Usually, when we are about our daily business, we don’t think about how our city is run – unless of course, there is a major problem. In the normal course of things traffic moves, shops open, streetlights work, gutters are cleaned.
But behind all this normality and expected service, lies an enormous amount of planning and implementation of systems and design. Like the intricate workings of a clock, a city has to run on the ingenuity and innovation of people who envision the needs of the population, and who know how to execute plans of action.
Urban or municipal engineering is essential to the smooth running of a city or town, and uses all the tools of science, design, and technology to construct and maintain infrastructure and processes at continued high standards.
A broad spectrum of work involves designing, constructing, and maintaining: streets, pavements, traffic lights, electrical and telecommunications networks, water supply networks, sewerage systems, streetlighting, solid waste management, bus service networks, public works, parks and cycle tracks, etc.
Engineering city life
Some of these disciplines overlap with other civil engineering specialties, however urban engineering focuses on the co-ordination of these networks and services, working as a team behind the scenes to ensure all city operations are running smoothly.
- Municipal engineers design the public infrastructure in a community, such as street grids, water pipes, etc, and work on large-scale developments for residential, commercial and industrial areas, monitoring compliance with city rules and regulations, and ensuring that the development adds value to the community.
- Any changes or additions or renovations to building structures have to be approved by municipal engineers to ensure all modifications meet health and safety standards, along with community expectations.
- Urban engineers are the people who have their eye on the most crucial and future needs of the city. Plans for future projects can typically spearpoint designs 5 to 10 years or even 20 years into the future. Municipal engineers work with city planners and regulatory agencies to establish comprehensive plans for community development.
- Municipal engineers often act as the interface between citizens and politicians as they negotiate and work to make the city a civilised place to live, work and play – providing solutions that have a direct impact on the quality of everyday life for people at disparate social and economic levels.
- One of the main areas of involvement for a municipal engineer is monitoring building structures and the compliance with regulations. The principles of urban engineering are well-established; public liability is a major risk factor that must be considered by all engineers involved in planning processes.
Health and Welfare Engineering
Waste Management: The management and disposal of waste materials includes the collection, transportation, and elimination of these materials in a timeous and efficient manner as possible. Waste management depends on: whether the waste is residential or industrial; located in a city, town or rural area; and the developed state of the country.
Water: Another important responsibility of urban engineering is the supply of clean water to residents of the city. An efficient water supply network is effected through a network of pipes and hydraulics, and the ongoing analysis of flow and pressure in different sectors. A water supply network includes: catchment areas, water treatment facilities to ensure the water is fit for human consumption, reservoirs for storage, and ultimately the effective transportation of water to the consumer.
Sewage treatment and treatment to enable reuse of the water for irrigation or drinking water will become the norm, to reduce the water footprint of cities.
Public parks: Public parks include sports facilities, playgrounds, pavilions, etc. Maintenance includes activities such as irrigation, turf management, pest control, general landscaping, and tree trimming. The mission is to provide safe, clean public parks for everyone to enjoy.
A key aspect to effective delivery by an urban engineering team is the capability of empathising with, and understanding social, cultural, financial and political contexts in which delivery takes place. Dynamic and visionary, urban engineers are the people who make city life possible and liveable, and contribute daily to the enjoyment of that life.
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To find out more, visit: www.outeng.co.za