14 Engineering Projects That Give us a Preview of the Future

Beijing Daxing Airport

As we all know, mankind’s will, determination and creativity will always be one of the greatest sources of creativity. One of the greatest manifestations of all three of these uniquely human qualities is of course in construction and engineering. All engineering projects on this list are marvelous and inspiring in their own way.

1. Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (China)

Image Courtesy:Nyx Ning [CC BY-SA]
Photo: Nyx Ning [CC BY-SA]

Completed in 2011 and built to last 100 years, the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge connects Qingdao to Huangdao in eastern China. It shortens the trip by 30 minutes and makes it far more scenic – letting you drive through the ocean.

This magnificent structure that spans 42.5km (26.4m) was built in just four years and cost around $8.8 billion. The 10,000 workers built it out from opposite ends before finally connecting it in the middle.

The Jiaozhou Bay bridge was in 2011 the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge. As of 2018, this feat of engineering has helped 120 million cars shorten their journeys. This of course translates to massive energy and greenhouse gas savings.

2. Pingtang Radio Telescope (China)

Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
Photo: Xinhua Press / CC BY-SA

In no small engineering effort, the world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope was built into a natural basin in Pingtang. It measures a whopping 500m (1600ft) across in diameter,

The telescope can receive electromagnetic signals or “messages” from thousands of light-years away. This is how it earns its cute nicknames like Tianyan (Eye of the Sky) and FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope)

Despite being completed in 2016, it took three additional years of testing before it was declared “fully operational” in 2020.

During its testing period, FAST discovered almost 150 new pulsars. The goal is that it will eventually allow us to discover messages from other civilizations across the galaxy.

3. South-North Water Transfer Project (China)

Image Courtesy:Nsbdgc [CC BY-SA]
Photo: Nsbdgc [CC BY-SA]

The northern region of China has notoriously suffered droughts, despite having one of the longest rivers in the world, the Yangtze, running entirely through it.

China decided to remedy this by redirecting a portion of the river’s water to the north using modern engineering. This was a wise decision as 96% of the river normally drains into the ocean.

This system has reportedly cost over $80 billion, with one third of it still in the planning stage. It has already pumped 30 billion cubic tons of water to northern regions that need it most.

This project currently accounts for 70% of Beijing’s water supply. This has significantly reduced the region’s reliance on underground water that had previously been over-exploited.

4. Crossrail (England)

Image Courtesy:Matt Brown from London, England [CC BY]
Photo:Matt Brown from London, England [CC BY]

London’s Underground system is the first underground transportation system in the history of the world. After over 150 years of operation, it’s understandably in need of updating with more modern engineering.

The Crossrail project will create 117km (73mi) of new tunnels at nearly double the width of older ones – going from 3.8m (12ft) in diameter up to 6.2m (20ft).

Crossrail will serve 30 existing stations along with 10 new ones, and promises up to five times faster travel times.

Construction began in 2009 and it’s expected to be ready by 2022.

5. Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (Hong Kong)

Image Courtesy: N509FZ [CC BY-SA]
Photo: N509FZ [CC BY-SA]

After eight years of construction and a cost of $20 billion, this astonishing feat of engineering was completed in 2017. It is today’s longest sea-crossing bridge in the world.

The 55km (34mi) bridge connects Macau and the mainland city of Zhuhai to Hong Kong and its airport island. It cuts the journey across the Pearl River delta from four and a half hours to just 40 minutes.

In order to allow for ship traffic, they created two artificial islands and connected them with a 7km (4.35mi) tunnel. This tunnel was dug into the sea floor at a depth of 44.5km (27.65mi).

6. The Bride (Iraq)

Image Courtesy: AMBS Architects
Photo: AMBS Architects

This four-tower interconnected structural complex is the most ambitious effort at building a vertical city yet. It’s expected to be fully self-sufficient by utilizing solar panels embedded into all the windows. Simultaneously, it will include a rail system to get around inside the city, along with electric car chargers.

The construction of Jeddah Tower and Dubai Creek Tower was put on hold, but the Bride is taller than both at 1.15km (3,780 ft). Additionally, it is the tallest structure ever designed by a woman – Jeanne Gang.

If this model of a vertical city is successfully implemented, we could hopefully see the concept becoming much more popular. Don’t expect it to be ready before 2025, though.

7. Sognefjord Submerged Tunnel (Norway)

Image Courtesy: Statens vegvesen
Photo: Statens vegvesen

Norway has decided that the best way to connect its fjords is by using floating submerged tunnels. These tunnels would be just 30 meters (100ft) below the water surface and will use large floating pontoons.

