- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 04 Jan 2021
The use of underground space, or rather its' lack of use in our cities fascinates us.
During the Industrial Revolution, humankind discovered how to excavate tunnels mechanically. Travelling through inhospitable mountain ranges with newly invented steam engines led to a transport infrastructure still in use today.
Throughout the world, we can find disused salt mines, copper mines, steel mines and coal mines. It was either depletion of the resources that stopped the activity or the lower cost of production elsewhere.
Most recently we can see the Netherlands cutting its extraction of natural gas to zero due to the human-induced earthquakes. Many of these activities have been covered and are forgotten, trapped in time and underground space for posterity. Others are given a new lease of life as part of renewable energy systems.
 The underground is an undervalued and precious asset
It can be an asset in providing urban areas with additional space when surface space runs out. It can be a foe when forgotten interventions cause sinkholes in urban areas. It can add quality to the urban fabric if done right.
The most complicated and least understood aspect remains the fact that the subsurface, depending on the type of geology, delivers ecosystem services that are key to human survival.
This aspect causes the duality between exploitation and conservation. It means that neither a strategy of total exploitation nor total protection is going to lead to sustainable development of the subsurface. The balance between humanity and nature needs to be struck below the surface as much as above the surface.
 Exploring underground space
Our book is about the future of humanity and its survival. It's about exploring underground space the way we explore outer space. The rationale is the same; the difference is we don’t have to leave this planet to do it. And we can reap the benefits a lot sooner.
The past seven years have seen us travel the world and give presentations, host sessions, take part in workshops and provide training classes.
We felt there was a need to explore this topic in a book and make more people aware of the potentials of underground space.
We hope that urban planners, policy makers and decision makers will take to heart what we write. The future of our cities could well depend on planning the use of underground space in a comprehensive manner.
Only then can we be sure that use is made where possible, delivering the most significant contribution to our cities. At the same time, planning will allow to safeguard and protect valuable ecosystem services and avoid interventions.
 Harnessing the potential
It provides shelter, and the ability to create connections that bypass obstacles that we have created on the surface. As such, it allows for efficient, straight-line networks, minimising distance and maximising connectivity.
It requires imagination, it requires adapting legislation, and it might need more-advanced and faster technologies.
This article was originally published here by ICE on 30 July 2018. It was written by Han Admiraal and Antonia Cornaro.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Free download of TG 12/2021 available.
TESP works with The Youth Group to form skill sharing network.
Big tech collaborates on platform for the built environment.
Letter signed by 21 organisations sent to MHCLG.
A look at the Government's strategic approach.
Steps to help reduce the spread of infection inside buildings.
This social media-centred hobby can be both dangerous and illegal.
Millwork wall treatment with a long and illustrious history.
HSE introduces cumulative exposure calculator.
The Edwardians and their houses.
Cut off from civilian life for over 900 years.
Gaining green support from the carbon giants.
Medieval passageways with spiritual, transport and economic purposes.
Click the button to subscribe.