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Caverns

Photo: Donaldson Associates

COWI UK Limited has extensive experience of projects involving large span caverns.

The increasing pressure on land use in many of the world's busiest cities is leading to an increase in placing public works underground in caverns. Large span underground openings are also required on road and rail projects, particularly at junctions and crossover locations. We have experience in designing large span openings in both rock and soil conditions.

Ground modelling and risk management 

Our risk-based approach requires the development of a reliable and robust ground model, reflecting rock mass, soils and hydrogeology. The 3D model is used to understand the relationship between the ground and the proposed space, enabling ground related risk to be identified and managed; to design risk out from day one.

Early project development

A comprehensive understanding of a cavern's end use, how it integrates with tunnels and the processes within, is essential to an efficient and successful project outcome. With wider engineering expertise in rail and metro, water, storm water and wastewater, power and other transport and utility infrastructure, our teams play a significant role in early project development – integrating end use needs with the constraints of ground risk. By optimising the alignment and 3D layout, we deliver inherently lower risk designs with reduced construction programmes and lower costs.

Cavernisation technologies

Working with leading contractors, developing and using ground breaking construction techniques and cavernisation technologies, COWI UK Limited adds value at every stage. Our knowledge of blasting techniques allows us to understand and mitigate vibration-related risk to other assets. Pre-excavation grouting is designed to manage groundwater ingress from fault zones. We employ state of the art numerical modelling, and experience gained from caverns in Africa and Asia, to design the excavation sequencing and ground support – using rock bolts, shotcrete and full SCL linings.


Understanding end use plays a major part in identifying the need for water control: using composite linings incorporating waterproofing, or pragmatic drainage systems within the underground space.

LAST UPDATED: 22.12.2016