The goal is to improve transport and tourism in the western region of the country riddled with fjords. Above all, it will cut the journey from the north to the south from 21 hours down to just 10. Currently, seven fjords interrupt the highway, forcing drivers to put their cars on ferries to get across.

This complex engineering undertaking will cost $40 billion with an estimated completion by 2050.

8. Panama Canal Expansion (Panama)

Image Courtesy: Camilo Molinaderivative work: MrPanyGoff [CC BY-SA]
Photo: Camilo Molinaderivative work: MrPanyGoff [CC BY-SA]

The Panama Canal is widely considered to be one of the wonders of the modern world, with many attributing the rise of the US on the world stage to this incredible feat of engineering.

To expand this hundred-year-old waterway, it took $5.4 billion and 40,000 people to widen and deepen the existing lanes. They also added a new lane that can accommodate the larger Neopanamax vessels.

This massive engineering project took seven years to complete and has doubled the output capacity of the canal.

9. Riyadh Metro (Saudi Arabia)

Image Courtesy: EgisRail [CC BY-SA]
Photo: EgisRail [CC BY-SA]

Unlike usual deployments of transportation systems, Riyadh decided to build their entire metro network in one go. That includes six lines, 85 stations, 176km (109mi) of track and 18 transfer stations.

Additionally, well-known architect groups from around the world like Zaha Hadid, Omrania and Snøhetta have designed landmark stations.

The entire engineering project will cost $22.5 billion. Construction began in 2014 and the service is set to launch in mid-2020.

10. Songdo International Business District (South Korea)

Image Courtesy: User:Piotrus [CC BY-SA]
Photo: User:Piotrus [CC BY-SA]

This world’s first “ubiquitous” smart city was built entirely from scratch on 6 km2 (600 hectares) of reclaimed land. It uses natural waters for channels and waterways.

The city boasts its smarts with computers and sensors embedded into every aspect of the city. They all communicate each other wirelessly in a wide-area-network (WAN) configuration.

It’s also environmentally friendly; with 40% of its area covered in parks and urban farms that grow food. They also want to eliminate the need for cars by having robust bus, metro and bicycle infrastructure.

In this city of the future, garbage is collected automatically by tubes that connect bins directly to treatment facilities. Traffic patterns are analyzed to automatically calculate when your bus will arrive. From the comfort of your home, you can video-conference with anyone in the city even without an internet connection.

This engineering project cost $35 billion. Construction started in 2014 and is projected to be completed by 2022, but more than 100,000 people already live there.

11. Gotthard Base Tunnel (Switzerland)

Image Courtesy: Kecko [CC BY]
Photo: Kecko [CC BY]

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world at 57km (35.4mi). It took 17 years to construct and was completed in June 2016.

This $11 billion engineering project consists of two directional lanes and a third pedestrian lane for emergency evacuations.

It reduces travel times by up to 40 minutes between northern and southern Europe by cutting through the Alps.

12. Beijing Daxing Airport (China)

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: 王之桐 / CC BY-SA

China gave Beijing its second international airport in September 2019. It took them four and a half years and $17 billion. In addition to the airport terminals, it boasts beautiful parks and ponds within the structure itself.

This aptly nicknamed “starfish” is a geometric masterpiece. It sits in the halfway point between the cities of Beijing, Daxing and Guangyang on top of existing subway lines, but they handled all of these engineering challenges quite well.

The southern arm of the star is the international terminal. The northern arm is the railway station and the other four are domestic. Zaha Hadid impressively designed the airport to allow for full visibility from the center to the end of each arm.

More impressively, they geographically aligned this engineering project with several landmarks of the city. Together, they form “the central axis of Beijing”.

13. Itaipu Dam (Brazil and Paraguay)

 Itaipu Dam, Paraguay/Brazil.
Photo: International Hydropower Association (IHA) / CC BY

Itaipu Dam is only the second largest dam in the world, but it outputs 103 terrawatt-hours of energy per year. That narrowly beats out the larger Three Gorges Dam in China

This engineering project was a combined bi-national effort and took 13 years to complete at the cost of $20 billion. In today’s money, that’s about $46 billion.

The dam accounts for 90% of Paraguay’s electric consumption and about 15% of Brazil’s.

14. New Century Global Center (China)

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: liuzusai刘祖赛 / CC BY

This is the largest building in the world by floor space, covering an enormous 1,700,000m2 (18,000,000 ft2 ). It measures 500m (1,600 ft) by 400m (1,300 ft) with a height of 100m (330 ft).

This engineering project took three years to complete and cost an estimated $8 billion. It contains hotels, offices, a skating rink, a water park, a university complex, an indoor beach and an artificial sun.

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