Innovation That Matters

Building underground leaves the surface free for parks, solar farms and other uses | Photo source The Invert

Subsurface real estate project aims to regenerate contaminated areas

Architecture & Design

A new real estate project hopes to rejuvenate polluted areas by building under the contamination

Spotted: There are a variety of benefits to be gained from building underground, including huge energy savings. But one that is often overlooked is that building underground allows developers to avoid an expensive clean-up of contaminated industrial areas. This is part of the reason why The Invert Chicago is building its “subsurface real estate complex” 300 feet below the surface. 

The project is slated for a large tract of land in southeast Chicago, once home to steel plants. Many developers had their eyes on the plot, but found that the cost of cleaning up the pollution was huge – contaminants go down 20 to 30 feet, meaning all that soil would need to first be removed, costing hundreds of millions. By The Invert had another idea. They would build from the one side of the lot that wasn’t contaminated, and dig underneath the contaminated areas, carving rooms out of the limestone rock deep underground.

The rock will be excavated to create enormous underground spaces, supported by huge, 36-by-36-foot pillars of limestone. The extracted stone will be sold, and renewable geothermal energy will be used for heating and cooling, if possible. The company also plans to build a large solar field on top of the site to provide electricity. Special LED lights will be used to mimic natural sunlight for workers underground.

On top of this, the energy savings from building underground will create a more sustainable home for energy-intensive industries such as data centres and vertical farms. Isaac Yun, vice president of design for the Invert Chicago, points out that the project could create thousands of permanent jobs, which could end up helping to pay for cleaning up the site. “We’re literally creating new taxable property that currently doesn’t exist today,” Yun says. “That’s going to promote the overall value of this property to where years from now, and hopefully sooner than later, we can start addressing some of those concerns on the ground.”

Architecture is getting increasingly creative in the ways that it addresses issues of sustainability. At Springwise, we see this every week in innovations like a digital tool that analyses building designs for sustainability and the use of ancient techniques and local materials to deliver reduced carbon footprints.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Explore more: Architecture & Design Innovations | Agriculture & Energy Innovations



Download PDF