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Top 10 Civil Engineering Marvels 

Civil Engineering graduates might not be the ones to net the fattest salary packages during campus placements at IITs but they certainly have a world of possibilities beckoning to them. They are the Creators of the World – the ‘Brahma’ – who come up with creative, crazy solutions to most impossible challenges and build dams, roads, bridges and structures at trickiest locations.

Here are some of the craziest, innovative, awe-inspiring Civil Engineering marvels that are an inspiration to all Civil Engineers across the world:

Burj Khalifa

Burj KhalifaBurj Khalifa (that was known as Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration on January 4, 2014) is the tallest man-made structure of the world. 829.8 metre or 2,722 feet high, this sky scraper has become a symbol of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Chief Structural Engineer of this Dubai tower was Bill Baker.

Designed to be the centerpiece of Dubai and to help it diversify its economy from oil-based to service and tourism based, Burj Khalifa incorporates patterning systems of the Islamic architecture, and cultural and historical elements of the region. The spiral minaret rises from the flat desert base, has 27 setbacks in the spiralling pattern and grows slender as it rises.

To support the height of this tallest structure ever built, civil engineers developed a new structural system called the buttressed core - which has a hexagonal core reinforced by three buttresses placed in a 'Y' shape. This system provides lateral support to the building and keeps it from twisting. sThe central pinnacle pole that weights 350 tonnes was constructed from inside the building and taken up by more than 200 metre using a strand jack system. Burj Khalifa's primary structure is made of reinforced concrete.

To withstand extreme summer temperatures of Dubai, the cladding system of Burj Khalifa has 1,42,000 sq metre of reflective glazing and aluminium and textured stainless steel spandrel panels with vertical tubular fins. For exterior classing, more than 26,000 glass panels were used. National Geographic, Discovery and Five channels have featured the unique design and engineering challenges of Burj Khalifa.

Capital Gate

Capital GateAnother engineering marvel of the United Arab Emirates is the lean Capital Gate at Abu Dhabi. Inclined 18°to the west (four times than the leaning angle of the Leaning tower of Suurhusen in Germany), it is 160 metre (520 feet) high and has 35 storeys. Rivalling the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this masterpiece is also known as the Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi. The Guinness World Records certified it as the ‘World’s furthest leaning man-made tower’ in June 2010.

To counter the gravitational pull at the strangely leaning skyscraper, civil and structural engineers used a technique called pre-cambered core. This technique uses a concrete core reinforced with steel. The core is deliberately built slightly off-centre and is anchored to the ground using 490 piles drilled to 20-30m below the ground level.

It uses a diagrid (like the Beijing’s National Stadium in China) to absorb and channel the forces built up by the gradient of the Capital Gale, wind and seismic loading. To achieve the inclination, the floor plates were stacked vertically up to the 12th storey and then, displaced one over the other by a difference of 300 mm to 1,400 mm. It took about four years to build the tower and it was inaugurated on December 21, 2011.

Gift City India

India’s answer to Downtown Dubai (of which Burj Khalifa is a part), Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) city is under construction in the Gandhinagar District of Gujarat. A dream of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this under-construction GIFT City aims to set up new global benchmarks for Global Integrated City.

It will have high quality physical infrastructure, such as electricity, water, gas, roads, district cooling, telecoms and broadband, to lure in finance and tech firms operating in Mumbai, Gurgaon and Bangalore and become the central business hub – not only of India but also for the World. It will include Special Economic Zone (SEZ), international education zone, entertainment zone, international techno park, Software Technology Parks of India, shipping malls, stock exchanges, service units and integrated townships.

Setting a new paradigm of Urban Planning, the GIFT City landmarks will include the GIFT Diamond Tower (expected to be completed by 2017), GIFT Gateway Towers which will have a rooftop restaurant and elaborate terrace gardens (inspired by Buland Darwaza), four GIFT Crystal Towers overlooking River Sabarmati, GIFT Convention Centre which will have an opera and a seating capacity of 10,000 people and a World Trade Centre.

The sophisticated planning is a test-bed to introduce several reforms and innovations in various fields, including sustainability, environmental protection, infrastructure development, delivery systems etc.

Bandra-Worli Sea Link

Also known as the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, the 8-lane Bandra-Worli Sea Link is a cable-stayed bridge that links Bandra in the western suburbs of Mumbai to Worli in the south of city. This Civil Engineering marvel is a part of the proposed Western Freeway that will ultimately link Western Suburbs to Nariman Point - the main business district of Mumbai. It was fully inaugurated on March 24, 2010. It has reduced travel time between Bandra and Worli from 60-90 minutes to 20-30 minutes during peak hours making the lives of commuters much easier.

One of its kind in India, it has two cable-stayed bridges. One is the 600-metre-long bridge at Bandra channel and other is the 350-metre-long twin tower at the Worli channel. Almost 43 storeys’ high, its Cable Stay System uses 2,250 km of high-strength galvanized steel wires to support the 20,000-ton structure.

Built at a cost over 1,650 crore, it took 10 years for several teams of engineers from Canada, China, Egypt, Switzerland, Britain, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Serbia, Indonesia and the Philippines to complete this challenging project. Its lighting alone had a cost of Rs 9 crore and was done by Bajaj Electricals. Today, it saves about Rs 100 crore per day in terms of time and fuel.

