Brooklyn Bridge, a marvel of engineering and a project ahead of its time

Opened on May 24, 1883 and spanning over a mile long, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York was the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time. A feat of pioneering 19th-century engineering, it took 14-years to build, involved 600 workers and cost $15 million – roughly equivalent to $3.5 billion today (2015).

Its remarkable construction was the focus of a Channel 5 documentary hosted by engineer, Rob Bell. Entitled the World’s Greatest Bridges: Brooklyn Bridge, Rob recounts some of the ground breaking techniques that were either introduced or adopted on an industrial scale, some of which remain in use 125-years later.

With the project almost twice in length of the longest suspension bridge at the time, sheer strength was the order of the day to prevent it from ending up on the bottom of the river. The use of steel instead of iron was introduced to make it stronger, a wire rope suspension system replaced the weaker chain link system and huge caissons, enormous airtight chambers with no bottoms, were used to gain access to the bedrock below the river bed and to create the foundations for the two colossal support towers.

But it was not just engineering techniques that put the project ahead of its time. You could say it was an early advocate of succession planning and a promoter of women in construction.

The death of engineer and chief designer, John Roebling, almost put an end to the entire scheme before it had even started. His son, Washington A. Roebling, had worked with his father on several bridge projects and took over as chief engineer. However, Washington Roebling himself became paralysed during the foundation works and was unable to continue on site. So his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, took over the bridge’s construction and relayed Washington’s instructions to the project team. According to Emily Warren Roebling’s biography by the historian Marilyn Weigold, she became a kind of ‘surrogate chief engineer’.

Although the Roebling’s were exception engineers, they did not have the technological advances we have today and relied heavily on the use of overengineering to compensate for entering into the realms of the unknown. This undoubtedly contributed to the final cost of the scheme, which more than doubled in value against the original estimate.

State-of-the-art software means that designers today are able to examine all circumstances of failure and devise strategies to make the project robust. They can also establish how much it should cost and the length of time it should take to construct, all before the team breaks ground.

So, how can organisations cross over to a civil engineering and groundworks contractor that offers even further cost and efficiency savings?

At M. Lambe Construction, we believe the best way for organisations to make significant cost savings on their project is to engage with a quality contractor over a cheaper one. This will ensure value for money is achieved through developing the most appropriate economical solution tailored to the specific project.

Through early contractor involvement (ECI), we can work in collaboration with you to develop a more efficient programme; deliver cost efficiencies to the construction plan; identify, manage or eliminate risks; and develop value engineering solutions. By taking this approach, we will help deliver the best value for money, without compromising on quality, health and safety or the environmental management you have become accustomed to.

So, if you’d like to work with a forward-thinking civil engineering and groundworks specialist, complete the form below and send us your details or call us on 0121 554 2108 to talk with one of our experts.

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