Nothing suggests primitive like the archetypical caveman, but our less-evolved predecessors knew a thing or two about sustainable living. In Southern Spain, caves are still used as living spaces, hotels, restaurants, spas and theaters. These aren’t just ancient holes-in-the-wall still being put to use, but also brand new caves built by modern day cave-builders. Caves are both affordable and highly eco-friendly. They require almost no external construction materials and create minimal impact at the building site. Clay in the mediterranean climate is perfect for creating structurally sound caves, and today’s cave-builders specialize in excavating and molding this clay into modern, functional spaces.
The cave’s indoor temperature fluctuates minimally, maintaining comfort through hot summers and cold winters. The natural insulation provided by the earth creates a superior sound barrier. Generally, the only necessary additional materials are flooring, a thin interior wall and a ceiling treatment. The walls of a cave must be able to “breathe” in order to last, so adding toxic sealants and coatings is actually inadvisable, which makes these spaces intrinsically healthier for habitation.
Since the process of creating a cave is as much sculptural as architectural, design possibilities are essentially limitless. There are infinite options for room and doorway shapes, ceiling height, built-ins, and so on. Natural light can be introduced through light wells in the ceiling, avoided claustrophia while maintaining privacy. If they are built on a site surrounded by a lot of land, caves can be expanded as quickly as a modular house (though with a little more mess.) In town, however, there are no building codes for cave homes, and officially they are not designated as “official” spaces for human habitation. However, new cave construction is legally condoned within Grenada province. Caves are even coming up as a luxury accomodation, some boasting views of the Alhambra. There are cave developments in Southern Spain where a turn-key home sells for about 90,000 euros.
Moral of the story: living in a cave isn’t archaic at all – it’s a great way to get exactly what you want while preserving the integrity of the environment and minimizing your costs both during construction and throughout the life of your home. Of course, if the clay in your area isn’t cave-friendly, you’re out of luck.
For a more detailed description of the cave comeback, and a profile on modern cave builder Pepe Ruiz (pictured below with his team), check out the link to a great article at Escape Artist.
Link: Escape Artist