Helsinki looks to expand underground

The World Tunnel Congress examines innovation and sustainability as the key to future productivity.

The requisite for and significance of underground space is of increasing importance to urban societies. This was the main argument of the Underground Spaces in the Service of a Sustainable Society conference, which took place as part of the ITA-AITES World Tunnel Congress at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, Finland last month.

During the conference, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, Hannu Penttilä, stated that in urban centres, people should be given priority and secondary operations should be moved underground. “This is precisely what has been happening in Helsinki and it has improved the city environment for the residents. Urban life is increasingly shifting from closed spaces to shared public and commercial spaces,” he confirmed. “For that reason, the need for high-quality spaces aboveground and the need to transfer some elements underground is being highlighted.”

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A recent boom in tunnelling is occurring across Finland and underground construction has become intrinsic to urban development plans. Underground spaces are seen as elementary parts of infrastructure; major projects currently being implemented include the western expansion of metro system and an underground airport transit link.

The Finnish Tunnelling Association, the main organiser of the congress, has worked for more than 35 years to transform subterranean spaces into sustainable infrastructure components. As well as addressing transportation needs, this type of initiative comes also as a direct response to the need to supply Finland with basic services.

Improvements to the provision of clean drinking water, waste water treatment, electricity, data networks and heating can be managed only through tunnelling without disturbing existing above-ground city structures.

CNN reporter Richard Quest produced this report about the issue of sustainability as part of Helsinki’s vast underground system restructure.