Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ingenuity all around you

One of the things engineers feel quite strongly about, and are forever trying to address, is that the general public – particularly in the UK – simply do not appreciate the awesomeness of the things they achieve. Engineering is heavily underrated both in terms of its achievements and as a career, yet without engineering we would not have the incredibly advanced societies we live in today.

A phenomenal (excuse my generous use of superlatives!) example of this is the incredible Heathrow Terminal 5, which is currently under construction. It is engineering on a massive scale, much more complex than a simple new building. Here are some key facts for you to ponder:
  • 4 miles (6km) of roads
  • 8.5 miles of undergrounds tunnels
  • 11 miles of conveyor belts to move bags!
  • 60,000 workers involved in the project
  • 400m-long terminal building
  • 175 lifts
  • 131 escalators
  • 260 hectare site (larger than Hyde Park)
  • 40% of the building is underground
  • 30 million passengers a year
(Info taken from Professional Engineer magazine)

And all this is being built while two of the busiest runways in the world operate as normal 24/7 on either side of the construction site . It’s utterly mind-boggling.

I’ve always believed that the reason the public doesn’t hold engineering in as high regard as other professions such as medicine or law is that the fine details of what goes in to making things work, the complexity of what we do as engineers, is beyond their life experience. They expect things to just work, and when they don’t, they get someone in to fix them. Gnerally people aren't too interested in how things happen.

I amtruly blown away by those statistics on the Heathrow T5 project. Let’s hope that when the building opens in 2008, at least some of the passengers will stop to appreciate and marvel at the incredible work of many fine engineers.


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