After watching this video I felt really inspired and started thinking that it would be a great idea if we could research the same idea more and develop a way to make it easy enough for anyone to build and good quality enough for anyone to live in.

In the video above, they use 5 layers to achieve what I'm convinced can be achieved with 2 - but I'm not sure how or what the 1 of those 2 would be. In the video, they used Concrete, Sticky-back plastic, polystyrene, anti-moisture layer and soil. Now I don't know much about construction or architecture but I've seen entire buildings and houses made of glass which would already be insulated, strong (if you got the right kind), environment-friendly (we find that nature sometimes makes "glass" with lightning) and moisture resistant (if you built it correctly).

Does anyone know what the main downsides to this would be and if there is a better alternative(s) than glass? With the main criteria being:

  1. Modularity/Maintainability
  2. Environment Friendly
  3. DIY Friendly
  4. Strong/Resistant enough to stand firm for a long period of time
  5. Insulated enough to keep out hot/cool air and moisture

If massive glass cubes/structures could just be produced/made and stuffed underground in a similar way to the above video then homesteading could be quite simple from there on out.

Something like this:

Glass Houses under Grass (Taken from Recycled Island)

Mixed with this:

Electric Privacy Glass

I'd bet that it'd look a lot better than it does now from above as well

  • 1
    There's a better IMO Grand Designs episode where a couple of design students used a CNC router to cut plywood sheets, assemble them into boxes, and built a house out of those. It's all very 3D-CAD based but seemed to work. Unfortunately their website is a flash abomination (facit-homes.com) but the idea seems sound.
    – Móż
    Nov 12, 2013 at 21:29
  • The big problem with underground houses is the hole. Holes are expensive and the fill has to go somewhere.
    – Móż
    Nov 12, 2013 at 21:30

3 Answers 3


Your question is a little ambiguous- do you want a prefab home you can plop in a hole, or an open source DIY plan?

There are some in progress in open source architecture, such as wikihouse:


But it is early stages and not often focused sustainability.

I think this DIY example (blueprints included) might interest you: http://simondale.net/

I disagree with your glass assessment. Glass is made of friendly natural materials, but it takes a lot of energy to produce (it has to be melted!). Shipping glass is tricky, raising the footprint. Worst of all, though, glass is a poor insulator. If you're going to bury it underground then there really is no point, there are many other options which are inexpensive and very locally sourced, such as straw bales or rammed earth. Glass should be used to allow light (and heat) into the home, often at a sacrifice to insulation (which can be made up for during the day with correct planning).

If you are looking for prefab homes there are a variety of items which already exist, such as shipping containers, which have a small footprint in that nothing new need be constructed. Otherwise, as dax mentioned, there are several methods of frame+cover construction which are available with little skill and footprint.


In terms of sustainability concrete, glass, and polystyrene are not the way to go. The first two have very high embodied energy, the last is made from natural gas.

In terms of DIY, look at Strawbale, COB, leichtlehm, earthships. Couple this with lime/earth based plasters.

You lose on modularity. You gain on sustainability.


Have you ever heard of Concrete Canvas? I think this is a really good solution that ticks all of your boxes:

  • Can be added to (although maybe this is the weakest point) probably it's easier to make additional structures in a group than add to an existing structure, although when you set it up you could make holes in the cloth that would be "doors" to connect to existing structures.

  • very friendly! really limited resources involved

  • All it takes is a way to haul it where you want to set it up and a leaf blower to put it up

  • Way strong. So strong.

  • Way insulated. So insulated.

  • 2
    Sorry, but harvesting cement (which is the base for concrete) has the same environmental impact as harvesting coal. So it's not "very friendly!".
    – kaiser
    Nov 24, 2013 at 16:02

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