CHICAGO IL – Urban areas – potentially places like Pottstown, with aging buildings and infrastructures – face a new “silent hazard,” researchers claim. Climate change may adversely affect their foundations and support systems, according to a study from Northwestern University.
A university team believes it has found “a connection between subterranean climate change and altering terrain beneath metropolitan regions.” The theory: as the ground warms up, it expands and contracts in ways that could create fractures in building foundations. The damage could impact their “long-term operational efficiency and resilience,” it suggests.
The findings, based on work done in Chicago, were published July 11 (2023; Tuesday) in the journal Communications Engineering. Northwestern’s Alessandro Rotta Loria is the study’s lead researcher.
The subsurface movement, Rotta Loria said, is labeled as “ground deformation.” He acknowledged the “phenomenon may not directly jeopardize people’s safety.” However, he reports it “will undoubtedly impact the regular functioning of foundation systems and overall civil infrastructure.”
There’s also an upside to temperature changes down-under, according to Rotta Loria.
By somehow “harnessing underground waste heat emanating from subterranean transportation systems, parking garages, and basement facilities,” he said, “urban planners could alleviate impacts of subterranean climate change, and simultaneously exploit this heat as an untapped thermal energy resource.”