Have you ever wondered how bridges are built? Have you ever imagined or thought about the engineering mechanics and wonders used in the construction of bridges? What comes to your mind when you drive through the Third Mainland bridge in Lagos, Niger bridge at Onitsha, Benue bridge at Makurdi and several other bridges scattered across Nigeria, Africa and the world at large?
Some of you might be scared or awed at such marvels and wonders of engineering that stand inconspicuously among us. How then are these bridges built?
Note that bridge construction is easy when the water is shallow. In low depth water, the foundations of a bridge are laid by filling the particular location for a temporary period. Then, Piers (a type of pillar) can be built over it. When the water is deep, other techniques will be considered by engineers.
The terrain and water flow are also determining factors on what method of bridge construction to be used. There are many methods used in the construction of bridges but these three will be explored. They include:
1. Battered Piles
1. Battered Piles: These are poles made of wood, concrete and steel which are hammered (driven) into the water until they turn outward or inward at an angle. This makes the piles firm and stronger, thus increasing their ability to carry loads. After the piles are driven into the soil beneath the water, the next step is to construct pile caps above the piles. Once this is done, the bridge is ready to be built.
Battered Piles (Photos)
2. Cofferdams: This is a temporary structure built to keep water and soil out of the excavation in which a bridge pier (pillar) is built. A cofferdam is built to create a dry working environment for engineers to mount structural supports. In some regions of the world, a cofferdam is better known as a caisson. Working inside a cofferdam can be hazardous if it's not installed properly. However, advances in engineering have reduced such risks, leading to increased safety.
Engineers can pick any of these techniques and others for building bridges depending on the conditions of the site and available technology. These important decisions are mainly reserved for experts to handle.
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