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Homework Help: Underground living: Which project idea is better?

  1. Apr 10, 2017 #1
    Hello, Physics forum community.I have a project for an intro to engineering class in which I must design a system to solve an environmental problem. This class is only an introduction so I'm not sure how detailed and specific our work has to be. I must have been feeling very sci-fi at the time because I thought of doing a project on underground living to deal with urban overpopulation. Since then I have done some research and came up with a couple of project ideas centered around this theme.

    I'd love to get your opinions on which project idea sounds better from an academic perspective.

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Idea one: Large scale underground living. There are obviously numerous factors to consider due to it's scale but I thought I could focus on the problem of creating a structure that allows a maximum amount of natural light to reach the underground floors without making an unreasonably large hole on the surface. Why? because light makes the idea of underground living more pleasant even if people are in no way confined to the ground. This is more a solution to the urban overpopulation problem.

    Idea two: small scale/family underground - ish living. This is something that already exists and the house would not be completely buried. The problem with these houses is that they are expensive to build because the walls need to be strong and insulated. The idea for this project will be centered around finding a more cost effective material or stable structure to build these houses. This type of underground living can be very environment friendly and even saves expense especially in the long run in cold and hot places because the earth naturally keeps the temperature constant.

    2. Relevant equations
    For the first idea I would be looking for some structural ideas and evaluate their merits through a ratio that compares the area of living space provided to the area of hole on surface to the area that sunlight reaches underground. There are other things that I could take into consideration like sunlight intensity and angle during different times of the day and year which, should I?

    3. The attempt at a solution
    That is all.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2017 #2
    For the first idea you can also consider the need of air circulation and water transport
  4. Apr 10, 2017 #3
    True will definitely consider that, I was just worried our scope would become to big. Can you tell me which idea you would prefer to see in a project @sankonpure6.
  5. Apr 10, 2017 #4
    As a Civil Engineering student my self, I would go with project #1 - maybe investigate:

    • How big of a fan system you need (engine power, flow rate etc..) to fill up a certain volume with fresh air and the time it takes to completely re fill the volume (Fluid mechanics)
    • Designing of a beam or slab to be used with weird geometry to help let in light from the surface (theory of structures)
    • Some sort of mechanism to trap light from the surface and translate it underground

    I think there is more fun things to do with designing a structure / system than studying materials like in project #2 , but it may be easier with a more well defined scope.
  6. Apr 10, 2017 #5
    Thanks for your reply, I personally liked the first one as well.
  7. Apr 10, 2017 #6


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    The traditional solution is to build up rather than down, why would we change?
  8. Apr 11, 2017 #7
    Cities need to become larger as more people want to live there. Building down will provide that space while being less obstructive. There could be added benefits that would lower the cost of living by saving energy. A heating and cooling system may not be needed because the ground will provide insulation, pumps may also not be needed if the water is stored higher up. Although there would probably be added costs for building and ventilation, I think there is a good chance that there is an overall benifit because heating requires a lot of energy.
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