The 10 most impressive Civil Engineering Projects of all time!

Darren Scott

September 8, 2017

Students of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Norwich have created a list – The Top 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time – with the most impressive engineering works, from the beginning of history to the present day. The Top 10 is formed by the following constructions, take a look and let us know in the comments if you agree with the list or if you think there’s something missing!

Quingdao Haiwan Bridge

The Quingdao Haiwan Bridge is a 16.6 mi long roadway bridge in eastern China’s Shandong province, which is part of the Jiaozhou Bay Connection Project. As of December 2012, Guinness World Records lists the Bridge as the world’s longest bridge over water (aggregate length) at 25.84 mi.

The construction of the bridge lasted 4 years and employed more than 10 000 people. For its construction, 450,000 tons of steel and 2.3 million cubic meters of concrete were needed and is designed to withstand current earthquakes, typhoons and ship collisions. The bridge is supported by more than 5000 pillars, and has a width of 35 meters, with 6 lanes and two shoulders.

The costs of the bridge vary depending on who is reporting them. The official state-run television company reported the total cost of the project to be £900 million. Other sources reported costs as high as £5.5 billion.

Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa is a mega tall skyscraper in Dubai with a total height of 2,722 ft including the antenna. It’s currently the tallest structure in the world and was reportedly built upon the government’s decision to diversify from an oil-based economy, and for Dubai to gain international recognition. The tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and uses a bundled tube design. The primary structure is made up of  330,000 mof concrete and 55,000 tonnes of steel. Construction took 22 million man-hours.

To wash the 24,348 windows, totaling 1,290,000 sq ft of glass, the building has three horizontal tracks which each hold a 3,300 lb bucket machine. The top of the building is cleaned by a crew who use ropes to descend from the top to gain access and under normal conditions when all building maintenance units are operational, it takes 36 workers three to four months to clean the entire exterior façade.

Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel is a 31.35mi rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent, in the UK, with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais in northern France, beneath the English Channel. At its lowest point, it is 75m deep below the sea bed, and 115m below sea level.  At 23.5mi, the tunnel has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world, although the Seikan Tunnel in Japan is both longer overall and deeper below sea level. The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, the Eurotunnel Shuttle for road vehicles, the largest such transport in the world and international goods trains and connects end-to-end with the LGV Nord and High Speed 1 high-speed railway lines.

Tunnelling commenced in 1988, the total construction cost was £4.65 billion (equivalent to £13 billion in 2015), an 80% cost overrun and it was at the time the most expensive construction project ever proposed. At the peak of construction 15,000 people were employed with daily expenditure over £3 million. Working from both the English side and the French side of the Channel, eleven tunnel boring machines cut through chalk marl to construct two rail tunnels and a service tunnel. On 1 December 1990, Englishman Graham Fagg and Frenchman Phillippe Cozette broke through the service tunnel with the media watching.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile- strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the American city of San Francisco, California to Marin County, carrying both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. It opened in 1937 and was, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet.

Each of the bridges two main cables is made of 27,572 strands of wire and together the wire is roughly 80,000 miles long. Over 600,000 rivets were required to build the bridge which cost more than $35 million, completing ahead of schedule and $1.3 million under budget.

Hoover Dam

Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project.

Officials decided on a massive concrete arch-gravity dam, the design of which was overseen by the Bureau’s chief design engineer John L. Savage. The monolithic dam would be thick at the bottom and thin near the top and would present a convex face towards the water above the dam. The curving arch of the dam would transmit the water’s force into the abutments, in this case the rock walls of the canyon. The wedge-shaped dam would be 690 ft thick at the bottom, narrowing to 45 ft at the top, leaving room for a highway connecting Nevada and Arizona.

On January 10, 1931, the government made bid documents available to interested parties, A $2 million bid bond was to accompany each bid and the winning contractor had seven years to build the dam, or penalties would ensue. The Wattis Brothers, heads of the Utah Construction Company, were interested in bidding on the project, but lacking the money for the bond, formed a joint venture with 5 other companies to bid for the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by the consortium which began construction on the dam in early 1931.

