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6 Hidden Benefits of Greek Cave Houses

What are the advantages of a “cave house” in Greece? Where are Greece’s cave houses, and what makes them different from a regular home in Greece?


Other names of cave houses include “Homes built into hills”, “earth houses”, or “berm houses”. You can refer to them in any number of ways but there is one thing that is clear: it is an ecologically sustainable way of building a house that is becoming more and more popular.

Namaste Suites, Santorini | Interior Design by Lime Deco | Photo by George Fakaros

What is a Cave House?

In a concept that involves building a home into the earth, the idea has been around for as long as humans have been seeking shelter. But it offers a bunch of very modern benefits.

 

Where are Cave Houses in Greece?

Cave houses, called υπόσκαφα (iposkafa) in Greek, have long been built, with the most known ones being on the island of Santorini. They were often two room houses comprising of a kitchen and bedroom built into cliff edges though a number of churches and storages areas have also been built in the same manner.

 

Since then, however, this building technique has developed and some of the best-preserved cave houses are in Oia, in the north, and have been turned into chic modern homes and hotels.

Top architects have been adopting this method in Greece and elsewhere, taking some of the most prestigious global awards in the process.

Namaste Suites, Santorini | Interior Design by Lime Deco | Photo by George Fakaros

Awarded Cave Houses in Greece

An underground house designed on the rocky island of Serifos has earned MOLD architects global recognition as it received various distinctions including a nomination for the Mies Van Der Rohe Award (2016 and 2021) and a finalist position for the IDA interior award 2021.

 

Athens-based architects A31 have also been recognized for their design of an earth sheltered house on Andros with an Architizer+ awards (2020) in New York. The KORE by Oias Local Cavehouses in Santorini, designed by Lime Deco, (pictured below) also received awards.

KORE by Oias Local Cavehouses, Santorini | Interior Design by Lime Deco | Photo by George Fakaros

How Exactly Do Cave Homes Work?  

The basic concept of a cave home involves covering all exterior walls and the roof with the earth, with the exception of the façade. 

 

A cave house is built the same way a regular house is but at a deeper, lower level. Just as excavation work clears the way for the foundations of a regular house, a hillside area is dug up to accommodate the structural base of the cave house. Once complete, the earth is replaced around the building, and on top of it, leaving only the front open.

KORE by Oias Local Cavehouses, Santorini | Interior Design by Lime Deco | Photo by George Fakaros

What are the Benefits of a Cave House in Greece?

The houses provide large cost savings, room for innovative world-class designs and spacious facilities that let in plenty of golden Greek sunlight. 

 

1. Save the Environment

Perhaps the biggest winner from this process is the environment. Earth sheltered homes present sustainable solutions with lower energy demands, helping people live in harmony with nature.  

Rather than digging up the landscape to suit the house, the home seamlessly fits right into the existing environment.  

KORE by Oias Local Cavehouses, Santorini | Interior Design by Lime Deco | Photo by George Fakaros

2. Maintain Indoor Temperature

The earth acts as a thermal mass, making it easier to maintain a steady indoor air temperature and therefore reduces energy costs for heating or cooling. Especially during the summer, this is a big advantage in Greece, where sun in the summer can be very hot during the day.

 

3. Lower Costs

With the right design and materials, these houses also get just as much light and air as conventional houses, while also lowering maintenance costs. 

Leisure Gates Villas in Nea Skioni, Halkidiki

 4. Protection From the Weather

In general, Greece has sunny weather. Having rooms underground means that some areas will always be in the shade. During hot summer days in Greece, it is ideal to stay in the shade (or on the beach) during the day, and to enjoy the pleasant weather in the evening.  Cave houses also help keep you safe from weather extremes like earthquakes and fires

 

5. Better Privacy

Finally, a cave home offers maximum privacy to its owners, as it is protected from view from almost every angle. Also, because many rooms are underground, you have better sound insulation compared to a home built above ground.

Leisure Gates Villas in Nea Skioni, Halkidiki

6. Greek Government Incentives 

In Greece, recent changes to the law introduced extra benefits for earth sheltered homes to buyers, making them a more attractive investment option and support their growth. All this translates into big benefits for home buyers who will ultimately receive a better quality house. The value for money is considerably better when compared to a conventional home. 

 

But the benefits go beyond the individual site. The move by the government to support this sector is aimed at securing the less intrusive construction of coast lines and preventing problems seen in other European countries, such as Spain. Greece’s incentives are aimed at ensuring that the country maintains its beautiful seaside areas in the best possible condition for many years to come. 

Leisure Gates Villas in Nea Skioni, Halkidiki

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