Underground construction is not a new concept. But the way the global population is expected to rise in the coming years, increasing challenges of pollution, climate change and traffic congestion have all compelled the urban planners to think underground. Soaring property prices is yet another big reason. In fact, modern science even says that it would have been better if our ancestors began developing underground instead of on the land – after rising from caves. Modern scientific knowledge has also busted the myths that underground houses are dark, smelly and claustrophobic.
Interestingly, there are many more reasons that make underground living a viable and beneficial solution in many ways. So, let’s just delve into this fascinating topic and know which cities around the world have already started developing mini-cities below the cities.
Advantages Of Building Subterranean Cities
There are more advantages to constructing underground cities rather than our conventional ones. Innovative urban planners can construct stylish, secure, comfortable, and bright dwellings just as on the land.
Above all, the greatest advantage of underground construction is energy efficiency. The subterranean temperature of the earth remains stable, hence the underground living structures can leverage the benefits from geothermal mass and heat exchange. Which means, without using any artificial heating and cooling systems, people can feel warmer in the winters and cooler in the summers. Due to this natural phenomenon, spending on energy bills can be reduced by 80-95% when compared to the conventional living. Integrating a solar design further cuts down the bills to zero.
Underground construction might seem a complex affair. But learning the ins and outs thoroughly shows that it saves a substantial amount of money when compared to construction on the land. First of all, the material excavated during the process can be used in construction. The need to lay foundation is completely eliminated which reduces the construction and labour costs while accelerating the process. About 90% of the construction is done using concrete which ensures protection from fire. In the broader context, underground cities can be well protected from fire outbreaks, earthquakes, hurricanes and high winds, hailstorms etc. When the potential dangers are less, it becomes easier to obtain insurance – at cheaper rates. Additionally, the underground structures, little to no exterior maintenance such as re-painting which cuts down maintenance costs.
Harmonises With Nature
Underground cities can blend beautifully with the surrounding ecosystems and have minimal impact on ecology. It doesn’t just provide a safe and sound living to humans with pleasant aesthetics but even ensures that the maximum habitat is left isolated for wild fauna. The houses build below the earth can easily match with the surrounding landscapes as opposed to the above-ground houses that are hard to blend with the surrounding landscape.
Subterranean houses have a natural insulating property due to which creates a greenhouse-like environment indoors making it viable to grow plants. The space left above the ground can be used to grow a lawn or even turned into a mini-farm.
Underground construction can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the building by a number of factors. It can aid in rainwater harvesting and provide natural soundproofing. They can be easily constructed on steep surfaces such as caves – practically impossible for conventional residence.
In case of biological attack during global conflicts, underground structures can be made air-tight. They are also safe from the radioactive fallout of nuclear explosions and other explosive situations.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
Practically, the disadvantages of underground living do not infuse any intimidating fear which can place any hard-to-overcome obstacle in building under the earth. The underground living should be a primary solution for the over-populated regions around the world. Utmost care should be taken in navigating the existing power cables, sewage lines, subways, and foundations of existing buildings properly before taking a particular underground area in consideration.
Although the true costs of building below the earth are yet broadly unknown, it is certainly a potential construction trend which will be extensively seen in the future.
Some of the primary concerns include:
- People need to prepare them psychologically before shifting from a traditional house to an underground house.
- Because underground construction is unconventional, it demands careful planning.
- Building in a flood-prone area requires extra efforts and care.
- It requires extra attention on protecting the structure from moisture during and after the construction.
- Complex ventilation procedures are important for constructing underground structures.
The Futuristic Underground City In Helsinki
Finland’s capital city Helsinki is working on building an underground city as a solution to mitigate the carbon footprint and maintain the low-rise skyline above ground. This subterranean city highlights six-storey shopping centres, metro stations, swimming pools, a hockey ring, and church. It is also the world’s first ever subterranean city to have the greenest computer data centre that is cooled using cold water routed in from the sea. The extra heat generated from the centre is directed through an underground pipe network and deployed for domestic heating requirements. Moreover, the subterranean space covers 200 km of tunnels that will later be extended to make way for public space and industrial facilities. This mini-city below Helsinki is aesthetically pleasing and built on and into bedrock.
Mexico’s Upside-down Underground Pyramid
The traditional city of Mexico is already having no space to build and regulations that restrict the place from constructing buildings, not more than eight storeys, encouraged Estaben Suarez of BNKR Arquitectura to design the ‘Earthscaper’ – an enormous inverted pyramid and the world’s biggest subterranean city that can accommodate around 100,000 people. This spectacular 75-storey pyramid will be built beneath Mexico City’s main Square called ‘Zocalo’.
Going to a depth of 300 metres, the city will have a glass ceiling that will receive natural ventilation and light from above and further incorporated with fibre optic lighting technology. Every tenth floor of the pyramid will feature vertical gardens that supply food and purify the air. The first ten storeys will highlight museums and art galleries while the next ten below will be used for retail and living space. Other floors will be for offices and other purposes.
The Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental In China
50-kilometres away from Shanghai, this 90-metre deep and abandoned quarry was thought to be of no use. But today, the innovative team of architects has transformed the place into an underground hotel which features conference rooms, restaurants, cafes, and a grand ballroom. The entire resort is provided with a natural air circulation system where the warm air from equipment and people rises up and out from the vent in the top floor while the cooler air directed deeper in the structure.
The hotel consists of two floors above the ground and 16 floors under the ground. In the future, the resort is will have an underwater restaurant with 15-metre wide glass windows to admire the schools of fish. It will also house adventure sports facilities such as rock climbing and trampoline along with a theme park.
This 88-metre deep, 18-storey resort took around a decade for construction and is now expected to be open for guest from 15th November 2018.
RÉSO – The Largest Underground Complex In The World
Well, if you are thinking that underground cities have begun developing now, take a look at RÉSO – the world’s largest underground complex In Montreal, in use since the 1960s. This complex comes as a relief in a place where temperatures regularly drop below 20℃. The complex is spread over an area of 12 sq.km under the streets of Montreal and has more than 120 external points. The mini-city is home to commercial as well as residential complexes with a host of shopping centres, banks, hotels, theatres, galleries, nightclubs, university buildings. Restaurants, library, and even a hockey ring. It is one of the bustling areas of Montreal and a popular tourist attraction with over 500,000 visiting the complex each day.
Underground cities are an incredible way to save life on earth. So, how about having smart burrows to live?