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TECHNOLOGY

Eco-architect lays down green roots

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The underground home has a grass roof, helping it to blend in to its surroundings.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- When London-based architect Alex Michaelis found out his home could not exceed a certain height because of planning regulations, he came up with an ingenious plan: he built the house underground.

Building rules stated that, to protect the view and space between the Victorian buildings next to his property, no building on the plot of land could exceed the six-foot wall surrounding it.

This spurred Michaelis to design a unique house, by digging down and incorporating environmentally friendly technology into the design.

Michaelis, who is a self-confessed "greenie" and drives an electric car, told CNN that while the building incorporated eco-friendly technology and design, its main purpose was to be a family home.

"It's certainly our home -- and that is how we want it -- and that's the most important thing," he said.

"I think what it's done is combine alternative energy systems with modern contemporary design which hasn't really been done very much. I think there was a feeling of in trepidation of what was going to go up, I think that's been reversed now it's here."

The house's green credentials include solar panels, its own water system from a specially built bore, and a grass roof, which helps the building blend into its surroundings.

The energy-efficient home was built using products sourced from all over Europe to get the most eco-friendly results.

The windows, doors and roof lights came from Denmark, the walls are insulated with thermal wool and there is an under floor heating system -- all of which mean the home does not require much heating.

"The windows are specially made in Denmark and have got a better thermal value than anything you can get in England, we've used the best thermal properties we can and usually with sustainable materials," he said.

The house has a glass roof, which reoxygenates, as well as providing insulation for the house.

"When building an underground house, light is very important. There is probably more glazing than there should be but we have used the most thermally efficient glazing we could."

The indoor pool has a biometric device, giving access to the room only to people whose fingerprints it recognizes.

"For the children we do have safety devices, both me and my wife have unique access to the pool."

Michaelis said the UK was way behind Scandinavian countries when it came to equipment for eco-friendly homes, but he hoped that as people in the UK became more aware about what they could install in their homes, the cost would reduce.

"We simply have to move in this direction. Sustainability and environmental design are going to be the critical words in planning and architecture over the next 20 years."

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