbon neutral. It will be self sustaining and designed to last a very long time. The only foreseeable problem is that not many people do this. As such, there are only a handful of contractors qualified to do this and county inspectors will likely give make me jump through a lot of hoops. I find it very strange that we accept living in flammable boxes that degrade very quickly with time.


What type of effort would it take on my part to convince a majority of people to build their homes under ground? How many people would have to do this before it became accepted as standard practice?

Perceived Benefits:

  • More room to produce independent sustainable food sources.
  • Reduction in heating and cooling costs
  • Increased difficulty for thieves (think concrete and steel structure with a steel door)
  • Reduced risk of catastrophic fire
  • More room to land our flying cars!

I will defer my question about where my flying car is for another post.


closed as off-topic by Kromey, GrandmasterB, Gilles, Brythan, March Ho Jan 11 '15 at 17:22

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    $\begingroup$ Building underground can increase the chance of some environmental hazards, like Radon gas. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 5 '15 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ In certain communities peoples already live underground so you wouldn't need to convince anybody except by providing enough food and games. You could use these communities as inspiration for your world building. $\endgroup$ – Mystra007 Jan 6 '15 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ Another risk of living underground is floods. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Jan 6 '15 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ I believe floods are easier to negate in this case. Simply raise the entrance to the home to a level higher than the previous entrance of the above ground home. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Jan 6 '15 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ .. or more specifically it needs to be above the ground-water level. If you build in the side of a hill, you can still get flooded by the ground water from above you when it rains. Likewise, in New Orleans, you'd have to build several feet above ground to stay dry next time the levees are breached. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Jun 29 '17 at 4:43

I find this to be an interesting question because rather than building an imaginary world, the question is targeting what it would take to build this real world in a certain way!

Convincing a majority of people to do ANYTHING is a major task, so don't be surprised if this takes more effort than you think it will.

Changing building polices is hard. Consider places like Paris, where the streets are unfathomably difficult to follow, just because they were designed before the automobile. The acceptance of cars didn't change the city layout, so you would need to have an impact greater than that to convince historic cities to change their POV.

Accordingly, I am going to assume you are targeting the majority of single-family 1-story dwelling owners, not the majority of the world.

Most families do not have the spare finances to build a new home These underground houses do not yet exist in bulk, so each has to be built. This is going to have a strong effect on the housing market. If you did get your way, nobody would move into old homes, they'd all pick new concrete bunkers. Families with housing would have trouble selling their houses, so it would be hard to buy a new home and deal with the second mortgage.

Some areas of the world do not support such construction If you happen to live in the deserts of Arizona, you know that basements are rare, much less underground housing. The ground is not very hospitable to such excavation.

There are cultural issues to overcome. Being underground is often associated with death at some very base level. It will be harder to sell an underground house because of this built-in prejudice. Strong concrete and steel structures with steel doors would make this even more coffin like.

In all, your best course of action would be to live in one, and visibly enjoy it! I don't think you can make an argument to rapidly shift everyone from the cultural norm of building for several thousand years into a new mode overnight with just words. However, it is well recognized that people follow happy leaders in hopes of becoming happy themselves. If you build an underground home, and love it, you will naturally begin selling it as an alternative way of living just by walking around town. If you hold parties in your underground home, you get a chance to show it off. Little by little, people may turn around. Or they may not. The tricky thing about free-will is that coercing the masses is not easy. Better to be happy with what you have, and let the masses do what they like!

  • $\begingroup$ All very good points. Also, I had no idea about the problems around building underground in Arizona. I did know about the death aspect of it. There is an amazing burial site that was also used as a dwelling near Stonehenge. I will take your advise and just enjoy it when I build it so others can see what they are missing, if anything. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Jan 3 '15 at 2:15
  • $\begingroup$ Caliche is a thing, but so are cheap building practices. If you don't have bad clay you can totally have basements in AZ.. if you can afford to do the digging. It's just a LOT cheaper to throw up some sticks. Which is why slump block is only around in older houses. $\endgroup$ – user3082 Feb 9 '15 at 15:35

My belief would be that when display technology (and I'm using this term very loosely) reaches a level of fidelity to convey full spectrum light at full natural intensity, and subtlety (direction of travel that enabled natural 3D vision).

For example, the idea of a "window technology" that allows capturing light wavelength, direction of photon travel, and intensity, such that some form of large Window would be setup above ground that would capture all of this photonic information and then replicate it on "subscribed" windows in the underground living spaces. This would give the illusion of living above ground, that should alleviate the psychological dependencies that we have on "open spaces".

Such technology would equally apply to things like space travel, and extreme north/south locations that limit/extend hours of the day.

Think of it as holodeck 0.5. Where you are in a room full of windows that can change based on set of physical windows the "room" is subscribed to.


To add to Cort Ammon's answer:

  • Increased fire risk: There is a reason mines are so dangerous; it is very easy for an uncontrolled fire to consume up all the oxygen. Maybe you will not have a big fire that will engulf half a city (but those do not happen often nowadays), but the death rate caused by domestic fires would rise dramatically.

  • Additionally, the increased security against thieves means that, in any emergency that blocks your access door, you are as good as dead. Nowadays, the FD saves lots of people by accessing through windows.

  • Space consumption: It seems that you only think of suburban, horizontal areas. What to do with apartment blocks? Dig deeper? Even if you can do that (underground water reservoirs, unstable geology), that is expensive, and you can only go so far before geothermal energy kicks in. Use up more horizontal space? That leads to an even worse "horizontal city", where everything is miles away from you because of population dispersion.

  • Most underground constructions have trouble with humidity. Maybe it can be offset by proper ventilation, but that is an additional cost that minimizes savings due heating/cooling.

If you want to save up space for food production, the answer is up, not down. High buildings that sustain more people on the same surface, by increasing the number of floors. Make it bigger, with each building providing the most basic services (a few supermarkets, one or two schools, office space) and you can also relax about traffic because people has less reasons to move outside the building.

  • $\begingroup$ I do solemnly swear that I will not use demolitions or heavy equipment near any coal veins. The doors will have easy escape features required by law (push bar) and fire suppression also as required by state and federal law. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Jan 5 '15 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ Fire codes require all bedrooms to have windows which are large enough to be exited by. Which is why we don't have as many people dying in fires. Also, with below-ground buildings you get heavier than air gas accumulations, which can asphyxiate you in your sleep (biologically you don't have any way to tell that you're not getting oxygen) $\endgroup$ – user3082 Feb 9 '15 at 15:37

The biggest problem you have off the bat is that 'most' people live in Urban areas. To keep the density and closeness of everything, they need tall structures and need to build up. A lot of places are starting to make roof top gardens to help with cooling and have 'green space' for the tenets.

Now in more suburban areas it will take a bit of convincing because part of the idea of the house is for 'display'. First you have enough money to own your own separate building, second you are showing off the building itself. Even if we don't consciously think of it this way that is what many of us are doing.

Hiding our homes like a hobbit hole is very difficult for many to even imagine. I had a teacher who had a house in the side of the hill and they had to mow the roof. But one whole side of the house was open, windows and doors etc. I personally wouldn't mind having a home like this myself but so few are out there and I don't have the time or money to build one.

As others have pointed out there are many places that are very poor for building underground. Most of Superior WI is low enough with poor soil drainage most homes (not on city sewer) need holding tanks instead of septic systems. There would have to be a lot of expensive tech put in to keep the homes dry. Or you'd have to bury them after building them on level ground, this gives you the energy efficiency but for most it would seem rather pointless.


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