Underground Spaces for Sustainable Societies: Tunnelling for an Innovative Future
Throughout the history, humanity sought shelter from nature, sometimes even using nature itself. In the earliest experience, people utilized caves and underground spaces to live, to store and to seek protection against nature and enemies. Starting as early as 15th century BC, a complex underground structure with a capacity of almost 20.000 inhabitants was created, for a sustainable social life (living quarters, stables, wineries, churches, etc.), remnants of which can be seen in in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Accumulation of engineering knowledge over the centuries enabled construction of tunnels in many cities serving as support and logistics corridors. Industrial revolution increased the need to connect locations of raw materials and production, as well as users in the cities; this was originally served by railways that needed more tunnelling as they linked larger regions. In the 20th century, development of highway transportation in most of the developed countries fed the need for underground structures to establish road connection between cities as well as urban rapid transit systems within cities, such as metro, light rail systems, etc.
Today, underground spaces (tunnels with variable size and shape, shafts, pipelines, caverns and chambers with different purposes) are increasingly used to provide sustainable development and living. Land transportation systems (rail and road), especially in developing countries, still require construction of underground spaces. But, the needs of the societies further require connection to provide water and energy, as well. The increase in the distance of needs and societies, which is often naturally obstructed by geography, keeps the need to focus on underground spaces and corridors even today. On the other hand, innovation is a key measure, because both construction and operation of these underground systems and spaces need better use of the current technologies.
Turkey as a major developing country, is at the verge of creating stronger connection between cities nationally, as well as Asia and Europe internationally. Thus, tunnelling and underground space design are key aspects for efficient and safe road map to economic development. Despite its geological and topographical challenges, and with many corridors for tunnelling under construction and planned, Turkey is a perfect location to talk about sustainable development in the light of innovation for the next decade.
At the 100th anniversary of founding of Turkish Republic, as a country with a significant capacity and need for increased tunnelling and underground space, we are willing to host ITA-AITES World Tunnel Congress 2023 and the 49th General Assembly in 2023.