In spite of its small size, the city has a population of five million, and it is an
important communications node by both sea and air. Given that 693 square
kilometres has to find room for as many people as the whole of the population
of Norway, we can understand that the city must be crowded and that it has reached the
limits of expansion.
This is why the authorities are now considering moving some of Singapore’s infrastructure
underground. Several ministries have drawn up a list of proposals for how
underground caverns could be used for this purpose.
The possibilities include moving underground everything from water treatment plants
and reservoirs to airport logistics and PC component microchip manufacture. Every
area must be carefully evaluated before any decision is taken, and this is what
the Singaporean authorities want Norwegian tunnel experts to do.
The fact is that Norwegian expertise in building and using underground facilities is in
high repute in other countries – not least where exploiting the construction
characteristics of the rock mass is concerned. Since the Second World War,
Norwegian tunnel engineers have gained solid experience in building tunnels and
caverns for many different purposes, including storage halls for oil and gas,
hydropower projects and swimming pools and sports areas.
We have received a request to support the development of a master plan for Singapore,
and to help to evaluate and assess a range of solutions for each of its ten
“We put a lot of work into winning projects in other countries”, says SINTEF research
manager Eivind Grøv. “Besides being intellectually rewarding and exciting, they
are a useful complement to our Norwegian projects”.
SINTEF is operating in a consortium together with Multiconsult and a local company,
TriTech. “We set up this joint effort some years ago, and it has turned out to
be a useful bridgehead into Singapore”, says Grøv.
The Trondheim scientists, who were awarded the contract a couple of months ago, have been using the time
since then to collect examples of similar projects that have already been
performed such fields. In the course of the next nine months, and on the basis
of three examples from each field, they are to develop appropriate solutions
for Singapore. The ministries involved will use these as a basis for decision-making.
“We are talking about large areas all over the island,” says chief scientist Ming Lu of
SINTEF Building Research, who has led the earlier Norwegian efforts in Singapore.
“If these facilities are built, the process will involve digging shafts, boring
access tunnels and building huge caverns. It is extremely interesting for us to
contribute to a job like this, since we are talking here about the first
project of such dimensions anywhere in the world”.
As far as we know, only in Helsinki is there already such planned use of underground area. There, it is not simply
a matter of solving the problem of lack of space, but also of moving
unaesthetic or noisy elements of the infrastructure away from the surface, thus
making valuable areas of land available to the city’s residents.
“Today, we don’t know what they will decide to build in the future, but no matter what
they turn out to be, it is easy to imagine that these could involve enormous
storage rooms. Singapore and
Hong Kong have the two largest harbours in the
world, where huge numbers of containers are loaded and discharged at an
incredible speed. Even if the authorities decide to relocate only the port
warehouses underground, that alone would mean clearing quite a few cubic
kilometres of rock,” says Eivind Grøv.