Sustainable Design Strategies For Tunneling Projects

By Cara Hlad, AIA, LEED AP | July 2011, Vol. 66 No. 7
Photo courtesy MWH.

Tunneling is an extreme and energy-intensive process that can have significant site and cost bearing on a project and community. Traditional tunneling requires the use of massive equipment and machinery, and substantial consumption of materials and natural resources.

The constant need for innovative methods and technology keep the industry moving at a pioneering rate. It is no surprise that the major environmental impacts of the tunneling process include energy consumption, materials and resources and site disturbance. But are these factors driving the machine or are they simply being buried in the muck?

Photo courtesy MWH

There are some inherent sustainable design practices that occur with tunneling procedures, like the increased life expectancy of the tunnel - as compared to surface treatments - and even the reduced energy consumption via use of local material delivery, reuse and disposal. However, other than these inherent benefits, not much is done to advance environmental stewardship and lessen the impacts of a typical tunneling project. Sustainable design not only saves money and the environment, but also promotes a positive community perception for local development.

Tactics to consider

Here are 10 tactics for enhancing the process: