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Fighting energy poverty by going underground


The inadequate coverage of energy needs in the residential sector, known as energy poverty, is a primary socio-economic problem, worldwide. Especially in Greece, under the pressure of the recent economic crisis, households face serious difficulties in meeting sufficiently their energy needs. This publication shows that one long-term way to minimize energy consumption, and therefore, tackle energy poverty, is the turn to underground constructions. Although underground built space can offer important benefits in terms of energy demand and consumption, underground residences have been largely regarded as unusual, far from the common residence type. However, in Greece and especially in Greek islands, underground residences have been often used in order to deal with extreme heat, during summer. Moreover, since 2012, underground constructions have been introduced as a special residence type by the Greek building regulation, thus facilitating the expansion of such practice. In this paper, the benefits of an underground residence in terms of energy poverty are being examined. More specifically, energy consumption required to achieve desired energy standards is calculated both for an earth-sheltered and an aboveground residence of similar characteristics in Greece. In this way, an indicative energy poverty ratio is calculated for the two residence types. The different climatic conditions throughout the country have been taken into consideration, by examining different Climatic zones. The findings show lower energy poverty ratios in the case of the underground residence at all climatic zones. In other words, a household living in an underground dwelling can more easily meet its energy needs compared to another one living in an aboveground dwelling. Hence, the analysis shows that modern architecture design should more systematically turn to underground constructions, incorporating the advantages of bioclimatic performance and energy savings.