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07 October 2007

Novel UFACs

The evolving sophistication of commercial construction techniques is increasingly popularizing elaborate underground structures for a variety of entirely novel applications. The latest of these – urban luxury homes in development restricted areas - are profiled by various British print media outlets.

London’s newest urban underground reminds us a great deal of author William Gibson’s fictional “stealth houses” – structures designed to conceal high value properties entirely within apparently abandoned industrial areas, providing security through obscurity.

However, these are very real examples of the growing complexity of urban geographies – and the increasing challenge to planners, operators, and intelligence professionals which will encounter these spaces in the cities of the tomorrow. Such future underground facilities will make the Hezbollah fortifications in urban Beirut encountered during the Harb al Tammuz in 2006 look insignificant in comparison.

While costly, these architectures do not require a great deal more sophistication than any other typical commercial construction project, especially any building that already requires building sub-basements for drainage, power, or HVAC systems. Of course, it is even easier to arrange for these features when fitted to new building sites.

Frankly, we are quite surprised we have not seen these yet in the high value property markets in Manhattan, San Francisco’s Bay area, or in particular the greater Washington DC metro area – there are plenty of row homes in Georgetown, Arlington or Alexandria that one would suspect might benefit from such modifications (though we suppose there is always the question of the water table to worry about in some of those areas). But give it time…

Of course, familiarization tours for new analysts to these types of underground facilities will be far more pleasant than the trips taken by their counterparts. We would certainly far rather enjoy a glass of wine next to a private pool than tramp through the damp tunnels of some Cold War era concrete structure.

UPDATE: Thanks to one of our readers who wrote in to recommend changing the choice of acronym from UFAC (underground facility) to HDBT (hard and deeply buried target). The specific meaning of the original wording within the IC apparently now creates some confusion based on its typical application to the analytic center responsible for study of these targets. (Our use was based on a more generalized, and perhaps older, naming convention - in the same manner that derived naming for chow halls and other structures. We shall have to update our style guide.) Text above corrected in accordance with that convention, with our humblest apologies to the fine folks over at the center, and sincere gratitude to those who raised the matter.

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