Underground Space Utilization

In the last few decades, underground space has become increasingly important for society’s development.

In the last few decades, underground space has become increasingly important for society’s development. Population growth, booming metropolises, scarcity of urban land, environmental awareness, as well as an increase in specific needs for protection, storage, security, and sheltering, have all contributed to the use and development of underground spaces. Population growth and the movement of the people from rural to urban areas has resulted in significant demands for growth in city infrastructures, especially in megacities throughout the world. Such growth can only be supported by the efficient use of underground space.

There are currently about 60 megacities in the world – defined as a city with a population over 10 million inhabitants – that collectively have more than 600 million citizens. By 2030, it is estimated that two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, creating more megacities with limited space, facilities, and supporting infrastructure. Underground spaces are an obvious solution to the added stresses that such an influx of people will inevitably cause to existing infrastructure.

Putting Our Experience to Work for You

This shift of the populace will require the development of infrastructures in these cities in order to guarantee efficient transportation systems and reliable utilities such as power, water, sewer, and communication systems. The logical place to locate these systems is underground. Land scarcity also makes underground space attractive for commercial, institutional, storage, housing, and service facilities. Underground space is the new frontier and WSP is on the cutting edge of implementing its efficient and beneficial use.

Underground space development is an important part of city planning and is included in the majority of existing urban plans. Benefits of using underground spaces include relieving surface congestion, connecting people and neighbourhoods, protecting residents from noise pollution and poor air quality, reducing overbuilding and crowding, and providing more room for open, green spaces on the surface. Efficient use of underground space promotes sustainable development, improves urban environment, preserves natural resources, and offers long-term economic benefits.

WSP recently completed the design and implementation of Stigbergsgaraget, an underground parking facility in Stockholm, Sweden. The project received numerous awards and was a 2016 finalist in the International Tunneling Association (ITA) project. In addition, we completed the design of Stockholm’s underground bus terminal in the city centre as part of the Slussen development program. The bus terminal was built inside the bedrock, creating a safe and modern hub for commuters that will connect with Saltsjöbanan and the transit system, facilitating indoor movement between buses, trains, and rail transit.

Underground Storage for Liquids and Gas

WSP also has extensive experience in the planning, design, and implementation of underground spaces for transportation, water and sewer conveyance, utilities, storage, commercial, nuclear waste repositories, storage, and research facilities. We designed and performed construction supervision for the Superconductor Super Collider (SSC) program in Texas, which would have provided the largest underground high physics research facility in the world. The planned ring circumference spanned 87.1 kilometres (54.1 mi) with an energy of 20 TeV per proton. This program demonstrates WSP’s innovative solutions and management expertise in this first-of-a-kind large underground space use. The firm also completed similar underground research facilities for Brookhaven National Lab in New York, the Stanford Linear Accelerator in California, and the Fermi Lab in Chicago.

Today, underground storage is a common approach for dealing with many products, including coal, oil, natural gas, LNG, and compressed air. Ensuring reserves of oil and gas, in particular, is a critical element in maintaining a stable fuel supply in industrialized countries. WSP has completed numerous projects for the US Department of Energy for their Strategic Petroleum Reserve Facilities in Texas and Louisiana. In addition, several caverns were designed and built using salt mine cavities for the storage of LNG, including the Clemens Caverns Storage Facility in Texas. We also designed the Marathon cavern in Kentucky to store liquid butane.

Underground Storage for Nuclear Waste

Nuclear waste storage is one of the most controversial issues in the nuclear power industry, and storage of spent fuel is a major concern for many industrial countries with nuclear power. At present, the safest way to store nuclear waste is in deep geological disposal sites in underground formations that are inert, so that there is no danger of an impact on groundwater, disruption by seismic activity, or any other potential contamination of the environment.

WSP designed and led the implementation of the Yucca Mountain Radioactive Waste Storage facility in Nevada, USA, as well as conducted studies for the Department of Energy for the Basalt Nuclear Waste Repository in Washington. Similarly, we performed UK-wide environmental assessments, geological studies, and site characterization for geological disposal facilities for nuclear waste. Presently, WSP is performing geological studies and design of deep shafts for the Swedish Nuclear Repository (SKB), for the development of nuclear waste repository facilities. In addition, similar studies and projects were implemented for nuclear waste repositories and underground cooling tunnels of nuclear reactors in Sweden.

From Boring to Commissioning