While some builders are bringing earth skyward, others are digging below, crafting homes and even hotels partially or altogether beneath the earth. They take all kinds of shapes depending on the land that encloses them. Empty space can often suffice – an abandoned mine, quarry or even a missile site. Otherwise, excavation is needed to secure a home in a mountain or valley or even desert.
Who is that who seems to be coming mysteriously out of a hill? It’s no ghost but a human being who chooses to live where he can hardly be seen unless he wants to appear. That’s the advantage of living below – quiet and privacy. It’s not altogether for the fainted hearted, anyone who may fear being buried alive. It takes a certain type of adventurous mortal. Roughly speaking, we know of a million underground homes, but there could be many more. We just can’t see them all.
There are distinct advantages to living underground. While excavation adds to the cost of a home, it’s matched by savings in energy – heating and cooling. Built of durable concrete, the home below is especially desirable in areas of extreme temperatures. The insulation of the earth helps keep living conditions comfortable. Depending on how far down the structure goes, windows may not be available for sunlight, but bright lights can substitute. The location also provides protection from the hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes that periodically ravage the homes above. It’s called living with the earth instead of in opposition to it.
Not content with that, ambitious builders are contemplating entire cities beneath the earth. The plans are there. They await the execution. Meanwhile, an imposing 337-room hotel, the Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland, more appropriately known as the Deep Pit Hotel, has been constructed in an abandoned quarry near Shanghai, China. The top of eighteen floors is on a level with the earth, the lowest two are under water. Guests have a unique view of what transpires underground. This takes some getting used to, admits an hotel manager. It’s topsy-turvy with water and sewage having to go up instead of down.
Life below is not without problems. Doris James Mizbejabber has lived in a partially underground home for eighteen years near the Arkansas state capitol Little Rock. It’s been delightful, she says, but over time repairs due to location are needed. A wet spot appeared in the ceiling, and then more, forming stalactites from above – picturesque but daunting. Walls and ceilings have also suffered cracks. A variety of insects – spiders, centipedes, termites – decided to make a home there as well. The family thought it was time to sell, but the value of the house had declined. Where would they go? Why to another underground home, to be sure, but a bit more up to date. There’s nothing like mother earth.