Living underground sounds disturbing – cavernous designs, claustrophobic images of cramped quarters and fuzzy pictures with low light levels come quickly to mind. A well-planned underground home, however, can be designed precisely around these problems to have all of the advantages of a cozy and private above-ground house as well as the sustainable and structural benefits of an fully-enclosed living space – entirely under the surface of the Earth.
William Lishman sums up the design advantages nicely: “Why build underground? There are many advantages to earth integrated architecture. With the earth as insulation, heating and cooling energy requirements are significantly reduced, especially in windy areas. Underground homes offer protection from storms, never have to painted, shingled or have the eaves troughs cleaned out! Underground architecture is unobtrusive, leaving clear views, and can be covered with gardens and lawns.”
Lishman has lived in his own incredible underground home design for decades now with the pictures to prove it. Despite the advantages of living underground he cautions potential builders that the costs can be high upfront though there are energy and other savings that amount to offset that initial expense over time. Also, it is of course incredibly difficult to fit square appliances and hang rectangular frames in spherical rooms and on rounded walls.
His eco-friendly earth home consists of a framework of steel trusses covered in spray-on concrete and covered with tar and a layer of plastic for water protection. Built-in modular path designs make it possible to upgrade electronic, internet and plumbing systems over time. Though a lot of work went into the initial design and construction of his unique home it has clearly been a rewarding experience overall and the result is a stunning house hidden underneath a hill.
“At the time of writing the house has been in use for close to seventeen years. There have been surprisingly few problems for a design so radical, and the next ones will be even better. People are always amazed when they come in for the first time at the sense of space and amount of light created by the overhead skylights, some people have to be taken up on the roof (hill?) to see that the house is actually underground.”
“Because the house is on top of a hill, the North solarium affords an excellent view of the valley and Lake Scugog in the distance. This unique home has been featured in several magazines including the first issue of Ikea’s Space as well as Harrowsmith, and Canadian Architect.”