Mega Builders Season 2

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Science, Technology Documentary hosted by Guy Grison and published by Discovery Channel in 2006 - English narration

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Image: Megabuilders-Season-2-Cover.jpg

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As the world’s engineers and planners come up with new ways to solve the increasing demands of life on Earth in the 21st century, there are many amazing engineering projects taking place globally.

The Bangkok Mega Bridge’s proportions will astound, while the unprecedented scale of the Gotthard Base Tunnel – which is being drilled through the Swiss Alps – has thrown up a range of engineering challenges.

Major building projects designed to alleviate traffic congestion in Madrid and North America are also currently underway, while more quirky engineering projects include the sinking of a Boeing 737 to create a unique dive site and the construction of the world’s longest, tallest and fastest flying roller coaster.

[edit] Moving Mountains

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is actually two main parallel tunnels measuring a record-breaking 57km each, served by a maze of access tunnels, shafts and passages. In total there will be 153.5 km of tunnel through the Swiss Alps.

The project has been conceived to solve the problem of heavy European road traffic on this major route through the Alps, while simultaneously developing Europe’s high-speed rail network. The existing tunnel, much higher up, can only handle three-truck freight trains of up to 2,000 tons. The new tunnel will take 4,000 ton heavy freight trains – carrying entire trucks on board - effortlessly through the heart of the mountains. Passenger trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 250kmph, resulting in a train journey time between Zurich and Milan of just two hours and 40 minutes – a third less than at present.

But digging a tunnel underneath 3,000m mountains is going to take all the skill of some of the world’s leading engineers. Much of the geology that lies beneath the mountains was unknown when the project began. Problems that would slow the project down and give rise to complex engineering challenges have been a feature of building the tunnel.

The planned completion date is 2015 but that may well slip. In fact, in July 2005, a tunnel boring machine (TBM), known as Gobi II, got stuck when it unexpectedly encountered a section of unstable, soft rock. The tunnel promptly collapsed in front of the TBM’s cutting head – and there is no such thing as reverse with a tunnel boring machine. Experts on the project found themselves with the unexpected task of trying to calculate the extent of the section of less stable rock, as well as having to rescue the TBM by digging it out of the place where it had got stuck – a process that would take several months.

[edit] Roller Coaster

The Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park, situated just north of Los Angeles, in the US state of California, is home to the record-breaking ride, which is heralding a new adrenaline-packed experience for thrill-seeking visitors.

Christened “Tatsu”, the Japanese for “flying beast”, this incredible steel structure swivels riders round 90 degrees into a face-down position, just like a flying dragon. Those brave enough to take the challenge are propelled at speeds of up to 62mph as they dangle from the track.

Unlike the construction of most coasters, which are built on flat ground, Six Flags’ new coaster stands on uneven terrain, twisting and turning round hills and trees to add to the thrill. Up to1600 riders per hour pass over four separate areas of the park, traversing a 263ft elevation change, during the 3.5-minute ride.

The track is over 3,600ft in length and 170ft high. The first drop that thrill-seekers experience is an amazing 111ft. There are no less than four inversions, including the world’s biggest Pretzel Loop, which is 124ft tall.

The ride, which was custom-designed by Swiss roller coaster experts, Bolliger & Mabillard, cost a staggering $21 million to build. It opened in May 2006.

[edit] Madrids Big Dig

Madrid is currently suffering a traffic crisis that needs to be solved quickly and efficiently, as the city has expanded rapidly in recent years and dangerous congestion is becoming an almost constant problem. Madrid’s inner ring road, the Calle 30, is the worst offender. The busiest road in Spain, running close to the Manzanares River, it is famous for its traffic jams and pollution.

The M30 project aims to solve the problems of gridlock on Madrid’s roads by refurbishing the road and running major sections of it beneath the city, creating new parkland and riverside above. A total of 99km of new road and 56km of tunnel will have been constructed by the time the project is completed. With an estimated budget of ยค3.7 billion and completion date (already behind) of mid-2007, this is a major undertaking!

The M30 Madrid Project is so massive that no less than seven Earth Pressure Balanced (EPB) Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) of various specifications have been specially ordered for the 15 separate projects around the city.

One such machine came from German firm Herrenknecht AG. It was too massive to transport whole and had to be reassembled on site. With an immense 15m diameter and weighing 4000-tonnes, it surpassed its expected 300m per month progress and achieved 500m per month (36m per day) – finishing its tunnel ahead of schedule. In August 2006, a similarly-proportioned machine from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Spanish company Duro Felguera beat this record by achieving 40m progress in a single day.

[edit] Sinking Wings

The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC) is on a mission to create and maintain man-made dive sites that will promote both the local economy through dive tourism and the environmental benefits of using artificial dive sites to save damaging important historic or ecologically-sensitive sites.

