Dust to dust

31 October 2016

No matter, the type of infrastructure, going underground is preferable in most cases, but really the choice is made due to limited or costly surface space. The choice to go underground is a necessity to meet the demands of a growing population.

But in some parts of the world there is another problem created: the question of what to do with the dead. For where burial is the preferred solution, surface space (and underground real estate down to 6ft) begins to appear very finite. The solution, as always, is the use of deep underground space. Israel-based contractor Rolzur Tunnelling is leading the way in underground interment as ‘project entrepreneur’ (responsible for complete design and construction) for a new underground burial complex in the country.

Design has had to take the Mishnah into consideration. This is a summary of the Oral Torah that was compiled by rabbis in the 3rd century AD.

It advises on all Jewish aspects of life and includes a section on how one should execute burial tunnels, for example the appropriate distance between graves and required rock quality to avoid collapse. According to Rolzur Tunnelling general manager Arik Glazer, this is considered one of the earliest guidelines for tunnelling.

This is something of a forgotten tradition. In ancient times, burial in tunnels or caves was common in the region. Readers might recognise a famous example involving the entombment of a Galilean carpenter. Returning to the present, initially Rolzur Tunnelling had to carry out a pilot project involving two 50m-long roadheader excavated tunnels that were 10m wide and 6m high. Then began the ongoing main project that comprises more than 1,500m of tunnels at 14m wide and 16m high excavated in Dolomitic Limestone up to 120MPa. It also calls for a 55m-deep shaft with a cross section of 24x28m. The plan of the cemetery involves precast stack burial in levels alongside ground burial, as is the common burial practice. In addition Rolzur is preparing thousands of burial spots (niches) excavated directly in the rock by bespoke drilling machines designed for that purpose.

The shaft will be used for burial as well and it will incorporate elevators and all infrastructure such as ventilation of the complete site. The solution for which will incorporate the final result of a major CFD study that is currently be finalised with regards to fire and smoke control, as well as an evacuation plan. All parameters including lighting, ventilation and humidity will be controlled from a centralised computer system.

The project is currently being excavated. The shaft is almost complete and the site is in the vault and bench stages. Stage one (5,000 out of 22,000 burial plots) will be delivered to the client by the end of 2017