Advancements in construction techniques, materials science, big data, and many other disparate fields are impacting civil engineering in amazing ways. As technology moves forward, engineers are equipped with new methods for approaching tough challenges. The last decade has seen many significant civic planning, energy, logistics, and transportation feats that would have been unimaginable just a short time before. Engineers worldwide are embracing cutting-edge ideas.
Let’s visit ten of the most amazing civil engineering projects in recent history:
1) Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T)
Boston’s “Big Dig” is considered the most expensive highway project in the history of the United States. During the project, a major metropolitan highway was turned into a tunnel, and the existing network was expanded with additional bridges and tunnels. The project ran into significant safety and budget issues, but it was ultimately completed at a cost of $22 billion.
2) Qatar’s Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Trains
Developing a safe and efficient solution for moving large quantities of flammable fuel is a major issue throughout the world. Qatar’s solution: Gas trains capable of transporting about 7.8 tons per annum in a safe and effective way. Combined with Qatar’s spending on refineries and other facilities, it represents one of the largest LNG investments in the world today.
3) Norway’s Langeled Pipeline
It’s not surprising that the movement of fuel has inspired major projects all around the world. To make the most of market opportunities for its natural gas in the United Kingdom, Norway launched this underwater pipeline – the world’s longest. Running more than 724 miles, it is capable of delivering up to 25.5 billion cubic meters of gas in a single year.
4) France’s Millau Viaduct
Considered by many to be the most beautiful bridge structure worldwide, the Millau Viaduct in southwest France was completed by Foster and Partners after three years, going into service in late 2004. The viaduct system spans the Tarn River valley with eight distinct sections. A full complement of seven reinforced concrete pylons supports the steel superstructure.
5) China’s Qingzang Tibet Railway
For most of its history, Tibet has been isolated thanks to its harsh, inhospitable terrain. Now, this massive undertaking – a railway of 1,215 miles – has begun to change all that. Thanks to tough permafrost and high altitudes, the project ran into various problems, but it now links Xining, China, to Lhasa, Tibet. Its highest elevation is more than 3.1 miles, and it features 675 bridges.
6) Dubai’s Burj Khalifa
Dubai is known for its lavish, ambitious projects that give the city a truly distinctive skyline. The Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building, is a marvel of modern engineering rising to a full 2,717 feet. It was designed and engineered by the world class engineering firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and was first opened back in January of 2010.
7) China’s Three Gorges Dam
One of the largest single civil engineering projects in Chinese history since the completion of the Great Wall, this dam is about 1.4 miles long and more than 600 feet tall. Comparable in scope to the historic Hoover Dam in the United States, Three Gorges set a record for the total amount of concrete used in its construction. Intended for flood control, it was completed in 2003.
8) Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks “civil engineering,” but the Large Hadron Collider deserves to be mentioned for its immense complexity and its value in advancing the frontiers of physical science. The $3 billion device, first used in September 2008, allows researchers to smash protons into each other at nearly the speed of light.
9) Taiwan’s Taipei 101
What do you do when you want to build a skyscraper in an area known for its active seismic profile? The 1,671-foot Taipei 101 tower was the world’s tallest inhabited building at the time of its completion, and it incorporates many engineering tricks to protect it from natural disasters. It can withstand wind speeds over 134 miles per hour and the strongest recorded quakes in the area.
10) China’s Hangzhou Bay Bridge
This bridge, meant to link Ningbo and Shanghai and cut commuting distance by about 74 miles, had to contend with enormous tidal surges and dangerous seasonal storms. It was also designed for the possibility of collisions with ships in heavy fog or smog. It provides six express lanes for motor traffic in two directions, and is about 22 miles long.
Experts continue to look for ways to integrate new technologies and techniques into major civil engineering projects. As time goes on, innovation will empower engineers to push the envelope and reconsider what’s possible. Those learning the principles of civil engineering and project leadership will have much to do in the coming years!
Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiencies in your projects and on your teams.