Gallery: UNDERGROUND ECO HOUSE: Snowden House

Crawford Partnership, Small Footprint, Housing, Passive Solar, Daylighting

Design firm Crawford Partnership is out to prove that modern living doesn’t require a large footprint, and that sites once used as a repair and lock-up garages make equally excellent sites for a new home. Snowden House and Snowden House II, the two homes in London, show how creative floor plans can accommodate an incredible amount of day lighting and make excellent use of passive cooling while providing ample private outdoor space. Taking Lessons from the first home, Snowden House II goes further to include make the entire house a passive thermal store to help run the wet underfloor zoned heating system, a green roof, and makes full use of the stable temperature that comes naturally when building underground.

Snowden House sits on what used to be the site of a former MOT repairs garage. Three stories low, an underground house, the design encompasses the philosophy of the Crawford Partnership which pursues ideal modern day urban living, even when the plots are small and the land is a premium. The two-storey internal atrium allows light to get into every story of the house. The electric glass sliding roof brings the outside in as well as glazing that comes from ceiling to floor on one wall of each of the two bedrooms.

Snowden House II is located in the North Kensington Conservation Area on a site formerly occupied by two one-story lock-up garages. One of the requirements of the Kensington and Chelsea Planning Authority was that the new house not exceeds the height of the original buildings, which was no longer than 3 meters above the ground level. As with Snowden House I, open light wells allow light to get down to the rear garden levels and each of the three bedrooms. Landscaped by award winning garden designer Paul Cooper, he has included gardens on each level as well as one on the roof. The house takes full advantage of being sunken into the ground using 10%-15% less energy than it’s equivalents above ground.

+ Snowden House I
+ Snowden House II

+ Crawford Partnership


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  1. erincha March 31, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    that is a wonderful house u got there

  2. LaMarr August 4, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I personally live in a Red brick seven bedroom monster. Three bedrooms are in the basement which is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter unless the doors are left open and the cold air really drops fast. We’ve had the sewer back up with tree roots and water pipes break. Under ground isn’t bad if it’s into the side of a slope so water can drain out naturally. Hoping to build a subterainean home in the future and unload this beast.

    These houses pictured are sterile and reminiscent of German design of the 1930’s.

  3. Nicholas Johnson May 1, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Don’t forget the rain facter. The roof is mostly flat from what I can see of the house. When it snows alot you will get some bad results unless you have very good roof structures. I have personally see buildings collapse becuse of snow build up. But all in all it looks nice.

  4. Nicholas Johnson May 1, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I would say the house looks plain not much color to it. Very little green. For being only 16 I have a very good understanding of architecture. It seems the home really isent too spacious on the out side and im not talking about overall space more of the fun factor as people would say. You don’t have a good out door experience. A fauther would like to show his son how to play football, soccer, baseball,ect. With this home you could very well live with adults but childern… not so much. It seems to have a lot of breakable items such as windows. The corded phone very good ideal, very energy efficent. A cordless phone we all have had problems with when it comes to a battery running low… then you have to go and get a new battery. Even when you charge it for a while it will still run low in a short time span. Some cordles phones work with no electricity, but instead using the telephone lines themselves as its own power source. The issue of fire hazerd can be a small problem, but can be avoided by mounthly fire drills and planed excape routs. Another very good comment stated, Underground dwellings are not common at all. The intercom linked to the cammera/microphone/speaker seems to be a good ideal but in some cases can be a bad ideal. Very good ideal though. I really all depends on the person. Also winter photos would be interesting to see. The glass block do put a very interesting textur to light, meaning that it isent just a regular window, it bends the light giving it a very nice effect. I live in Ohio and I aam currently in 10th grade. My school have blocked windows in the front. It is avery interesting sight. I live in a small town called miamisburg, a plain old town. Most of the buissnes buildings in town are the origional brick it was built with. Some of the houses are origional, but this house takes the cake… Well i got to go back to class.

  5. majchers April 25, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Great house. More like an aquarium though but I love it regardless.
    Very convincing concept bringing lots of light in.
    Once inside hard to believe most of this dwelling is under the grade.
    Too bad this type of approach is not that common around.

  6. Nick Simpson April 14, 2007 at 6:01 am

    The reason it gets enough light is because a roof light lets in much, much more light than one on a wall, which is what most people have. I think it’s a beautiful piece of architecture, in a way much more so than any thunderous airport, arena or shopping centre…

  7. Evan April 13, 2007 at 10:50 am

    And how do you exit lowest levels in case of fire?

  8. wanderindiana April 12, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Reminds me of the undergraduate library at the University of Illinois, built underground so as not to shade the adjacent Morrow Plots, “the oldest continuously operating agricultural experiment station in America and, as such … a designated historic landmark.” Of course, with the exception of two entry points, the entire library is underground. And it is a library and not a residence. Just brings back memories….

  9. Chris April 12, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I believe that is an intercom system linked to an external camera/microphone/speaker setup not a phone though I can’t understand the reason for such a thing in such a small building and right next to the front door where a peephole would suffice unless this is part of a gated community. It’s like technology for technology’s sake. That rubs my green side the wrong way though I love the building architecturally with its excellent natural lighting and abundant plantlife.

  10. Cullen April 12, 2007 at 11:35 am

    i love glass block.

  11. Ulrike April 12, 2007 at 11:19 am

    They’re beautiful homes, but they’re just two stories with a finished basement–not exactly an architectural wonder there. I think it’s great that they make an effort to “flood” the lowest level with natural lighting. On the other hand, “underground” house implies that at least half of the house is under ground level. That is not the case.

  12. alasdair April 12, 2007 at 10:14 am

    the corded phone looks like a door entry system to me and I’ve yet to see a pretty one of those, mind you you’d want it having to run UP two flights of stairs to let somone in – looks very cool but personally I’m not convinced that natural light would be sufficient to replace an outside opening even if it only has a view of a wall opposite

  13. Kim April 12, 2007 at 10:06 am

    love to see this in section.

  14. Willofgod April 12, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I love the idea of underground housing. To me the best would be if only an elevator/stairway and light tubes were above ground. All the rest natural area.

  15. Stephan April 12, 2007 at 5:31 am

    I like the house, however seems to be highly relying on Natural lights, I would be interested to see pictures taken during winter season…

  16. Brian April 11, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Great article and amazing home. My only complaint is that corded phone right in the middle of the space. Hide that stat!

  17. Preston April 11, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Very cool post, Evelyn. Kind of seems more like an underwater house, as opposed to an underground one, but that may be from the way the shots were taken. Looks great, though.

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