The art of engineering has been a necessary part of civilisation since we as humans decided to use our resources to build structures. Because of engineering, we have incredible structures such as temples, aqueducts and colosseums that shaped the earth’s history. Our history of engineering then went on to pave the way for the future of structures, and resulted in the amazing feats like the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Empire State Building in New York City, United States, and the Sydney Opera house in Sydney, Australia.
But how did we get there, and how did New Zealand put itself on the map as the home of exceptional engineering? How did modern engineering companies such as Farra in Wellington, New Zealand establish themselves in a world of the Pantheon or Buckingham Palace?
The basic concept of engineering is designing and building structures and machines using sciences. An engineer typically has a strong science background, and uses their background and training to design a structure, then implement that design. Engineering can be broken down into many different divisions, including electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering. Things like cars, airplanes, computers, and bridges are built by the three of these divisions.
Buildings like the Empire State Building may have required a civil engineer to help construct the building, a mechanical engineer to assist with the roads and bridges around the building, and an electrical engineer to design the electrical system throughout the building. A fabrication engineer would have been employed to weld the steel together.
Why do we need engineering?
The need for engineering seems obvious to us today. We drive cars to work and to our homes, and therefore need roads and bridges to get us there. Skyscrapers in large cities are often required due to space constraints. Computers and electronics only grow more advanced every day.
Even before engineers were called engineers, and the first structures were being built, there was a need, or at least a desire, for the structure to be built. Shelters for survival, temples for worship, and primitive bridges to cross streams and rivers were not built simply for aesthetics, but because of the needs of the community.
These needs that spawned early structures were part of the beginning of great engineering. With every bridge constructed, another one could be made better, stronger, or longer lasting. A spear made to hunt could be improved with each use. Houses that once leaked or didn’t stand up to strong winds and rain were rebuilt with stronger materials. Continuous improvement was, and is, vital to our structures, which is why engineering companies in New Zealand have succeeded in becoming some of the greats in the business.
Engineering in New Zealand
As New Zealand’s resources were discovered, engineering was essential to their harvesting. The discovery of gold and iron resources in NZ led to a fast-growing economy and spurred the need for new settlements and towns, as well as the apparatus needed to mine the resources. Roads were constructed across the South Island to move the resources from inland to the sea, where it could be shipped off across the world. Even building new homes became extremely important to house the new immigrants pouring in to take their chances in the goldfields.
As Auckland, NZ began to grow, engineering companies popped up across the city to keep up with the new demand for infrastructure. Auckland engineers started building trams, railways and roads, that still define the city’s shape today. Auckland, along with many other cities in NZ, was built on an inlet that required extensive engineering of bridges and harbours. The Auckland Harbour Bridge is a prime example of an incredible work of engineering in NZ. In many ways, engineering is the only way a city can grow. It must employ the strong science and technology backgrounds of engineers to expand a city beyond its borders.
Nowadays, engineering is still an incredibly fast growing field in New Zealand. Transport, telecommunications, energy and water are among the Government’s main plans for infrastructure. With immense funding being set aside for these projects, engineering will only continue to grow in New Zealand. STEM schools (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics schools), are becoming increasingly popular to keep up with the demand for strong engineers in the future.
When you think about the great buildings of the world, or the bridges that have upheld millions of commuters and have withstood the earth’s elements, it’s sometimes easy to forget the people who were behind it all. The people who changed the face of engineering didn’t just build something beautiful or functional, they built something that no one had built before. They built something that lasted, and influenced the engineers that came after them. Engineering even got us to the moon, by building a spacecraft that could carry a human being off our planet and in to space. Now, we have telescopes and discovery spacecraft that can show us images we could have never dreamt of before.
In all reality, the true greats of engineering are simply the ones who were able to think ahead. They saw the current need, and somehow created something that fit that need and changed the way we built in the future. They found a way, out of thin air, to better the world with what they created. When we look at the Empire State Building or the Sydney Opera House, our appreciation can run so much deeper know how much these structures have influenced us.
Even in your own home, you can appreciate what great engineering has done for you. Your home computer or laptop, your radio, your air conditioner and your car in the driveway are all examples of how engineering is a vital part of your life. And the next time you drive across a bridge or see a beautiful building, you will better understand how much great engineering has shaped our lives.