Appraisals make me grumpy. It seems brutal to reduce the value of a house to square footage, numbers of bedrooms, and whether the bathroom floor has tile. There are so many intangibles that contribute to the value of a house. For example the two large trees in front of my house that shade my bedroom in the summer with their dense greenery then turn bright orange yellow and red in the fall. Of course there has to be some way to quantify a house’s worth for banks.
One guideline that seems pretty silly is the rule that square footage that is even slightly below grade is not counted as square footage. This realestate agent’s article has some funny comments. One guy actually seems to have hired a bulldozer to unearth his house so that he could qualify for a loan. Another homeowner determined that he has no square footage because his entire house is dug into the earth.
I thought of one of the inspirations of my youth, Malcolm Wells. He was an architect in Massachusetts who built most of his buildings underground. Here are some of his words about this way of building (from his website):
“…By letting our structure hog all the sunlight wherever we go, we stamp out much of the natural riches of our land. Weather is not kind to building materials. They need to be protected by a blanket of earth. Otherwise, ice cracks the freeways, water rusts bridge structures, floods rage because water cannot soak into impervious ground….”
“…We live in an era of glitzy buildings and trophy houses: big, ugly, show-off monsters that stand—or I should say stomp—on land stripped bare by the construction work and replanted with toxic green lawns. If the buildings could talk they would be speechless with embarrassment, but most of us see nothing wrong with them, and would, given the opportunity, build others like them, for few of us realize that there’s a gentler way to build. It’s called underground.”