Thursday, 20 January 2011

Underground City?

Beijing isn't going to be man enough and restrict the number of cars on the roads to prevent perpetual gridlock.
Instead it has come up with the ingenious idea of creating a make-work project and building roads -- underground.
City planners are looking into maximizing space at the subterranean level and put in parking lots, and business centres.
And there won't just be one floor underground, but four.
The plan is for the first floor below ground to be for businesses and subways. The next one down would be for roads, the third for electricity and communications infrastructure and pipelines, and the last one for parking lots.
Construction is supposed to start in March in Tongzhou district, in Beijing's southeastern outskirts, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.
Some people think this is the only solution left, with the Chinese capital's population swelling to 20 million.
"With the growing economy, Beijing's congestion is also growing at an unprecedented rate," said independent economist Andy Xie. "Underground is the only way to go."
"People like to move from villages to cities, so either we go into the sky or underground," said Professor Charles Ng Wang-wai, chair of the geotechnical engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Ng believes that building underground will help avoid damaging the natural environment and pre-existing structures as well as avoid the costs of real estate and work permits.

However, while he concedes building underground is twice as expensive as above ground, Ng says operating a business or car park underground saves energy and is more "greener".
"Beijing can benefit from substantial energy saving," he said. "Underground, the temperature is fairly constant. Energy consumption would be less, especially given Beijing's weather."
He cited Montreal as an example of having an underground city, but that's basically in the downtown core area that has a maze of pathways lined with shops so that they don't have to deal with frigid temperatures when going from A to B.
Also critics with engineering backgrounds say there are a lot of problems related to building underground, such as blasting tunnels and mistakenly exploding a main water pipe or vibrations from controlled blasts that could leave cracks in buildings above ground. This could seriously affect cultural heritage sites like the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven.
And then there is the problem with water underground.
Beijing doesn't have the best drainage system, because when it rains in the city, the roads turn into rivers as the water has no where to go. Believe me, I've been there.
Sounds like there are many more risks that advantages to this pie-in-the-sky plan. However, as China and its officials are anxious to boost GDP figures, going underground might be the solution it's looking for now.

1 comment:

  1. agree technically it is not that easy. good example is rome, italy. during excavations for the underground tons of relics were discovered. that posted a lot of difficulties to balance between conservation and progress.