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Earth China News

Millions In China Live In Energy Efficient Caves 210

Hugh Pickens writes "Barbara Demick reports in the LA Times that more than 30 million Chinese people live in caves, many of them in Shaanxi province, where the Loess plateau, with its distinctive cliffs of yellow, porous soil, makes digging easy and cave dwelling a reasonable option. The better caves protrude from mountains and are reinforced with brick masonry. Some are connected laterally so a family can have several chambers. Electricity and even running water can be brought in. 'Most aren't so fancy, but I've seen some really beautiful caves: high ceilings and spacious with a nice yard out front where you can exercise and sit in the sun,' says Ren, who works as a driver in the Shaanxi provincial capital, Xian. 'It's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It's quiet and safe.' In recent years, architects have been reappraising the cave in environmental terms, and they like what they see. 'It is energy efficient. The farmers can save their arable land for planting if they build their houses in the slope. It doesn't take much money or skill to build,' says Liu Jiaping, director of the Green Architecture Research Center in Xian and perhaps the leading expert on cave living. Liu helped design and develop a modernized version of traditional cave dwellings that in 2006 was a finalist for a World Habitat Award, sponsored by a British foundation dedicated to sustainable housing. Meanwhile, a thriving market around Yanan means a cave with three rooms and a bathroom (a total of 750 square feet) can be advertised for sale at $46,000. 'Life is easy and comfortable here. I don't need to climb stairs. I have everything I need,' says 76-year-old Ma Liangshui. 'I've lived all my life in caves, and I can't imagine anything different.'"
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Millions In China Live In Energy Efficient Caves

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  • Not legal in the USA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:15AM (#39439039) Homepage

    All the silly safety laws here will make cave dwelling illegal as there are no egress windows in every room and at least two exit doors.

    Because if the cave burns, you cant get out.

  • Re:Nice... not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:17AM (#39439049) Homepage

    Too bad you are narrow minded. I would pay $2,000,000 to live in a hole in the ground. []

    I would LOVE to live in a decommissioned Missile silo.

  • Cue the straw men. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:21AM (#39439075)
    I expect, within a week, to find at least one person rambling that 'All the liberal ecocommies want us to go back to living in caves and mud huts.'
  • Re:arable land (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:43AM (#39439239) Journal

    is food too cheap, or labor too expensive

    For many people, I think the calculus goes something like this for, say, growing tomatoes:

    Spend anything from $10-40 per plant in potting soil, pots, cages, seedlings, etc.
    Devote a couple hours of labor, per plant, over the entire growing season to coax them into being productive
    Be inundated with tomatoes for all of three weeks at the height of summer, at the same time when...
    Their grocery store sells tomatoes for $2/lb. all year 'round

    I personally don't take this view. I enjoy my garden, even the modest amount of labor it requires. It's productive enough to do better-than-breakeven on cost, especially when I amortize the upfront costs over many years. Plus, although I wouldn't boast that, say, my tomatoes are world-class, they are a damn sight better than what the grocery store offers. I don't eat much out-of-season, so having fresh tomatoes in January just seems silly.

  • Problems: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @11:25AM (#39440931) Homepage Journal


    Air quality (unless all the bathroom business and cooking is done outside).

    You better like the temperature inside, because you're certainly not burning anything to keep warm: carbon monoxide and low oxygen.

    But not a lot of noise complaints I bet.

3500 Calories = 1 Food Pound