Attitudes towards Underground Spaces

In this paper (soon to appear in Building and Environment – a major journal of Urban Sciences) we examine the structure of attitudes towards the possibility of having an underground working space. The paper suggests that there is a positive dimension and two negative dimensions across which the average person will evaluate the possibility of an underground office. In short, an underground office will be acceptable provided some key criteria are satisfied – and our questionnaire offers a standardized way to “measure” these attitudes. Interestingly, the negative dimensions are correlated but independent constructs of claustrophobia – this means that attitudes towards UG workspaces could be positive independently of the claustrophobia that a sub-population has.

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Over half of the global population lives in urban areas, making the issue of space a pressing environmental factor. The development of large-scale underground complexes in (mega-)cities is a solution to healthy urban growth and many governments have already adopted the development of underground (office) workspaces (UWS). Engineering can develop such high quality spaces; yet, there is limited understanding of how the public perceives UWS. UWS are not the same as other workspaces, and thus special assessment tools are needed. Here, we present the Underground Workspaces Questionnaire (UWSQ), which measures pre-occupant attitudes towards UWS. Analysis (N = 1080) identified three factors with positive aspects associated with feeling protected, whereas confinement was independent of affective responses. Predictably, responses to the three factors correlated with claustrophobia but were independent constructs. UWSQ can help policymakers and architects understand how populations holistically respond to the idea of working in an underground office.