From Lateral Thinking to Voluminous Thinking


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

Unexplored Options for Subterranean Habitats in Dense Urban Areas

Reposted in celebration of world population having reached 8 billion on 15 November 2022, with challenges to every kind of resource, and the continuing inability to discuss what cannot otherwise be discussed (Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem, 2009). In the spirit of assiduously avoiding the obvious, one indicative symptom is the inability to discuss the merits of living underground in order to address the challenges faced by urban planners and developers in their unrelenting encroachment on the green spaces with which quality of life has long been associated. (Original: 20 Aug 2007; Reposted: 16 Oct 2022)


Much is made of the limited space available on the surface of the Earth, especially for housing and especially in the urban areas to which people have tended to move from the countryside. This form of “lateral thinking” has been associated with much-regretted forms of urban sprawl and increasingly problematic access to adequate housing in urban areas. At the same time the urban sprawl has increased pressure on undeveloped areas, notably those provisionally set aside as “green belts“.

The question explored here is whether there is already a case for “voluminous thinking” — or when such thinking may become relevant, if not essential. By this is meant the possibility of progressive development of subterranean property, in urban areas, notably at depths not previously considered, whether 100, 500, 1000 or 5000 metres — or more

The issues relevant to the feasibility of such development include: ownership of subterranean space, financial significance for the real estate market, relevant construction technology and associated costs, continuing infrastructure costs (air conditioning, heating/cooling, pumping, etc), associated risks and security issues (flooding, earthquakes, etc), reduction of pressure on conventional infrastructure (transportation, green spaces, etc), acceptability to various categories of potential users, and symbolic significance (new frontier, etc).

Most people have never considered living underground. Therefore there is very little awareness of the potential or of the real advantages and disadvantages. However it would be a mistake to deny the extent of underground experience to which people are habituated in major cities (lengthy commutes in subways), shopping malls below ground level (eg Montreal). The Channel Tunnel is another experience which no longer invites comment.

The purpose of the following proposal is to offer triggers to the imagination as to the possibility of property ownership and development deep underground. The question is how people would respond to unusual housing options offered to them. As with any opportunity, the issue is not whether it appeals to all, but rather whether it would be acceptable, if not welcomed, by some.

As a marketing opportunity, it focuses on the challenge of ownership of the Earth beneath any real estate and the opportunity for the owner to sell this unrecognized resource now to those who anticipate the capacity to inhabit such volumes in the future.

The intention is to shift from focus on costly subsurface structures to the potential of low cost high volume subterranean habitats offering a significant enhancement of quality of life.



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