Roads, Rails, and Really Big Stuff
If it’s large, complicated and important to everyday life, it’s probably the work of a civil engineer. Civil engineers think big—they design highways, railways, and bridges. They make taller and stronger skyscrapers possible. And they regularly pull off near miracles, like building subways beneath busy cities and laying tunnels under the sea floor, sometimes even to connect two different countries. Civil engineers build our rails and roads to last, serving millions of people every day for many, many years!
Don’t be surprised if civil engineering turns up in your kitchen. When water flows from your faucet, that’s civil engineering in action. Civil engineers build the systems that bring sparkling clean water for drinking and cooking and (like it or not) for filling up the bathtub. They also design sewerage systems to take away waste. Next time you flush the toilet, think of an engineer.
Some civil engineers are devoted to giving us better and better amusement park rides. But before one person sets foot in a thrill machine, civil engineers test and test and test again just to make sure that all those rides are as safe as they are exciting.
Interested in civil engineering?
Check out these videos courtesy of Civil Scholar.
Palm Islands—Built from
the Sea Floor Up
Civil engineers helped mastermind the construction of islands in the shape of a palm tree in the sea off the coast of Dubai—and then protect those islands from the ravages of the waves and winds, and equip it with the infrastructure necessary to support a mega-resort. Considered one of the world’s civil engineering marvels, the Palm Islands required the dredging of 3 billion cubic feet of sand and from the sea floor and shaping it into the complex palm tree form. For more on the civil engineering challenges involved, go here: amorq.com/article/1969/top-10-civil-engineering-wonders.
Coaster Rides and Water Slides—Engineering Thrills and Chills
The latest and scariest are coming! Five new coasters will be unveiled
Connecting Two Countries
The Chunnel Tunnel: it connects England and France and is 32 miles long. The French started to build it from their side, and the English from theirs. The plan was to meet in the middle, more than 100 feet below the sea floor. Sound difficult? You bet. Particularly since civil engineers had to make sure that when the two parts of the tunnel came together, neither was too high or too low or too far to the left or right to make a perfect fit. That’s engineering for you!
Tripling the Capacity of the
A century after it was first opened, $5.4 billion and 40,000 workers have tripled the capacity of this important waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ships can cut through the canal in about six to eight hours, rather than making the super long journey around South America
to get from ocean to ocean. Making the canal bigger and deeper to accommodate today’s enormous ships is a prime example of how civil engineers keep improving infrastructure built in another era.
They’re being done…and redone! Subways in major US cities are undergoing expansions and additions, from New York’s newly-opened Second Avenue Subway to San Francisco’s BART expansions. Detroit is getting its Q-Line, and Charlotte, North Carolina is extending its light rail line. Meanwhile London’s Crossrail project, the largest construction project in Europe, is a massive upgrade to its famous Tube, connecting 30 stations and bringing 10 new train lines into service. Looking as futuristic as they come, new metro systems are opening up across China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Engineers sure have a full plate—designing new metros and upgrading existing ones.
Boston’s Big Dig
This gigantic highway project transformed Boston by putting a 10-lane highway underground and covering it with parks, pavilions, gardens and walkways. It wasn’t easy, but civil engineers pulled it off, making the city easier to get around in and more enjoyable to live in.
The Dramatic Hoover Dam
It’s pretty awesome, this 80-year-old structure that controls the Colorado River to supply water to Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona, and also happens to be the country’s largest hydroelectric plant. It took thousands of people to build it, and over the years thousands more to maintain and improve it, from building roads around it to figuring out how to generate power with lower water levels from changing weather patterns.
How to design and build an airport so that planes land quickly and safely, people move through efficiently and have a pleasant and wifi accessible experience, and the entire operation is kept up to date and running 24/7: that is the mission of a civil engineer. Just look at some of the country’s busiest airports—in Chicago, in Atlanta, in Houston, in Los Angeles, in New York. Engineers were there at the beginning, and continue to work to make them better, safer, and more user friendly.