Thursday, March 31, 2011

#34 Structural Testing Laboratory

Description: This is part of the structural testing lab at the University of Illinois, one of the premier structural labs in the world.  The blue box is a piece of equipment capable of applying forces in all three coordinate axes as well as moments about all three coordinate axes.  Experiments performed with this machine allow engineers to control all the aspects of motion and load a structural element is undergoing.  Seen here is a pier being tested for post seismic repair adequacy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#33 Fire Rated Wood

Description:  Why are those plywood sheets pink?  The reason is the wood actually is not regular plywood.  The pink is an indicator of the fire treated nature of the wood panel.  Fire treated wood like this is required for many applications by the building code in most areas.  These particular panels will be a backer for carpenters to screw or nail into when they install a wood sheathing finish to the atrium wall currently under construction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#32 Equipment: Auger Cast Pile Rig

Description:  Pictured above is a drill rig used for constructing auger cast piles. On this machine a few features are very obvious that make it different than a traditional boom-lattice crane.  First, the large green box on the back is an engine that powers the auger.  The auger, encased in the frame hanging on the front of the crane, is used to excavate the soil where the piles will be poured.  Once the auger reaches the desired depth of the pile, concrete is pumped through the auger like a straw to fill the hole as it is pulled out.  A resteel cage can then be lowered into the hole to add tensile strength to the auger cast pile.

Monday, March 28, 2011

#31 Large Dormatory Boiler

Description: Seen here is a steam boiler used for heating Bursley Residence Hall at the University of Michigan. There are three of these used for heating Bursley, each capable of producing 9,000,000 BTUs. In the dead of winter two of the three are being used at once, while the third is used as a backup in case of failure. These were placed in Bursley during its construction, in 1965.

Friday, March 25, 2011

#30 Fire Escape

Description:  Featured on this building is a moderately tall fire escape in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Fire escapes like this one are used as a second safe exit for occupants to leave in case of a fire.  One advantage of a fire escape exit from a burning building is moving the people away from the noxious smoke created by building fires.  Smoke, which causes people to asphyxiate, is responsible for many of the deaths associated with fires today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#29 Single Span Concrete Bridge

Description:  Featured above is a classic single span concrete bridge over a small river.  The river is a minor branch of the Muskegon River in Muskegon, Michigan close to where it enters Muskegon Lake. The bridge is rather typical, but a bit of history regarding the river it crosses is over. Over the course of the lumber boom of the 1800’s the Muskegon River carried billions of board feet of lumber from the interior regions of the state to the saw mills on the coast of Lake Michigan. These logs were in turn sawed into lumber and used to build homes, buildings, and other timber structures, all making up part of the built environment we call home today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#28 Rail Road Bridge Over Highway

Description:  Seen here is a railroad bridge that crosses a busy highway in Muskegon, Michigan.  Although seldom thought about by the general public, without bridges like this one the transportation infrastructure that makes up American would be much less efficient. This rather simple two span, steel bridge is designed to carry hundreds of tons in rail cars and allows both avenues for traffic to continue without interruption.  Image having to stop at an intersection like this one for a train while driving 70 MPH on the freeway!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#27 Equipment: Water-Rotary Rock-Core Rig

Description: This drill rig is used to core rock, and water is used to keep the bit cool, clean and lubricated. Rock coring is used for geotechnical and hydrological investigation as well as for well drilling in certain instances and also oil exploration.  This rig has tires on it for easy mobility on the road, but many such drill rigs are fitted with crawler tracks for more access to remote areas.

Monday, March 21, 2011

#26 Landslide Clean Up

Description: Pictured above is the cleanup of a roadway after a landslide. This particular landslide was caused by heavy rains and steep cuts in the soil material in concert with a relatively weak soil. You can see the head-scarp, the area where the failure beginnings, is clearly distinguishable.

