Sarah Rich


by , 10/21/05

Faced with height restrictions when building his family home in London, architect Alex Michaelis decided to go underground. Observing a 6′ limit, he created a light-filled, spacious home that uses the lower climes of the site to achieve the designer’s goals. The home includes green features such as a glass roof with a grass top, solar panels, radiant heat, thermal wool insulation and double-glaze windows.

A self-proclaimed advocate of eco-friendly design, Michaelis did his best to source materials responsibly, bringing them in from all over Europe. When scanning the list of environmentally-conscious construction choices, though, I couldn’t help but question the impact of digging into the earth in order to essentially build a mansion without breaking the rules. But details are sparse in the article released today from We may have to dig a little deeper to get the whole story.


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  1. Brad January 20, 2006 at 3:37 am

    A bit of a contradiction in terms – “built using products sourced [shipped by ?] from all over Europe to get the most eco-friendly results.” (from the CNN website)

    I’m not opposed to earth-sheltered, low profile or underground houses, but it seems that these high-end designer set pieces are not what’s going to save the world. And who wants to drink a glass of red wine in that blinding white sci-fi living room?

  2. Jaggae November 4, 2005 at 8:47 am

    It looks great to me. I always thought it cool to live in a burrow. Digging a hole is alright for a structure, the earth dug up can fill up a swamp or if in my country, Singapore, we would use it to reclaim land from the sea.

  3. steve November 1, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    there was a very detailed account of this house in the british sunday times a few months ago by the architect

  4. michael October 25, 2005 at 1:33 am

    This residence strikes me as absolutely brilliant. We waste billions of dollars and billions of pounds of resources on inefficient heating and cooling when the answer is right beneath our feet. This architect has clearly demonstrated that alternative answers need not result in bizarre or eccentric structures. I applaud him for an elegant and sophisticated design. What a way to live in London. Bravo!

  5. ashak kabani October 24, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    Just the savings in order to maintain constant temperature must be worth building a house underground. Plus it seems the owner went throuh great lengths in ?being eco friendly?.I hope Including digging a hole to accommodate the living space. Wish the architect would share the experience. Many will benefit. Tanznia.

  6. hb October 21, 2005 at 6:33 pm

    what difference does it make how a piece of land is utilized? Whether you dig it up or build on top of it, its still a used piece of land. The goal should be using the land, whether it be above or below ground, to the best of our ability, and to keep it as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

    That said, I think this is a good idea. Why not go below ground? This preserves viewsheds, and leaves the possiblity for further utilization of the land above gound. The heating/cooling advantages are also pretty overwhelming being below grade.

  7. Neil October 21, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    “permanently scar the earth”, “question the impact of digging into the earth in order to essentially build a mansion” compared to what open face mining?????

  8. Thom October 21, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    As an architect it has always bothered me that the first thing we do when we build is to permanently scar the earth by digging a hole it its? face and filling it with liquid rock.

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