On Structural Engineering


The welfare of the earth and its inhabitants is a defining theme for the 21st century. Structural engineering has a significant role to play as the world faces these challenges. In fulfilling this function, building engineers continue the age-old human endeavor to provide society with structures that protect, serve, and inspire mankind. From pioneering new systems for better buildings with economy, to ensuring the safety of human life from nature’s wrath, to stabilizing implausible forms to defy gravity and lateral loads, building engineers venture to create livable spaces from humaninity’s dreams and ideas. Building engineering requires a comprehensive understanding of building assembly and an appreciation of how forces are resisted within the structure and eventually by the earth.


Bungale S. Taranath, «Structural Analysis and Design of Tall Buildings. Steel and Composite Construction». CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2012

On seismic design


On seismic design:

Although over the years, experience and research have diminished our uncertainties and concerns regarding the characteristics of earthquake motions and its manifestations, it is unlikely, though, that there will be such a change in the nature of knowledge to relieve us of the necessity of dealing openly with random variables. In a way, earthquake engineering is a parody of other branches of engineering. Earthquake effects on structures systematically bring out the mistakes made in design and construction, even the minutest mistakes. Add to this the undeniable dynamic nature of disturbances, the importance of soil-structure interaction and the extremely random nature of it all; it could be said that earthquake engineering is to the rest of the engineering disciplines what psychiatry is to other branches of medicine. This aspect of arthquake engineering makes it challenging and fascinating, and gives it an educational value beyond its inmediate objectives. If structural engineers are to acquire fruitful experience in a brief span of time, expose them to the concepts of earthquake engineering, even if their interest in earthquake-resistant design is indirect. Sooner or later, they will learn that the difficulties encountered in seismic design are technically intriguing and begin to exercise that nebulous trait called engineering judgment to make allowance for these unknown factors.

Bungale S. Taranath, «Structural Analysis and Design of Tall Buildings. Steel and Composite Construction». CRC Press, 2012, Boca Raton, Florida.

Elon Musk digging tunnels to save the world’s congestion problem?

I don’t know if you follow Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX…) on Twitter. I do. A few weeks ago he twitted on his way to work -on a Tesla, I suppose- that he was exasperated with Los Angeles traffic, and wondered about boring a tunnel. A moment later he twitted again that he would do it.

It seems now that he’s taken seriously the idea, and this past weekend workers started excavating a test trench at SpaceX headquarters.

I’m somewhat confused about this: being Elon Musk the visionaire and entrepeneur he is in so many different areas (PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop…) this shouldn’t surprise anyone. But this is civil engineering (tunnel boring) he’s talking now, and he even claims he wants to improve tunneling speed by 500 or even 1,000 percent! Although he did say: «We have no idea what we’re doing – I want to be clear about that» (!!!!???!!!)

What do you think? Is Elon Musk out of his depth this time? Will this new idea fail? Or if it works (I don’t know what innovative technology he wants to try out), will it work on all types of soils/rocks? Something deep in my cartesian/engineer mind tells me that it’s very difficult for someone with no previous (civil) engineering knowledge to suddenly come up with an idea that thousands of engineers and contractors all over the world are struggling with everyday. Or is it?

This is Elon Musk we’re talking about. They said the same things about him and the electric car or about launching rockets and landing them back again… And he proved them wrong. And what about the Hyperloop…? We’ll soon see.

Maybe he will fail in this new tunnel adventure, maybe he wont. But in any case this is exactly what the civil engineering world requires: out-of-the-(cartesian)-box thinking and people like Elon Musk with enough ingenuity -and money- to propose and experiment on new, world-changing ideas.

Let’s keep a close eye on Elon Musk’s latest idea, because it would indeed change our profession and the world!

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