Friday, March 18, 2011

#25 Structural Damage from Differential Settlement

Description: Pictured above is a floor to ceiling crack in a masonry wall. Cracks like this can be seen in many buildings where differential settlement is occurring. Differential settlement is caused by a combination of weak or erodible soil, poor foundation design, and sometimes seismic loading of the sub-grade of the building.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#24 Highway Bridges Over Grand River

Description:  Seen here is a night photograph of the I-196 crossing of the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This highway is a major artery through the city and carries many cars and trucks from the west coast of Michigan to the metropolitan area of Detroit via Grand Rapids. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#23 Electric Power Grid

Description:  What you are looking at is a sub-station on the electrical power grid.  Electricity is produced at large power plants, with a very high voltage.  This high voltage is advantageous because it leads to lower losses acquired in the transmission process of the power.  However, this large voltage, that is good for transportation, would destroy most devices that run on electricity.  As a result, the electrical grid has sub-stations, like this one, to reduce the high voltage to more manageable magnitudes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#22 Masonry Construction Technique

Description:  Why is the front of that building covered in a tent of plastic?  This construction technique is used to raise the temperature of the work space within the plastic and to block the wind.  Inside that scaffolding and plastic encasement the temperature is much warmer than the single digit temperatures experienced outside.  This warmer space allows for the construction of masonry finishes which would be nearly impossible in the freezing temperatures of winter.

Monday, March 14, 2011

#21 Pedestrian Bridge

Description:  The bridge you are looking at is a purely pedestrian bridge for crossing the Grand River.  As is obvious by the snow on the ground and ice build up near the piers this photograph was taken in the winter.  Bridges like this one must therefore be very resilient against the forces of not only the water flowing in the river but also against the destructive forces of ice.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

#20 Rail Road Yard

Description:  Seen here is a rail road yard from the air.  This particular rail road yard is located near Chicago, Illinois and contains several hundred rail cars at any given time.  Rail road yards like this one are used to assemble the individual cars to form long trains and get those trains ready for their journeys.  With a nationwide push for rail systems to move both freight and people, rail transport is likely to grow in the future.

Friday, March 11, 2011

#19 Airport Control Tower

Description:  What you are looking at is the Oakland, California airport control tower.  Control towers at airports are typically raised up considerably above the terminal and other buildings to allow the controllers to see the entire airport. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#18 Smoke Stack Plumes

Description:  Seen here is the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor power plant.  It is a natural gas fueled power plant that also provides process heating to the buildings of the Central campus for heating in the winter and absorption cooling in the summer.  Many people are alarmed upon first seeing the large plumes of smoke coming from the smokestacks.  However, these plumes of “smoke” are actually mostly water vapor and disappear quickly as the hot water vapor is absorbed into the cold winter air.  In summer months the plumes are not visible as the water vapor is instantly absorbed into the air.

Monday, March 7, 2011

#17 Truss Bridge

Description: Pictured above is the Sixth Street Bridge in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It spans the Grand River and was built in 1886 using wrought iron.  The bridge is made up of four Pratt trusses on stone piers and is the longest and oldest metal bridge in Michigan.  When this bridge was built it cost a whopping $31,000!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

#16 Construction Equipment: Trencher

Description:  This machine is used to build the civil engineering infrastructure on which society dependents.  It is called a trencher, or in some circles, the ground or soil chainsaw. One use of a trencher is to bury pipes or cables.  Trenchers are good at excavating long and narrow openings in the earth which pipes and cables are then laid in to deliver the water, gas, electricity, and other resources needed by the recipients of the cable or pipe from the distribution grid.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

#15 Rail Road Tracks

Description: Seen here is a classic railroad track from anywhere in the United States. Trains’ ability to move vast amounts of cargo very efficiently across large distances make them desirable for cross country shipping.  Civil engineering systems, such as bridges and roads, are crucial to keep these mega machines moving.  Without bridges, retaining structures, and access roads the rail system in the United States would grind to a screeching halt.  As high speed rail systems are built in America the rail infrastructure will undoubtedly change and grow over the coming years and decades.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

#14 Retaining Wall Tieback Placement

Description:  Featured in this photograph is a worker placing tiebacks for an auger cast retaining wall system.  Such retaining wall systems are designed to resist all the lateral loads imposed by the sides of an excavation.  To place tiebacks the worker first drills into the earth behind the wall using the machine shown, and secures cables with grout in the hole.  After the grout has cured and the cables are secure they are pulled tight using jacks and fastened to the wall to hold it in place.  Excavation then continues deeper until the next layer of tiebacks is needed. The process is then repeated until the desired depth of the excavation is reached.