Along the way, they’ve become experts in the technology and safety procedures needed to create artificial reefs. They began their work in 1991 by sinking the GB Church – a 53m freight ship that started life as a Second World War supply ship. The ARSBC – which is made up entirely of volunteers – then went on to sink a further six large ships of varying types.

For the group’s most recent project, they looked to the skies and opted to sink a retired Boeing 737. The ARSBC began work on the jet plane by stripping the interior down and removing any potentially toxic substances. They then opened up the cabin to make it more diver-friendly and began work on the actual sinking of the plane.

A huge crane had to be employed to sink the aircraft in its location just off Chemainus, Vancouver Island. The greatest difficulty in lifting and then sinking the aircraft would come in holding the 20 ton flying machine stable, despite the potential pitfalls of strong and unpredictable winds, waves and currents.

No plane had ever been deliberately sunk like this before so a special cradle for the plane had to be designed from scratch. The cradle has been engineered to hold the plane underwater, so that it gives the impression of 'flying' beneath the waves. The cradle will add another unique element to this special project that will hopefully offer a unique dive site to divers from all over the world.

The site had been christened 'Xihwu Reef' (pronounced 'key'quot') after the Red Sea Urchin that once thrived in the area.

[edit] Bangkok Bridge

The city of Bangkok is growing at a phenomenal rate and is currently home to an estimated 10 million people and almost 25 million registered vehicles. As a result, the city’s roads are in a state of crisis, with log-jammed traffic becoming an almost permanent feature and travelling speed down to a crawl during peak times.

When it is finished, it is hoped that the new Bangkok Mega Bridge will bring a massive improvement to the current traffic situation in the city. The unofficially-named “Mega Bridge” is part of a new road network – the 13km Industrial Ring Road.

The Mega Bridge stretches across a meander in the Chao Phraya river so actually comprises two bridges of 702m and 582m in length, each crossing a north-south stretch of water. In the middle is a suspended intersection. Each bridge is 51m high to allow tall shipping to pass under: construction had to take place while the river’s shipping lanes remained open.

The bridge’s towers have been built on soft, wet land which has led to some complex engineering challenges. As the structure is a cable-stay bridge, it will not actually be stable until all the pieces of the bridge have finally been joined together.

[edit] Crossing the Colorado

The massive canyon formed by the Colorado River where it joins Nevada and Arizona already boasts one iconic piece of engineering: the Hoover Dam. The new bridge, just half a kilometre downriver from the dam, will only add to the splendour of the area and give North America its first composite concrete deck arch bridge.

The new crossing is badly needed. Currently, a narrow two-lane highway runs along the top of the dam. The approaches are winding and treacherous. Congestion is terrible, the crossing is on one of the area’s major routes, US Highway 93, and handles both through-traffic and Hoover Dam tourists.

Security concerns since 9/11 have led to a lorry ban on the crossing which has increased disruption. The ambitious Hoover Dam Bypass scheme – with the new bridge at its centre – should ease these problems when it opens to traffic in 2008.

The bridge alone will cost $114m. At 580m long and rising almost 275m above the Colorado river, it has brought some difficult construction challenges. Workers have had to contend with temperatures reaching 46 degrees centigrade, as well as strong and unpredictable winds and dangerous terrain with terrifying drops.

In September 2006, strong winds sent two enormous construction cranes crashing into Highway 93 – amazingly, with no loss of life! There are also a number of environmental issues to consider, including managing the endangered desert tortoises that inhabit the region, alongside protecting a herd of mountain sheep who reside close to the construction site.

[edit] Extreme Elevation

The developers of the Burj Dubai (which means Dubai Tower in Arabic) are so keen to win and hold on to the title of World’s Tallest Building that they are keeping the building’s exact height a secret until completion. Current estimates put the finished height at around 940m.

The building’s foundations have even been dug to an extra deep level to enable the addition of further storeys as construction progresses. The tower will feature a luxury hotel, private residential apartments, commercial space and a viewing platform 124 floors up. The tower will be so high that the air on the building’s upper floors will be thinner than the air on the ground.

Construction is moving fast - one floor per week is currently being constructed and the Burj Dubai is slated to open for business at some point in 2008. The desert conditions mean that building techniques have had to be customised. For example, builders mix ice with any concrete they use to make the concrete set to strength in the hot desert temperatures.

The Burj Dubai is concrete on its lower levels with a shining steel structure on top. It’s been designed without any horizontal surfaces, to prevent desert sand from settling on the building and weighing it down. It also has a twisting, continually changing shape to counter the effects of the strong desert winds.

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[edit] Technical Specs

Video Codec: h264 ,AVC-1
Video Bitrate: 4000 kbps
Video Resolution: 1280x720
Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio Codec: AC3
Audio BitRate: 384 kbps
Audio Streams: 2.0
Audio Languages: English
RunTime Per Part: 46 min
Number Of Parts: 7
Part Size: 1.41 GB
Subtitles: none
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