Sustainability and Resiliency Implications of Underground Structures

Dr Raymond L. Sterling

While underground construction for civil and military and mining purposes has existed for thousands of years, the conscious use of underground space to house a variety of infrastructure and special purpose facilities has only blossomed in the past 100 years. Today, in major urban areas, the growing population and very limited land area are driving an urgent exploration of how underground space use on a large scale might save surface land resources for increased livability and future development. At the same time, global questions are being asked about the sustainability and resiliency of cities and our modern way of life. This lecture will address the linkages among these topics. Sustainability studies look towards how we can modify our current ways of living so that we can preserve opportunities for future generations. Underground space use can contribute in many ways to this ideal – particularly by its contribution to an environmentally sustainable and aesthetically acceptable landscape and the longevity of underground structures once created. However, there are significant opportunities for improvement in the use of materials and energy to create underground spaces and the minimization of their operating costs. Urban resiliency – the ability of a city or key infrastructure elements to recover from natural and/or man-made calamities – is clearly a part of long-term sustainability but recent events around the world have shown that there is a poor current understanding of the resiliency of specific infrastructure networks, the interdependencies among a broad range of network types and the interaction of physical networks with economic and social systems. Again, underground space use has many favorable characteristics that protect underground facilities from damage in catastrophic events but protection from flooding and safety measures for internal fire or explosions need careful attention. The impact of some recent disaster events on underground facilities will be summarized.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Sterling is a Professor Emeritus at Louisiana Tech University. From 1995 to 2009 he was the Contractors’ Educational Trust Fund Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Trenchless Technology Center at Louisiana Tech University. Previously, from 1977 to 1995, he was the founding director of the Underground Space Center at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Sterling received a B.Eng degree in civil and structural engineering from the University of Sheffield in 1970. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1975 and 1977. He is a Past Chairman of the International Society for Trenchless Technology and the North American Society for Trenchless Technology. He is a Past President of the Associated research Centers for Urban Underground Space, past Vice Chairman of the Committee on Underground Space of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, Past Chairman of the U.S. National Committee on Tunneling Technology, and a Past Animateur for the International Tunnelling Association’s Working Group on Direct and Indirect Advantages of Underground Structures. In 2003, he received the Stephen D. Bechtel Pipeline Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was selected as the Person of the Year by the Trenchless Technology Magazine in 2001 and as Most Valuable Professional by the Gulf Coast Trenchless Association in 1999. In 2009, he received the Gold Medal from the International Society for Trenchless Technology for outstanding contributions to the field. He has authored approximately 200 books, technical papers and reports on a wide range of topics related to underground space use, underground construction, geomechanics and trenchless technology and for the past 17 years has served as a Senior Editor of the international journal Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology. He is registered engineer in the U.S. and is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Until his retirement in 2009, he was a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Royal Society for Arts, Manufacture and Commerce.

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