One of the major challenges facing planners and civil engineers in the future will be providing infrastructure and services for a growing population while ensuring our cities remain a pleasant place to live.

Most of our cities today have three things in common: they were built in areas that were convenient for trading, easy to defend and near a fresh water supply. As they have evolved and grown, their needs have changed, both in complexity and scale.

Modern communities need a reliable energy source, an effective sewerage system, efficient transport links and good communications networks. With the world’s population predicted to reach eight billion by 2023, it is estimated 70% of people will live in a city by 2050.

While one way of satisfying the demands of this predicted population boom is to build cities from scratch (such as the world’s first “smart” city of Songdo in South Korea), this isn’t always possible. Civil engineers will be tasked with finding a way of retrofitting existing city infrastructures to meet the demands of modern residents.

Civil Engineering Challenges

This presents one of the world’s biggest engineering challenges. The UK’s research community is currently investigating ways of engineering our future cities, with modern technology being developed into innovative ways of shaping tomorrow’s infrastructures.

One idea is vacuum waste disposal, a modern waste system that will transport the waste through pneumatic tubes to collection stations, where it is compacted and sealed into containers. The system is aimed at helping with recycling waste too. Such systems have already been pioneered in South Korea, the United States and China.

Songdo is credited with being a “city of the future”, with its buildings boasting automatic climate control, computerised access and tracked electricity, water and waste systems that automatically respond to the residents’ needs.

However, some critics fear this is a step too far and warn it is developing into a type of “Big Brother” environment.

Serving Community Needs

In the UK, civil engineers and planners are developing designs based on the ethos that cities are far more than just hi-tech innovations. The urban infrastructure must serve the needs of the community as a whole and of individual citizens, helping them to lead a comfortable life and prosper.

The idea that cities in the future can integrate new tech with existing systems to help them upgrade and expand is an interesting one that is currently being researched.

Examples could include smart motorways which help control traffic flow, smart street lights that automatically dim when nobody is about and smart sensors that will detect and measure water leaks in real-time.

In the 20th century, civil engineers have got to grips with cities’ technical needs, while the new 21st century challenges will be ultimately more complex to ensure the ever-growing population’s needs are continually met.

Please contact Lydon Contracting for further information about our professional civil engineering services.