Because they are unconventional, underground buildings seem like eccentric creations that would appeal only to an impractical, almost extremist segment of society. But today in the United States, more than 675 public and commercial structures and 5,000 private homes nestle within the earth. At least 20 major subterranean structures are currently under construction or are in the planning process in this country. For what earthly purpose?? Read on for a countdown of the ten best reasons.
10. It can't upstage its neighbors if it's built downstairs.
    Putting a new building or an expansion of an existing structure below ground minimizes its impact on views of historic facades or scenery.

9. If heat rises, we're all pretty cool down here.
    Depending on the climate and the use of the underground space, heating and cooling costs can be as much as 80 percent lower than in an aboveground building.

8. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!
    Compared to aboveground buildings that blanket the earth with a waterproof layer, underground buildings covered with vegetation reduce rainwater runoff and help replenish subsurface water resources. Rooftop plants also improve air quality by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.

7. If you can't get around the rules, get under them.
    Some zoning rules such as required amounts of parking and landscaped areas are easier to meet if the building's roof can be used to accommodate them. Other surface rules like minimum setbacks from property lines are less applicable to underground buildings.

6. Not a whole lotta' shakin' goin' on.
    Trying to think near an airport or a busy highway? Trying to manufacture precision parts with your factory floors being shaken by nearby traffic or your own machinery? Insulate your building with soil and anchor it in the earth.

5. Don't make a mountain out of a molehill, make a mansion out of a mountain.
    Invest in a bargain-priced lot that's too steep to build on, burrow horizontally into the hillside, and enjoy the view!

4. No more handwriting on the wall.
    Because of limited points of entry and small amounts of exposed walls or windows, underground buildings can be more secure from vandals, thieves, and even terrorists.

3. Forget battening down the hatches--batten down the building!
    Properly designed underground buildings resist not only wind and fire, but flooding and earthquakes as well.

2. Maintenance is dirt cheap.
    Lack of exposure to wind, sunlight, precipitation, and temperature extremes virtually eliminate the need to reshingle roofs or to maintain exterior walls by repainting, restuccoing, or installing aluminum siding.

1. If you can't see the forest for all the trees, how are you ever going to see the building?
    Parks and gardens built on top of underground buildings are great ways to create or preserve open space in downtown areas.
Unless otherwise attributed, all content is © Loretta Hall, 2000-2013.
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