Smarter cities: should we be building underground?

Is digging deep the most efficient way to build in a crowded city?
20 February 2018


The tunnel in France, 900ft underground, where the fluid-injection experiments were conducted



How can we build smarter, to save space in crowded cities? Should we be building underground?


Chris Smith put this question to engineer Allan McRobie...

Allan - It is one of the ways to go. The choices are to go up, go out, or go down. Go up: we’ve seen the social problems that you get from a highrise. There’s a lot of sense about going down. There’s lots of dystopian films where we’ve polluted the atmosphere and we all have to go underground. But there’s a lot of good reasons why you should put a lot of your infrastructure underground. All your cars should be underground and your trains, etc.

Elon Musk, whom you mentioned earlier, he’s got the boring company. You probably know all about his buying up tunneling machines: he’s trying to make smarter faster tunneling machines. There’s an awful lot of infrastructure you can put underground and it makes a great deal of sense.

Chris - So the answer is likely we probably will be going down as well as up? Thank you Allan!

Allan - There’s another thing as well don’t go up or down, just go out. Don’t overcrowd your cities. Spread out a bit, put your cities elsewhere. Why do we all cluster into one great megalopolis, why don’t we be a bit more decentralised? Move your studios to Salford, for example.

Chris - A bit late for a lot of that already, Allan, with the world population being what it is and 75% of people now live in cities I think, isn’t it that the statistic or at least they will do pretty soon, and the numbers of people who are moving to cities is increasing all the time?

Allan - That’s exactly right, yes. But we don’t have to.


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