Key Issues in Going Underground

Donald Woodard

Underground Developers Association and Park College

Mr. Woodard contrasted commercial underground applications with infrastructure assurance applications. The advantages offered by underground facilities (UGFs) in commercial applications are purely economic, while advantages for infrastructure protection depend on the application and involve more factors than simply cost per square foot. From a commercial perspective, Mr. Woodard emphasized, UGFs compete quite well against surface facilities. The experience in Kansas City shows that existing premined underground space is cheaper to build out and operate than above-ground space.

Mr. Woodard discussed several disadvantages of UGFs, acknowledging at the outset that some applications are not well suited to underground locations. For purposes of comparison, he made the point that a UGF can be thought of as a surface facility with a thicker roof. In this case, some underground locations pose problems with structural integrity and groundwater not encountered with surface structures. In addition, UGFs depend on the surface for some elements of their support, including communications, power generation, and ventilation. There is a security advantage to decentralization in any protection scheme. An underground protection plan where a single location becomes the critical hub would not be the best design. On the positive side, Mr. Woodard thought that UGFs offer definite physical security advantages. Life-cycle cost savings make them economically attractive for infrastructure applications, and UGFs can be a major benefit in reconstituting infrastructure capability following an attack.

Mr. Woodard emphasized improving public awareness of UGF capabilities for infrastructure assurance. He made a number of recommendations, which included:

  • implementing a thorough study to foster understanding of underground capabilities vis-à-vis infrastructure protection needs;

  • facilitating government-industry partnerships to provide R&D funding for underground applications. The Underground Developers Association has endeavored to do this, but available funding has been insufficient to sustain long-term research;

  • creating a center for underground studies to examine and promote the use of UGFs and to attract new talent into underground disciplines; and

  • considering requiring government at all levels to include underground locations as an alternative in their site selection process.



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Use of Underground Facilities to Protect Critical Infrastructures: Summary of a Workshop Key Issues in Going Underground Donald Woodard Underground Developers Association and Park College Mr. Woodard contrasted commercial underground applications with infrastructure assurance applications. The advantages offered by underground facilities (UGFs) in commercial applications are purely economic, while advantages for infrastructure protection depend on the application and involve more factors than simply cost per square foot. From a commercial perspective, Mr. Woodard emphasized, UGFs compete quite well against surface facilities. The experience in Kansas City shows that existing premined underground space is cheaper to build out and operate than above-ground space. Mr. Woodard discussed several disadvantages of UGFs, acknowledging at the outset that some applications are not well suited to underground locations. For purposes of comparison, he made the point that a UGF can be thought of as a surface facility with a thicker roof. In this case, some underground locations pose problems with structural integrity and groundwater not encountered with surface structures. In addition, UGFs depend on the surface for some elements of their support, including communications, power generation, and ventilation. There is a security advantage to decentralization in any protection scheme. An underground protection plan where a single location becomes the critical hub would not be the best design. On the positive side, Mr. Woodard thought that UGFs offer definite physical security advantages. Life-cycle cost savings make them economically attractive for infrastructure applications, and UGFs can be a major benefit in reconstituting infrastructure capability following an attack. Mr. Woodard emphasized improving public awareness of UGF capabilities for infrastructure assurance. He made a number of recommendations, which included: implementing a thorough study to foster understanding of underground capabilities vis-à-vis infrastructure protection needs; facilitating government-industry partnerships to provide R&D funding for underground applications. The Underground Developers Association has endeavored to do this, but available funding has been insufficient to sustain long-term research; creating a center for underground studies to examine and promote the use of UGFs and to attract new talent into underground disciplines; and considering requiring government at all levels to include underground locations as an alternative in their site selection process.