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From Lateral Thinking to Voluminous Thinking: unexplored options for subterranean habitats in dense urban areas

Unexplored options for subterranean habitats in dense urban areas

From Lateral Thinking to Voluminous Thinking
Lateral thinking vs Voluminous thinking?
Current situation
Conventional objections
Legal (and financial) issues of subterranean property ownership
Preliminary technical (and financial) issues
Technical (and financial) issues
Potential marketing concepts or modes
Evaluation of economic viability and marketing
Evaluation of market segmentation
Environmental, resource and quality of life issues
Demonstration, research and testing opportunities
Time factors: urgency, anticipation, phasing
Examples and clarifications
Enabling technology breakthroughs
Enabling legislative and jurisdictional breakthroughs
Relevant industries, expertise and government authorities
References and links

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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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