With a population of 5.4 million people crammed into 274.1 square miles, the country of Singapore could be considered a slightly smaller version of New York City. The country is a center for business offices, commercial buildings, retail stores, and residential apartments. However, a mounting need for space is becoming imminent as experts project Singapore’s population to grow to 6.9 million people in the next 15 years—a 1.5 million increase. Presently, the struggle for land has caused military camps and old residences to close down in order to make room for residential and industrial real estate development.

Singapore has already utilized much of its available vertical space by building residential apartment complexes as high as 70 stories. While these tall skyscrapers serve their purpose within inner-city areas, height restrictions on buildings near airbases and airports have limited land developers. Singapore has even turned to land reclamation, creating new land by filling portions of the ocean, to create more space for its residents. One-fifth of Singapore’s land area can be accounted for by land reclamation causing it to be at an increased risk of floods due to rising sea levels. So where is Singapore to search for additional space?

Since they likely won’t be able to continue building upward, the answer may be to start building downward. Singapore’s Minister of National Development, Khaw Boon Wan, has discussed the possibility of looking underground to build a variety of projects such as public transportation centers, cycling lanes, storage and research facilities, shopping areas, utility plants, and many more. Already underground in Singapore exists 12 kilometers of expressways and 80 kilometers of transit lines. Singapore is likely to follow the lead of countries such as Canada and Japan which have previously built underground. Canada’s Underground City in Montreal is one of the most well-known underground developments to date. Each day, half a million people navigate its 32 kilometers of tunnels to utilize its offices, hotels, universities, public transit, and retail shops. Needless to say, Montreal is benefiting from the massive economic impact the Underground City provides.

Current developments are occurring underneath Singapore with an oil bunker called Jurong Rock Caverns. Development of these caverns will free up 150 acres of much-needed surface land for Singapore.  Another project that may drive business and investors to Singapore is the prospect of an Underground Science City. With this “city”, 40 interconnected caverns would house data centers and labs for research and development. Proposed below an already-existing science park in West Singapore, the estimated 50 acres and 30 stories would house and provide jobs for 4,200 scientists and researchers.

Despite the promising potential of Singapore to become both an above and below ground center for business and research, the main issue of these projects is their price tag. Subterranean projects can cost from 3 to 4 times more due to the necessity for extensive soil investigations. Additional insight from experts must go into such a project due to the possibilities of structural failure. However, the possibility of underground development will provide numerous jobs for those in the architectural industry. Despite steep costs, Singapore could see an influx of wealth upon completion of the proposed underground city and many opportunities could arise for those wishing to move their business overseas.

Only time will tell if the Ministry of National Development will pursue these business proposals. Space is at premium for businesses in Singapore, and the growing population will only exacerbate this issue. Even though current residents are able to live comfortably in the space available, the expected 28% population growth is a good sign for entrepreneurs interested in investing or developing operations in Singapore.

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