Dear Colleagues,

We should always try and align our engineering works and activities within the ‘natural order of things’. This is not a difficult undertaking, requiring a little finessing and can be done from tiny projects all the way through to massive undertaking such as the Panama Canal.

The best way of illustrating this principle is with a few (civil) engineering examples.

The first one is the Panama Canal.

Raise a Ship 30m - Naturally
When ships travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, they are raised and lowered about 30m (85ft). However, no pumps are used for the locks to raise or lower the ships. So no energy is required.  Gravity moves millions of liters of water from the lakes (located in the higher middle ground of the canal) of the Panama Canal to the lock chambers. As long as rain keeps falling into the lakes, this system will keep functioning.

As you know, these ships are gigantic and there is a veritable fleet of them travelling through the Panama Canal on a daily basis.

What an incredible saving in energy.

The second one refers to the old practice of balancing cut and fill.

Balancing Cut and Fill
One item which is always irritating to people in the surrounding areas is when an excavation is being undertaken and the earth needs to be moved. Lots of trucks and loads of inconvenience.

However, when undertaking site work (intelligently) the trick is always to balance the amount of earth that has to be removed (cut) with the amount that has to be added (fill) for a specific construction site. This means no unnecessary transport of moving earth from one site to another. Thus a huge savings in cost and efficiencies. Naturally, your client will always want to have an imbalance between cut and fill; but perhaps you can change your design to balance the two?
 
Dan Simmons in The Fall of Hyperion makes the very important point:   The Great Change is when humankind accepts its role as part of the natural order of the universe instead of its role as a cancer.

Thanks to 101 Things I learned in Engineering School by John Kuprenas with Matthew Frederick.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve