Engineering Marvels: The Top 7 Revolutionary Projects of the 2020’s

As technology progresses, and we see higher demand for additional housing and better transport routes to connect cities; our infrastructure plans reach new levels. In this article, we’ve gathered the most interesting and impactful projects currently happening throughout the world. From European super-highways to revolutionary rail projects, the world’s construction industry is propelling to new heights.

      1. The Oosterweel Link, Antwerp, Belgium – $11.5 BILLION

    Crucial for trade and travel, the Ring Road and Antwerp’s transport system are set to change drastically with insane engineering and construction!

    The Oosterweel Link Project:

    1. The Scheldt Tunnel – A 1.8km underwater tunnel created from 8 massive segments, each weighing 60,000 tonnes. Yes, 60,000 tonnes! In Zeebrugee, 100km from Antwerp where there is much more space, these tunnels have been constructed in a 25m deep excavated hole by the sea. Once finished they will be sealed at each end, with the hole flooded so the segments float to the surface. Sometime in 2025, tug boats will slowly transport each segment 180km around the coast, through the Netherlands, and down to Antwerp. Lowered into a trench on the seabed, water between the segments will be pumped out creating a vacuum and watertight seal = tunnel.

    2. Oosterweel Junction – Traffic will surface briefly, sunken into the landscape to be less of an eye-sore, heading up to the port or down into another set of tunnels.

    3. Canal Tunnels – An engineering marvel! Stacked two-by-two, these 4 2.5km tunnels travel under the Albert Canal and connect with the existing ring road. Stacking the tunnels prevents excess space from being taken up, allowing for the depth required by ships using the canal to be maintained.

    4. Viaduct Demolishment – To connect the new tunnels to the existing ring, another set of tunnels under the canal will be built in place of the original viaduct. Obstacles stand in the way however, with the original city walls underground where the tunnels are intended, traffic, and residential areas close by.

        Planned to host 3 lanes each way with a 6m wide bike track, these tunnels are massive! Construction started in 2018 with anticipated completion in 2030.

        2. The Sydney Metro, Australia – $64 BILLION

        Introducing 113km of new metro tunnels and 46 stations, weaving through the harbour and beneath the city, this massive project is unfolding in 4 key phases:

        1. Sydney Metro Northwest, completed in 2019 for $7.3 billion, laying down 36km of track, including 15km of tunnels, 4km of bridges, and 8 stations, connecting Chatswood to Rouse Hill.

        2. Sydney Metro West, a $25 billion venture, will stretch 24km of underground metro from Parramatta to Sydney CBD, set for completion by 2030.

        3. A $11 billion link will connect to the Western Sydney Airport, accommodating to one of the busiest passenger air routes in the world.

        4. Sydney Metro City and Southwest section, currently under construction to transform 11 existing stations along the Bankstown line and introduce autonomous driverless trains, with a 15.5km twin tunnel rail crossing under Sydney Harbour. This segment involves the construction of the largest underground railway cavern at Victoria Cross Station, 256m long, 25m wide, and 20m high, located 31m beneath Sydney’s streets.

        The entire project employs 16 advanced tunnel boring machines (TBMs), each with a 100-tonne “cutterhead” capable of cutting through rock 6x harder than concrete. A specialised TBM is designated for the harbour crossing to manage its ground conditions. Guided by a sophisticated navigation system these TBM’s are set to complete over 56km of tunnels by 2030, more than what was built to connect Paris and London.

        3. The Cross River Rail, Brisbane, Australia – $6.3 BILLION

        By now, most of us have heard of the Cross River Rail project taking over Brisbane’s CBD and inner suburbs – transforming the future of public transport in the city. Well underway, the project is set for completion in 2026 easing the strain on bottlenecks throughout the city. Here’s what the massive project entails:

        1. Spanning a total of 10.2km, the rail line features 5.9km of twin tunnels that weave beneath the Brisbane River and the CBD. These tunnels are excavated 50m below existing infrastructure, with advanced Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) navigating underground and beneath the river bed.

