Pros and Cons of Subterranean Architecture

Somewhere along the way, humanity began to move out of subterranean homes, and into above-ground dwellings. The structures erected above ground were considered to be superior to their subterranean counterparts, thanks to increased light, ventilation and potential for expansion.

However, with advancements in building techniques and a renewed focus on earth-friendly housing, the prospect of living partially underground has once again moved into the public consciousness. Though linked by a partially or entirely covered construction, there are countless types of subterranean architecture, from artificial cave structures to elevational houses, earth berm properties and culvert structures.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages of this ancient building technique in the modern world?


  • In areas prone to extreme weather conditions, subterranean architecture is safer and more secure than traditional, flat sided architecture.
  • Subterranean architecture can be built in places that traditional architecture simply cannot, like in steep hillsides.
  • Soil is a brilliant natural insulator, keeping houses warm during winter and cool during the summer, thus reducing the energy requirements a subterranean property. In general, a subterranean property will cost 80-95% less than a traditional house to heat and cool.
  • Surrounding a property with earth acts as natural soundproofing, ensuring a quiet inside and privacy from the outside.
  • Subterranean properties blend effortlessly into their natural surroundings, making them superb for conservation areas or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
  • Underground properties are ideal for areas prone to earthquakes.


  • The unconventional nature of underground architecture means that some planning authorities may require careful consultation during the building process.
  • Significant care has to be taken during and after construction of the property to keep out moisture, which may increase costs.
  • The psychological shift required for those moving to a subterranean property can sometimes be jarring.
  • Ensuring good ventilation and light can be difficult in subterranean architecture, and requires a careful touch. Complex ventilation procedures may require a specialist.
  • Interior architecture requires special consideration, as many walls will be rounded or otherwise nonstandard.
  • Flood planning must be meticulous.

Clearly then, the subterranean architecture has a number of clear and distinct benefits over traditional, over-ground architecture, but whether it’s suitable for your project will depend.

For personal abodes, subterranean architecture presents a compelling and exciting option, provided you have a plot of land suitable for the purpose. However larger structures, like office blocks, are simply too large and reliant on natural light to be suitable.