Green Cave Dwellers

cave homeSome people choose to live in a cave today because it’s tradition, while for others, it’s an economic necessity. There are people who build their own cave homes for environmental reasons. Most modern cave homes were intentionally carved out of the rock — not many people live in natural caves.

The tiny outback town of White Cliffs in far north-west New South Wales can now claim a place in Australia’s engineering history, alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Snowy Hydro scheme.

The opal mining town, where most of the 200 residents live in underground homes, was the first in Australia to be powered entirely by solar energy, and is still a fully off-grid community.

Resident Bert Gale says it is an energy-efficient way of keeping cool.

“Living in a cave, look it’s just wonderful, it’s the best eco-house that you could have,” he said.

“There are several benefits to building underground. The home has a low environmental impact because few construction materials are needed (although care must be taken not to damage the environment when digging out the cave). Cave homes are remarkably energy-efficient. Most underground chambers maintain a temperature in the 50s (Fahrenheit) regardless of the outdoor, aboveground weather. This means only minimal heating is required in the winter, and they stay pleasantly cool in the summer. An underground home also takes up a small amount of space on the surface, leaving you space to plant gardens, attract wildlife or just have a bigger yard. Plus, it’s very difficult to break into an underground home — there are no windows to break through, just one main door and some ventilation shafts.

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