Such a large concrete structure had never been built before, and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the concrete arch-gravity dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is an artificial 48-mile waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 meters above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end.

France began work on the canal in 1881 but stopped due to engineering problems. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal on August 15, 1914. The construction of a canal with locks was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken and required the excavation of more than 170,000,000 cu yd of material over and above the 30,000,000 cu yd excavated by the French. The Americans replaced or upgraded the old, unusable French equipment with new construction equipment that was designed for a much larger and faster scale of work.

About 102 new large, railroad-mounted steam shovels were purchased along with enormous steam-powered cranes, giant hydraulic rock crushers, cement mixers, dredges, and pneumatic power drills, nearly all of which were manufactured by new, extensive machine-building technology developed and built in the United States. The railroad also had to be comprehensively upgraded with heavy-duty, double-tracked rails over most of the line to accommodate new rolling stock. Completion of the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York and is one of the oldest bridges in the United States. Started in 1869 and completed fourteen years later, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. It has a main span of 1,595.5 feet and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed.

Although the Brooklyn Bridge is technically a suspension bridge, it uses a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge design. The towers are built of limestone, granite, and Rosendale cement. The bridge’s two towers were built by floating two caissons, giant upside-down boxes made of southern yellow pine, in the span of the East River, and then beginning to build the stone towers on top of them until they sank to the bottom of the river. Compressed air was pumped into the caissons, and workers entered the space to dig the sediment, until the caissons sank to the bedrock. The whole weight of the bridge still sits upon a 15-foot thickness of southern yellow pine wood under the sediment.

Aqueduct of Segovia

The Aqueduct of Segovia is a Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain. The general date of the Aqueduct’s construction was long a mystery although it was thought to have been during the 1st century AD and once transported water from the Rio Frio river, situated in mountains 17 km from the city in the La Acebeda region. It runs 15 km before arriving in the city.

The bridge consists of 24,000 granite blocks made without the use of mortar. The first section of the aqueduct contains 36 semi-circular arches, the line of arches is organized in two levels in which simple moulds hold the frame and provide support to the structure. On the upper level, the arches are 5.1 meters wide. Built in two levels, the top pillars are both shorter and narrower than those on the lower level. The top of the structure contains the channel through which water travels, through a U-shaped hollow measuring 0.55 tall by 0.46-meter diameter.

The aqueduct is the city’s most important architectural landmark. It had been kept functioning throughout the centuries and preserved in excellent condition. It provided water to Segovia until the mid 19th century.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups. Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall, stretching in over 5,500 miles of the country.

Transporting the large quantity of materials required for construction was difficult, so builders always tried to use local resources. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, while rammed earth was used for construction in the plains. Unlike the earlier fortifications, the Ming construction was stronger and more elaborate due to the use of bricks and stone instead of rammed earth. Up to 25,000 watchtowers are estimated to have been constructed on the wall.

Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. Initially, at 146.5 metres, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid’s construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

It is thought that, at construction, the Great Pyramid was originally 146.5 metres tall, but with erosion and absence of its pyramidion, its present height is 138.8 metres. Each base side was 230.4 metres long. The mass of the pyramid is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes. The volume, including an internal hillock, is roughly 2,500,000 cubic metres. Based on these estimates, building the pyramid in 20 years would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day. Additionally, since it consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, completing the building in 20 years would involve moving an average of more than 12 of the blocks into place each hour, day and night.

Picture Credits (used under CC License)
- Jiaozhou Bay Bridge - Sean Russell
Burj Khalifa - Travel Busy
- Channel Tunnel - Dmytrok
- Golden Gate Bridge - Russell Street
- Hoover Dam - LenDog64
- Panama Canal - SergeBrooklyn Bridge - Curtis MacNewtonAqueduct of Segovia - Richard MortelGreat Wall of China - Matt BarberGreat Pyramid - Jack Versloot