In response to extreme heat waves and increasing global temperatures, residents of Coober Pedy, a mining town in South Australia, have chosen a unique solution: living in underground structures. Approximately 60% of this city’s population flees underground to escape the scorching temperatures, which can exceed 50°C in the summer.
In Coober Pedy, home to some of the largest opal mines in the world, living underground has become a necessity to cope with extreme weather conditions. During hot summers and cold winters, underground buildings maintain a constant temperature of between 19°C and 24°C, so there is no heavy reliance on air conditioning or heating systems.
Despite the challenges and limitations of living underground, many people in Coober Pedy have built luxurious residences that include spacious living areas and even subterranean swimming pools. To prevent landslides, houses must be at least 2.5 meters below the surface.
The concept of living underground is not new and has been adopted by different cultures throughout history to withstand extreme weather conditions and protect themselves from enemies. However, living permanently underground presents both physical and psychological challenges, including the need for specialized building materials and the potential mental health implications of not having much natural light exposure.
As climate change continues to raise temperatures in different parts of the world, the approach of living underground could be seen as an innovative adaptation to cope with extreme heat and reduce reliance on energy-intensive heating and cooling systems.