Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Underground Science City to take shape

JTC calls for feasibility study on 20-hectare Kent Ridge project beneath Science Parks

(SINGAPORE) The term 'underground economy' has taken on a whole new meaning as Singapore pushes beneath the land surface to house R&D laboratories and data centres: it proposes to set up an Underground Science City (USC) at Kent Ridge.

There are moves afoot to get detailed designs and cost estimates for the project, which spans a 20-hectare geological formation below Science Parks 1, 2 and 3 as well as Kent Ridge Park.

The USC project is also in the vicinity of One-North, National University of Singapore and National University Hospital, where research and development activities are actively pursued.

The push for the USC follows the government's recent green light to start building the billion-dollar Jurong Rock Cavern (JRC) on Jurong Island to store oil and petrochemicals.

JTC Corporation - which called a tender yesterday for a consultant to carry out feasibility studies on the USC - said that the project was needed given the limited land available for new investments at Kent Ridge, following the earlier substantial developments at the three Science Parks.

The USC is part of a wide-ranging, 10-usage underground rock cavern feasibility study called by the government in May last year. Other possible underground uses being looked at by that study include power stations, incineration plants, water reclamation plants, warehouses, wafer fab plants and an airport logistics facility.

This islandwide study - being carried out by the Sintef-Tritech-Multiconsult consortium - is, however, not site or location-specific. It is nearly completed and interim reports from this will be made available to the consultant appointed for the latest USC feasibility study, JTC said.

JTC added that the first studies on the proposed USC project by various bodies and corporations had concluded by 2001 that it was technically feasible to develop an underground cavern at Kent Ridge for R&D facilities.

But with advancements in technologies for cavern construction, JTC said that it was necessary to review the previous findings.

Hence the USC consultant - working within a 14-month timeline - will now reassess the maximum-size cavern complex that can be built, as well as other factors like its impact on the environment and working population at Kent Ridge. It will also have to provide ballpark construction estimates for the USC's three preliminary designs.

Under a second stage of the project, JTC said that it is also preparing to call a tender for soil and rock investigation works at Kent Ridge to prepare for the USC's cavern design. The USC consultant will help provide inputs for this.

When that is completed, the USC project will then proceed to its third phase of detailed concept design, which will include the cavern's layout and design, space distribution for the specified usages, surface and subsurface facilities, and cavern access and circulation.

Here, the consultant will need to provide data like projected user demand, method of excavation and the impact of the cavern construction on existing surface developments. It will also have to consider issues like tremors from earthquakes, and address the psychological effect of working in caverns.

The latest USC study follows JTC's award in April of the main $890 million construction contract for Phase One of the JRC on Jurong Island to Hyundai Engineering & Construction.

Actual building of the underground facility will begin this year-end, with the first two caverns providing 480,000 cubic metres of oil storage when ready in the first half of 2013. The entire Phase One, comprising five caverns, will provide a total 1.47 million cu m of storage when completed by 2014.

Source: Business Times, 22 July 2009

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