‘Municipal/Urban’ Category

Before and After Concrete Pour

Photo Credit: Alex Mead

Pictured here is a before and after pour picture of a steel-reinforced concrete staircase. The picture on the left clearly shows the inner resteel, or rebars, placed on risers in the formwork. The steel in designed to take the tension load in the stair case and also helps to prevent cracking. The bars are placed on risers so they are held in the proper position when pouring. Proper placement within the concrete is crucial to ensure they carry the tensile loads as the designer intended once the concrete has cured. After curing, the wooden forms are removed to be used again on another job. Finally, soil is placed around the structure to support the new steel-reinforced concrete staircase.


Photo Credit: Karl Jansen

This is Farris Windmill; it was built in the mid-1600s. Windmills like this one were common and were used to complete tasks such as grinding corn. A windmill is a machine that converts energy from the wind into usable mechanical power. The sails on the windmill catch the wind force as the wind blows, causing a rotation. That rotation is transferred down a shaft where it is used. Windmills are similar to Wind Turbines, which generate electricity rather than mechanical power.

Manhole Cover Repair

Photo Credit: Jessie Benaglio

Shown here is the repair of the top part of a manhole. This structure is a catch basin, as indicated by the type of cover. This cover is designed to be placed in line with a curb in a roadway. The fresh concrete that is supporting the cover in this photo could be called a riser or corbel. Usually, the riser is above the corbel, which is a cone shaped section which flares down into the structure. Since this is a repair, the riser and corbel are basically 2-in-1. The reason this catch basin was repaired was the settlement of the roadway over time which caused the drainage to become unlevel.

Green Roof

Photo Credit: Karl Jansen

This is a green roof. And “green” does not describe the color. A green roof is simply a roof that allows for a more natural impact on the environment. This usually includes the use of earth and plants to help reduce the amount of runoff created by the new structure. Green roofs require extra structural support due to their increased dead weight loading relative to a standard roof design. As we learn more and more about our impact on the environment, and look for ways to reduce that impact, look for more of these to pop up all around our cities.

Traffic Light

Photo Credit: Karl Jansen

This is your typical traffic light in the USA: red on the top, yellow in the middle, and green on the bottom. The four individual signals are supported by the cantilevered mast arm. Traffic lights are seen all over the world, and help traffic flow safely in multiple directions. The design of the signal processing is done after a complete and thorough investigation of existing traffic flow is completed by a traffic engineer. The traffic engineer uses this information to formulate the optimal combination of light sequence order and timing, so that everybody gets along their way in good time and safely.

Cloverleaf Interchange

Photo Credit: Brian Wolfe

This is a great example of a classic cloverleaf interchange of a major road and a highway. The cloverleaf interchange gets its name from its shape. Half of the ramps, where the driver would normally make a right turn at an at-grade intersection, are smooth curves on the outer edges of this interchange. The other half of the ramps, where the driver would normally make a left turn to get on the other road, are 270-deg loops on the inner part of the interchange. They have been a popular choice by transportation engineers for many decades, but recently they are being replaced by safer and more efficient interchanges. The problem with the cloverleaf interchange has to do with the merging in/out of the loop ramps, especially when there is a heavy slow-to-accelerate truck in the mix which are also prone to roll-over accidents.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Photo Credit: Alex Mead

Pictured above is the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant solids incinerator in Detroit, MI. This waste water plant is the largest of its kind in the United States. The three smoke stacks vent the incinerators that are used to burn the solids retrieved from the clarifiers. The smoke is actually a yellowish green and the smell surrounding the facility is nearly unbearable, which is typically why waste water plants are located away from large populations.

Nuclear Power Plant Control Panel

Photo Credit: Jessie Benaglio

This is the control center of the Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant near Monroe, Michigan. The controls extend 360 degrees around the room and are meant to control every aspect of the nuclear operations. The octagon shape shows the fuel within the regulator. When lit it indicates a SCRAM, emergency shutdown of the reactor, is occurring. The analog display at the top shows the temperature of the water, the pressure, the water level, and the output Mega wattage produced from the plant.

Local Flood due to Storm Water Sewer Overload

Photo Credit: Alex Mead

Seen above is a street that has been flooded due to a storm event overwhelming the storm water sewer system. Storm water sewers are typically designed, depending on the location, for approximately a 10 year event period. This means they can handle a storm that happens on average only once every 10 years. To design for event periods much more than this would be a poor decision due to the large increase of additional resources that would be needed to accomplish these designs. As with every engineering design problem, optimal sewer design is a balance of performance and varying measures of cost.