Live like a womble 2 - The Underground House

Published August 11, 2010

Channel 4’s fantabulous program Grand Designs featured an Underground House in the third series, so this evening I watched the show via 4OD and took copious notes! Here’s what I found out as I watched.

Underground House on Grand Designs

  • They built their house in a conveniently house-sized gap in a quarry that was already dug.
  • The guy said he wanted a house like that to both “hide away and not impose.” Sounds about right. She was more into the eco effort, which we are less worried about.
  • They only have one bit that sees daylight, so all of that was glass. The back of the house was lit by sunpipes. More on that later.
  • She was expecting a baby! Big surprise.
  • They dug down and found a big hole. That’s a problem. And another hole!
  • The architect is called Mr Bodger. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Base layer of concrete, then insulation. No heating required. Six times the insulation used in a normal house.
  • Next layer is waterproof layer. Leaks would be catastrophic as there’s no way of repairing it once you’ve buried a house.
  • They are just filling the holes in with earth that they dug up from somewhere else.
  • 76 tonnes of concrete. 300mm base layer. House weighs 500 tonnes - two and a half times a normal house.
  • Big ol’ brick things for the walls that Kevin McCloud couldn’t even pick up they were so heavy. Lots of steel and concrete in the walls to withstand horizontal pressure from the earth.
  • Kevin finally uses the word “bunker.” Woohoo!
  • Sheep!
  • Internal walls also made from concrete. She’s not doing very well on the eco side of things, but concrete is the only way.
  • It’s raining.
  • Quite a lot.
  • Kevin says building an underground house is a bit like building a swimming pool, except you’re trying to keep the water out.
  • The sides are being waterproofed the same as the base was. Something about bitumen and sticky back plastic.

Underground House on Grand Designs

  • Only 29 underground houses in the UK says Mr McCloud (back in 2002/3)
  • Future Systems holiday home in Pembrokeshire - investigate further. They made theirs light by being just one room deep.
  • More insulation around the sides.
  • They are burying the house up to the first floor now.
  • That woman reminds me of Victoria Wood.
  • They are repeating the concrete process for the next floor up.
  • The sun pipes! It’s just a big pipe. Supposedly is the same as a 500W bulb in the sunshine. Presumably they have left holes in the concrete then?
  • Oh no, they’re bashing holes in the concrete. Just three pipes.
  • I can’t believe they missed the bit where their house is finally buried because of the silly baby.
  • Kevin says the ground floor is a bit dingy.
  • They’re doing something complicated with the air and a heat exchanger.
  • The glass people are a bit of a nightmare. Three weeks late and seven panes were broken in transit.
  • The kitchen is really nice. Open plan for extra lighting from the living room. The sun pipe works a bit.
  • They have kept the treads open on the staircase to allow the light from the hallway sun pipe to go all the way down. Clever thinking.
  • They have added photovoltaic tiles for electricity, and a reed bed sewage system. I have no idea what either of those things are, but Mr McCloud reckons it’ll take a lot more than that to make up for all that concrete.
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