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The ecological universe of troglodyte houses

sulu cave-house

Troglodyte habitat (and not troglodyte!) Has been used by man since prehistoric times. Originally chosen rather for its solidity and the security provided, this type of accommodation is nowadays mainly used by choice, in view of its completely original way of life. But before embarking on the adventure, it is better to be aware of the many legal pitfalls that still exist, which should however soon give way to one of the better defined rules.

A habitat at the cutting edge of sustainable development

Contrary to the image of Épinal, a troglodyte habitat is not necessarily dug into the rock on the side of the cliff. It can also be an excavated dwelling, implanted under the surface of the ground, or covered with earth. In both cases, especially the second, and except for necessity or housing difficulties, life in troglodyte dwellings is more often than not an increasingly popular choice in France ("troglophilia", even if the word applies to origin to animals).

This way of life is indeed characterized by a number of parameters that make it an ecological habitat. In addition to its somewhat adventurous character, the troglodyte habitat ensures real comfort to its occupants. Rock or earth in direct contact provide unbeatable sound insulation, a finding that is also valid for thermal insulation. Cave houses are therefore much less affected by thermal variations in the air, remaining cooler in summer, and warmer in winter, which reduces the use of air conditioning and heating.

The lighting of a troglodyte house, especially dug in the rock, constitutes the sensitive point of this type of habitat. In the case of houses covered with earth, the multiplication of well-oriented openings is sufficient to ensure optimal lighting, comparable to a "classic" house. Regarding the habitats made in the rock, the solution has already existed for several millennia, designed by the Egyptians for their pyramids: the skylight.

The solar luminosity is captured by a dome or a window, which transmits the light in an aluminum duct to a diffuser, relaying the light in the darkest areas. An ecological and natural lighting system, beneficial for the organism. Regarding the water supply, and only in the case of a buried house, it can be collected by rainwater collectors, and redistributed in the house to wash the dishes, the linen and be used in the toilet.

Legislation on troglodyte life still to be implemented

All is not, however, idyllic concerning the troglodyte habitat in France. The adventurous and ecological motivation of individuals wishing to take the plunge still faces a certain legislative vagueness. To avoid wild projects, building permits depend on the regions and are more and more compulsory, as well as for the enlargements of already existing habitats. Insurance, for its part, is an obstacle course, since it generally covers only the furniture, but not the house itself, which is not in principle considered as a construction; we must therefore ardently negotiate specific conditions to deal with landslides and other very specific contingencies.

In addition, troglodyte dwellings are still ignored by the cadastral coverage, which does not take into account these “invisible” properties, with imaginable legal consequences. Conversely, the fact of living (relatively hidden) does not allow to escape the property tax, which applies without any difficulty to the troglodyte dwellings. These many difficulties, highlighted by the popularity of this type of habitat, have led to the implementation of real legislation, which should soon see the light of day and regulate things.

Apart from the buried houses, potentially feasible almost everywhere in France, the already existing habitats carved out of the rock are hundreds of years old, even millennia old, and are historically distributed in many French regions, whether mountainous or no: Corsica, Finistère, Jura, Limousin, Touraine, Poitou, Périgord and Pyrenees to name a few. In Maine-et-Loire, the network of galleries near Saumur stretches over 1,200 kilometers in length!

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