A review of underground building towards thermal energy efficiency and sustainable development

Saqaff A. Alkaff, S. C. Sim*, M. N. Ervina Efzan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Global warming has posed a great challenge to the survival of mankind. The increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is widely recognized as the largest contributor of global warming. Hence, world-wide attention towards energy conservation has grown markedly to reduce the carbon dioxide emission. In the context of building energy performance, the ancient wisdom of using the earth as temperature moderator against harsh weather has impressive potential to become a solid solution against the energy inefficiency of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning system (HVAC) in building. This creative and traditional passive cooling technique has been also made it possible to achieve most criteria of sustainable development concerning the world's growing housing demand, climate change, fossil-fuel depletion as well as limited land area and resources. In this paper, underground buildings were reviewed from preliminary aspects such as historical background, classification and subsequent thermal energy performance criteria. It has tried to elaborate the thermal performance variables, and conduct further study of benefits and drawbacks of this passive cooling technique toward different perspectives of sustainable development. With intention to gain wide acceptance in the modern society, this paper has proposed a conceptual design of earth sheltered home, which incorporated different types of the building techniques. Eventually earth sheltered buildings worldwide were summarized in a well illustrative form to highlight the different designs, applications, locations, timelines and climates. In addition, a deductive model is graphically represented for the virtual overview of underground structures that set the foundation to further investigate sustainability of this building envelope technique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-713
Number of pages22
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Early online date8 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Building envelope
  • Earth sheltered technique
  • Passive cooling
  • Sustainable development
  • Underground building

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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