Exploring Illinois Tech's tunnel network and beyond.
In order to effectively provide all of the necessary services such as heating/cooling, electricity and telecommunications to a large number of buildings in a close proximity, there are 2 common solutions to this engineering problem. The first is burying the necessary pipes and conduits directly, however this tends to make repairs and upgrades difficult. The second and far more common solution is to construct a network of tunnels connecting multiple buildings that allow for the passage of pipes and conduits, as well as very easy access for repairs and upgrades.
The Illinois Institute of Technology campus located in Chicago, IL has been the subject of a significant amount of change, improvement and renovation over the course of a long period of time. While many of the newer buildings on campus do not feature any interesting tunnel connections, the majority of buildings built on the west side of State st. that date back to the 1950's or 1960's are served by a rather extensive service tunnel network. While there is small amount of official documentation acknowledging the existence of these service tunnels in the form of an . However, owing to the considerable secrecy and mystery regarding the exact layout and even the existence of some of these tunnels, they have become the subject of many urban legends.
Owing to the curiosity of some of us geeks there have been some efforts of varying success to explore, document and experience this mythical tunnel system first hand. Therefore, some select documentation and photos have been made available that support as well as discredit some of the urban legends regarding such and is otherwise just plain cool in my opinion. However, should you plan to venture into the tunnels or any other undocumented area of campus, there are some potential risks that you should be aware of since staying safe is always of utmost importance as well as not taking part in any actions that may cost anyone undue amounts of time, effort or money or otherwise ruin the experience for others. As a result, there a few things that I would like to mention:
Use common sense, and never explore when under the influence of any substance.
Damage and vandalism are NOT cool. This increases the risk of crackdowns significantly, as well as costs the university time and money that can be much better spent. Also, it is just plain irresponsible.
Leave no trace. Reversible actions such as unscrewing a bolt or lifting something out of the way should be undone immediately. Inconveniencing others or further compromising security are not effects that we would like to have.
Avoid exploring alone. Getting yourself stuck or locked in a confined space is NOT something you want when the spaces you are in may not see any activity for very long periods of time. However, avoid excessively big groups as well since that tends to increase the risk of detection.
Many of the pipes are insulated using asbestos insulation, which is quite safe as long as it is undisturbed. However, it is known carcinogen when airborne so is advisable to not touch any insulated pipes and to avoid breathing the dust as much as possible.
Be alert to other miscellaneous hazards. Uninsulated pipes are very hot and can burn readily, exposed electrical wiring can shock or even kill, wet floors can be EXTREMELY slick, and there are more that a handful of things that tall people can easily hit their heads on. Be alert for these hazards and make sure to avoid them accordingly.
Avoid detection. While there are some that turn a relatively blind eye towards certain types of exploration, the majority of those who you may encounter will frown upon such activities and may have you reprimanded. While I will not disclose my exact techniques, I will say that it is advisable to have a plan consisting of both more-or-less common sense strategies and well as potentially advanced technical means to manage the risk of detection.