        2. 30m below the river’s surface, the engineering marvel ensures a protective layer of 7-8m of rock between the tunnel and the riverbed. Ensuring the structural integrity of these tunnels, 4,157 concrete segments have been installed along the tunnel by the TBMs, and sprayed with concrete to reinforce.

        3. The project involves the construction of 4 new underground stations, upgrade of 8 existing stations, and 3 new stations on the Gold Coast. Some of these existing stations date back to the late 1800s, finally undergoing much-needed renos to meet contemporary standards and demands.

        4. Commuting across the Brisbane River by train means crossing the only rail bridge in the city, constructed in 1978 – the Merivale Bridge. Otherwise, commuters are to travel across Indooroopilly’s Albert Railway Bridge built in 1895 – neither an easy option.

        5. Construction of the railway is providing Brisbane with 1,500 jobs a year, with prospected job growth to reach 35,000 in the city – generating $15-$20 BILLION due to the interconnectedness the railway brings and development that follows.

        Tunneling has now finished with fit out works and station construction still underway!

        4. Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain – $1 BILLION

        The Santiago Bernabéu, home stadium of soccer giants Real Madrid is set for completion this year after 5 years of delayed construction. As one of Europe’s most famous soccer grounds, the stadium is making incredible changes to become “the best stadium in the world”. Here’s a little snapshot of the Bernabéu’s massive reno:

        1. The old roof was disassembled, allowing for an additional 4,000 seats to be installed on the east side of the stadium. This takes capacity from 81,000 to 85,000.

        2. 800-tonne cranes were installed to construct the new retractable roof, composed of 2 ginormous steel trusses that connect each end of the field (176m in length). For support, this required 2 new towers built on 26m-wide diameter piles that go 36m deep, with a 4m pile cap. These towers also facilitate access and evacuation points.

        3. Installation of 4 longitudinal megatrusses to support the new roof. The amount of steel used in this refurbishment weighs over 33,000 tonnes – the equivalent of a 120 Airbus A380s.

        4. A retractable pitch, allowing for the stadium to serve multiple purposes. With its new system, the pitch can be divided into multiple pieces and stored underneath the stadium. This storage area acts as a greenhouse where the turf is treated to lighting, heating, and irrigation control while it’s not used – ensuring year-round perfect grass.

        5. A steel wrap-around facade on the stadium’s exterior that images and video can be projected onto, with an interior 360-degree video screen. And, a 5-storey underground car park, additional shops, entertainment and leisure facilities within the stadium.

        Sports infrastructure is going through an epic change, with stadium and club officials across the world anticipating a future where grounds can be easily transformed to suit different events – becoming multi-purpose spaces.

        5. The Melbourne Railway, Australia – $125 BILLION

        This massive project will take approximately 60 years to construct, over 5 lengthy stages:

        1. Metro tunnel $11 billion, 2025 – 9km of twin underground tunnels going 40m beneath the CBD, with 5 new stations. 4 TBMs each weighing 1100 tonnes and 120m in length burrowed below the CBD, cutting through rock 6x harder than concrete. The TBMs met in the middle in mid-2021, creating a railway system that will free up the inner city bottleneck.

        2. Cheltenham to Box Hill (SRL East) $33 billion, 2035 – 26km of twin underground tunnels in the first section of the Suburban Rail Loop with 6 new stations. Construction commenced in 2022 and is set to generate 8000 direct jobs.

        3. Box Hill to Melbourne Airport (SRL North) $60.3 billion 2053 – 34.2km of twin underground tunnels and track with 7 new stations connecting to existing tram stations. Broadmeadows station will act as a super hub transport center, with trains running in 4 directions. Construction is expected to commence in 2028, so a lot of these plans are dependent on changes that may occur in the next 4 years.

        4. Melbourne Airport to Sunshine (SRL Airport) – no cost estimate or completion date.

        5. Sunshine to Werribee (SRL West) – no cost estimate, however as the final stage this section should be completed by 2084.