Millau Viaduct

Millau ViaductAn example of extreme engineering, le Viaduc de Millau in France is a cable-stayed road-bridge (with one summit at a height of 343 metre or 1,125 feet) across the valley of River tarn. Designed by structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world.

The 4-lane steel roadway weights 36,000 tons and is 2,460 metre or 8,100 feet long and 32 metre or 100 feet wide. It is also 4.2 metre or 14 feet deep making it the longest cable-stayed deck of the world. It is supported by seven concrete pylons.  Each pylon has 16 framework sections and each section weights 2,230 tons. These sections were assembled on site from 60-ton pieces that were 17 metre or 56 feet long and 4 metre or 13 feet wide. The pylons were then assembled and then, the decks were slide out across the piers using satellite-guided hydraulic rams. The decks were moved 600 mm in every 4 minutes.

There is a 3% slope from south to north curving with a 20-km radius.The viaduct was inaugurated on December 14, 2004 and was opened to traffic on December 16, 2004.

Laerdal Tunnel

The World’s longest road tunnel that has already been completed, Laerdal Tunnel connects the Norwegian cities of Laerdal and Aurland. Highway engineers dug through the solid gneiss rock the Hornsnipa and Jeronnosi mountains to make this 15 mile or 24 kilometre long road.

Besides excavation, one of the major challenges for engineers working on this road was how to make sure that motorists who go through this long, underground trek do not give in to highway hypnosis. Highway hypnosis is a mental state in which truck drivers or automobile drivers can drive to great distances responding to events on road appropriately but with no recollection of having done so. A study by Miles in 1929 suggested that these motorists fall asleep with their eyes open.

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration consulted a team of psychologists to make the roadway stimulating enough to keep the drivers awake. And hence, this tunnel has blue lights and gentle curves and is built in four sections to keep motorists engage through their 20-minute journey.

High Roller

Opened to public on March 31, 2014, the High Roller in Las Vegas holds the current Guinness World Record for being the largest observational wheel. 167.6 metre or 550 feet high, High Roller is nine foot taller than the Singapore Flyer and 107 feet taller than the London Eye.

Located at the heart of the Last Vegas Strip, the High Roller has as many as 28 enclosed, roomy and air-conditioned spherical transparent pads that can hold 40 passengers at a time. Each pad or cabin weights about 20,000 kg. The pads have a couple of benches too.

The 30-minute ride is smooth and offers you in-cabin video and music shows on 8 flat-screen televisions and an iPod dock at the backdrop of 360-degree view of Las Vegas. The Wheel rotates on a pair of custom-designed spherical roller bearings that weigh about 8,800 kg each. The outer rim has 28 sections (each 56 feet or 17 metre long) which have been held in place by four cables. High Roller was built by Arup Engineering, which were also consultants of the Singapore Flyer earlier.

Nurek Dam

Holding the current Guinness World Record for being the Highest Dam, Nurek Dam on River Vakhsh in Tajikistan is 300 metre or 984 feet high. It was completed in 1980. The Rogunskaya Dam across the same river was planned to be 335 metre or 1098 feet high but it has not been completed yet.

Unique in its own way, Nurek Dam has a central core of cement within a 304 metre or 997 feet high rock and earth fill construction. Located in a deep gorge, the dam includes 9 hydroelectric generating units that fuel 98% of Tajikistan's and 40% of Central Asia's power needs.

A symbol of former Soviet Union's infrastructure ingenuity, Nurek is one of the most complete RIS monitoring sites which see collaboration of both the USA and the USSR to monitor global seismic issues.

Kailasa Temple at Ellora Caves

An engineering marvel reminiscent of the expertise of the master builders of ancient India, the Kailasa Temple is part of the rock-hewn monastic-temple cave complex called Ellora Caves. Believed to be built sometime in the 8th century, the gigantic Kailasa Temple was carved out of a single rock.

It is an excellent example of Reverse Engineering and was chiselled from top down. It is believed that three huge trenches were bored into a cliff face and as much as 2,00,000 tonnes of rock was removed  to reveal the temple. 164 feet deep and 109 feet wide, the temple has the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world. 

There was simply no margin of error here. From its intricately carved panels to striking sculptural decoration, Kailasa Temple is a free-standing 2-storey temple with astounding complexity which is now a glowing example of civil engineering marvels.

Washington Monument

Washington MonumentThe Washington Monument is an obelisk built on the National Mall in Washington, DC to commemorate George Washington - the first President of America. Made of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss, it is over 169 metre or 555 feet high. Hence, it is considered the Tallest Stone Structure of the World as well as the Tallest Obelisk of the World.

Its base is 15 feet thick and its peak is just 7 inches thick. The monument does not use any reinforcing steel structure or mortar. Built like pyramids, the monument is kept together only by the weight of stones. Hence, it is also the Tallest Unreinforced Stone Masonry Structure in the World. First inaugurated in 1888, this engineering marvel was closed down in August 2011 when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit the Washington area and caused damage to it. It was opened again only in May 2014.

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