Engineering at its best

Most of the time we don’t even notice the bridges we drive over, the tunnels that transport our water or the massive office buildings we work in; little thought goes into how these incredibly complex structures were created, or to the people who designed them. Today we’re taking a look at some of the modern marvels the best and brightest among us have engineered:

A Smelly Project with a Big Purpose


We’ll start on the home turf with the Thames Water Lee Tunnel Project, but be warned you’ll need your safety boots and hard hats for this one. Essentially the £635m tunnel is the first of two which is designed to collectively capture an average of 39 million tonnes of sewage per year. According to Thames Water the tunnels are designed to capture sewage from “the 35 most polluting combined sewer overflows (CSOs), built by the Victorians as part of a sewerage network that still serves London 150 years on”. All of which will help to prevent an annual 16 million tonnes of rainwater mixed with sewage overflowing into the Lee River. While the project might stink a bit it’s a brilliant piece of engineering winning the award for the Greatest Contribution to London at the ICE (London Civil Engineering Awards) in 2012. The Specs

  • Four miles in length
  • The tunnel is 7 meters in diameter – the width of three London buses
  • Each of the tunnel’s four shafts is between 20-40 meters deep, the deepest ever built in London (according to ICE).
  • The 120m-long boring machine used was named Busy Lizzie by a local primary school.

Take a look at this video about the Lee Tunnel’s construction:

Burj Khalifa

Officially the tallest building in the world the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, towers 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) into the sky and has 160 stories. It was designed and constructed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago with work beginning in 2004 and the building opening on the 4th of January 2010.


According to the building’s official wesbite over 45, 000m3 (58,900 cu yd) concrete was used to construct the foundation and the project in total took an estimated 22 million man-hours. The building is the current record holder in the following categories:

  • The tallest building in the world
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world


The One World Trade Center

As today is the anniversary of the September 11 attack on NY no report on engineering feats around the world would be complete without mention of the World Trade Center or 1 WTC, previously known as the NYC Freedom Tower. Since the steel tower’s spire was installed on the 10th of May 2013, the building has been the tallest in the Western-Hemisphere and the 4th tallest in the world, reaching an impressive 541 meters (1,776 feet).

The project was also designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and construction was originally begun by Silverstein Properties in 2006 but was eventually finished by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The 2.6 million-square-foot building contains several mechanical floors and 69 office floors which includes two restaurants and two TV broadcast floors.


If you think about it the world functions because of massive mechanical, civil and aeronautical engineering projects and the engineers (both male and female) who conceive of and construct them. So here’s a shout out to all the engineers out there on jobs well done!


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