There is a crazy new trend emerging in London real estate. It is something that has been done for a really long time all over the world but is very scarce. So many people think the bigger a house is the better, right? Well how do we measure how big a house is without knowing the square footage? It’s simple, we see it! We look at the house and if it is a mansion, we think of how good the house is in terms of luxury, size, and price. What if a house is way bigger than it appears to be? Well, if you want a huge house and you don’t want it to take up a lot of your precious land, you can either build it way up or you can dig and build it way down. In London, the rich are building down, these huge undergournd houses even have a nickname: Iceberg Houses. An iceberg is said to be way larger under the water line than it is above the water line and that is where the name comes from. Google Iceberg Houses and see what I’m talking about. These houses have mega-basements. There are ballrooms, staff bedrooms, deep garages that have car lifts (elevators), bowling alleys, and even underground pools.
Not everyone is so impressed though. Who isn’t on board? The neighbors of the “Iceberg” owners are against them. The first reason is that the construction of these homes is very difficult. The excavation of so much dirt can cause structural problems in the land below and actually affect the foundation of the neighboring homes for hundreds of yards. Dirt is not super hard, it gives way, especially below the surface where it is wetter. Another issue is that because of the large scale excavation and building from deep down takes a very long time. The average time to build an iceberg home is 2 years. That means 24 straight months of construction traffic and noises going on in the neighborhood. There was no unusual regulation of this type of construction until recently, but now they are starting to regulate it. Hopefully it all pans out.
There has always been underground construction of homes in the world, as I mentioned before. In America, we call them bunker homes. There are architects who specialize in these types of home. They are usually very eco friendly and conform to the landscape. The landscape is not usually interrupted as they are built into a hillside or around a small sunken water hole. If you google “underground homes in America”, you’re going to see some really cool examples of them. There are advantages to building underground in terms of energy consumption. These homes stay cool longer in the summer and warm up faster in the winter. Insulation is done mostly by mother nature herself. Using the land for stability and structural integrity is also an advantage. Avoiding windstorms and other natural disasters are also listed as advantages to living underground. These homes can’t obviously made in a tract setting, but if you are every planning on building custom, this would be one of the coolest ways to do it.
With all of the good, there is also the bad. The main disadvantage to living in a buried home is the condensation factor. It is wetter underground. Where it is wetter, there is a higher chance for mold and mildew. Most underground homes would need a very costly air dehydrator system to avoid the issues that high water condensation causes. Following code is another issue. Code compliance requires rooms that are slept in to have a window. Radon gas and the type of soil you build in can also cause problems. I guess if it is something you are truly interested in, you would first need to survey the land and get a geological test of the soil done. Buying land would be the first step in the building of an underground home so checking it for practicality would be important. Visiting a current underground home or talking to someone who has a very large basement would be a great starting point as well. No matter what, we just all have to be happy with where we decide to live.