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$2 Million Invisible Home Hides an Underground Garage and Plenty of Eco Features

Bigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certification 23 photos
Photo: Jefferson Smith for Grand Designs Magazine (Composite)
Bigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certificationBigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certification
While common sense might tell us that we can't have it all in life, there are cases when it's possible. The only prerequisite is money – backed, in this particular case, by an inordinate amount of patience and hard work.
This is the (in)famous Canterbury invisible home, also known as the sunken home, the underground bunker home, the hobbit home, or the Bigbury Hollow house.

That last one is the official name, but this piece of real estate is perhaps best known as one of the saddest yet most ambitious projects featured on the popular British show Grand Designs, one that extended over the course of five years, up from the planned 10 months of construction time, and most likely came with a budget of $2 million, more than twice the initial estimate.

This invisible house gets its name from the fact that it's nearly completely hidden underground, with only one Teletubby-like giant window peering out onto the gorgeous landscape. The decision to build it below the ground level was not an easy one, as it was forced by the fact that the area is protected by conservation laws and generally prohibits any new type of construction work.

Bigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certification
Photo: Jefferson Smith for Grand Designs Magazine
The only exception was a doughnut-shaped plot of land that came with a caveat: because this was an old quarry site, construction would be allowed underground. Dorran and Vereuschka bought this piece of land and were granted permits for their future home on it in 2012. It would be another while and then five very long years before they could finally see their "dream" home completed.

Because of its peculiar location and the regulations that came with it, the owners were forced to bury everything in the ground, not just the house. With the exception of that arched window, every feature is underground, from the coliseum-like steps framed by two vertical gardens to the backyard and the attached two-car garage.

Indeed, one of the advantages of owning a home in the countryside is the guarantee of a safe and preferably weather-protected parking spot, and this home is no different. For it to happen, though, architect Richard Hawkes, who handled the design, had to think outside of the box, sinking the garage with the house into the ground.

Bigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certification
Photo: Channel 4
The two-car garage (with some room to spare, allowing you to safely tuck in other vehicles like a pair of bikes or to use that space for storage) comes with its own car lift that lowers the vehicle into the ground. When it's time to leave, the car pops up right into a flowery meadow – and has to make its way from there to the nearest road. This is the kind of immersion in nature you're unlikely to find with other homes.

The fact that the home is 95% underground also helps with it achieving Passivhaus certification. The shell of the home is fully insulated and waterproof, which maintains the same temperature inside regardless of the season. Water comes from a borehole and the home can run solely on solar energy during the summer, thanks to a large array of solar cells and a battery storage system.

The living space is divided into two parts, with communal day areas on one side and the bedrooms and bathrooms on the other, linked by a tunnel-like structure. On either end of the home are gardens, which, once full-grown, will completely hide the home from prying eyes even at a closer inspection.

Bigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certification
Photo: Channel 4
But perhaps the more interesting part about the home than its awesome features is its story – if "interesting" equals "drama" in your book. What should have been a 10-month project with a maximum budget of £1 million ($1.3 million at the current exchange rate) ended up spreading over five troubled years and ballooned to an estimated budget of £1.6 million ($2 million). That figure doesn't include the price of the land.

Owners Dorran and Vereuschka, described as passionate and experienced home rebuilders by Grand Design, worked as navy captain and pharma supplier at the time. It was Dorran's perfectionism that saw him fire the entire construction crew in 2018 and deciding to manage the project himself, down to the actual construction work. By then, the watertight membrane enveloping the home had already started to bubble, so it was back to square one for him.

The 2020 international health crisis meant that he could finally stay at home to focus on the build full-time, but he still had to switch jobs in order to complete it by the time businesses reopened. The family, along with their three children, moved into the house in 2021 before it even had the floors put in, and it was working solely with a makeshift kitchen.

Bigbury Hollow house comes with secret garage and Passivhaus certification
Photo: Jefferson Smith for Grand Designs Magazine
In a happy-ending twist, the home that Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud should have featured on the show in 2018 was eventually completed in 2022 and was showcased in full then. To this day, it remains an example of sustainable architecture, a passive house with an incredible design and features to match.

At the same time, though, it can serve as a potentially cautionary tale on how, sometimes, dreaming too big might be too much.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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