Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beyond the Ordinary

by Lori Davison, The Groundwater Foundation
Can you imagine yourself working in a business community which lies 100 feet underground?  Your commute includes driving through a hole in the side of a hill with unbelievable scenery of walls, ceiling, pillars, and floor made of limestone.  Your office attire would be clothes suitable for a constant temperature of 68 degrees—no need for “winter” or “summer” clothes.  Everyone would be treated equal—no windows for anyone, just limestone and pillars for a view.  No--this isn’t from some sci-fi movie--it is an underground industrial park located in an excavated mine 100 feet below the surface of Kansas City, Missouri called SubTropolis.  It is the largest of eight underground business complexes in the area.  It includes 5 million square feet of leased warehouse and office space with a network of more than two miles of rail lines and 6 miles of roads.

In the 1960s, the Hunt Midwest company which owns SubTropolis began renting space that was created by the limestone mining in the area.  After the energy crisis hit in the 1970s, people came to appreciate the advantages of locating businesses underground. For example, the constant temperature underground leads to greatly reduced heating and air-conditioning demands—about 85 percent lower than for a building on the surface.  Subterranean development represents an innovative way to save energy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Also, these underground offices do not have roofs, external siding, flooring and support structures so therefore require fewer energy-intensive construction materials.  The environmental impact of SubTropolis is huge also.  For instance, surface land is preserved since trees and other natural plants do not need to be removed and wetlands need not be filled to make way for commerce or industry. 

Other underground business developments similar to SubTropolis are located in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.  You never know what “lies below!”  This is just one example of people creating innovative ways to save energy and other resources.  What other ideas can you come up with to protect and conserve natural resources?  Remember, we need to think beyond the ordinary?

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