        From what we could find the cost to operate sections 2 and 3 (a separate budget to the cost to build) exceeds the initial project cost, with estimations up to $120.2 BILLION between 3035 and 2084. Costs to operate for sections 1, 4, and 5 have not been disclosed.

        These projects meet sustainability criteria having received a 6-star Green Star design accreditation from the Green Building Council of Australia.

        6. E39 Highway, Norway – $47 BILLION

        The Western coast of Norway generates about 60% of the country’s export value, so connecting the western counties through a more convenient route is crucial. Geographically, Norway is a combination of gigantic Fjords (narrow stretches of water between cliff faces, formed by a glacier) some of which travel 200km inland and are over 1km deep.

        Traveling over this contentious landscape requires some serious engineering concerned with wind and wave impact. Additional concerns about safety are also prevalent with the risk of ship crashes and inner tunnel crashes, either of which could cause fire or collapse of the overall structure.

        Plans for the E39 highway eliminate the need for ferries and cut original travel time over the 1,100km route from 21 hours to 11 hours.

        Here’s what the multifaceted highway fjord connections will look like:

        1. Boknafjorden (Rogfast) Subsea Tunnel, 27km long – Costing $2 BILLION USD, once completed this subsea tunnel will be the longest and deepest in the world. At it’s deepest point the twin tunnels will go 390m below sea level. A mid-route intersection creates an undersea tunnel junction connecting island municipality Kvitsoy to the mainland as well. This aspect of the project commenced construction in 2017 and is set to be completed by 2026.

        2. Bjornafjorden, 5km long – An end-to-end anchored floating bridge stretching the 5km width over the 600m deep fjord.

        3. Sulafjorden, 4km long – 2 suggestions have been proposed for this section of the project. The first is a multi-span suspension bridge anchored on each shore end, with an additional tower connected to the seabed, 400m below the surface. The second is a submerged floating twin tunnel tube bridge, tethered to the seabed with high-strength cables.

        4. Romsdalsfjorden – a 16km long undersea tunnel similar to that of the Rogfast section.

        5. Molde connection – a 2km long suspension bridge.

        6. Sognefjord Norway’s largest and deepest fjord – 3.7km wide and 1.3km deep, covering this expanse of water requires some crazy engineering. The Sognefjord experiences high ship travel, so ships will require 400m wide, 70m high, and 20m depth clearance from the structure. Multiple options are being considered for this section; a 3.7km long suspension bridge with 450m tall support towers on each shore; A floating bridge anchored at each shore – this entails HUGE engineering challenges; A submerged tunnel suspended from several floating pontoons; A hybrid floating pontoon bridge and submerged tunnel; Or a multi-span cabled stayed bridge with 4 floating pylons tethered to the seabed like an oil rig.

        7. STH BNK, Melbourne, Australia – $2.7 BILLION

        Set to be the tallest building in Australia, and the tallest green tower in the world – STH BNK by Beulah revolutionalises how construction is done and exhibits Melbourne as a must-visit city.

        But, building a massive structure on an area that used to be marshland requires some extreme engineering:

        8. A 20m underground car park – Most buildings in this area have above-ground car parks due to the soil conditions, but STH BNK will go underground excavating in small sections, OR by installing deep diaphragm walls anchored to the bedrock that create a safe area to excavate further.

        9. Walking columns – Due to the twist in each tower, the load-bearing columns are each slightly offset to the floor directly below. This facilitates the twist while maintaining a safe pathway for loads to travel.

        10. The towers will feature full-height reinforced concrete cores that connect to perimeter columns through sheer walls. Reinforced plant levels will act as outrigger floors, with a tuned mass damper hidden as an artistic feature on the roof. This ensures vibrations are mediated to avoid swaying – this is essential for these “Super Tall” skyscrapers.

        11. 5.5km of vertical gardens and sky parks – Overseen by international landscape architects to test for their durability in sun and wind, the buildings will be clad with greenery. Each garden bed will be fit with an autonomous irrigation system that monitors soil and water conditions to keep gardens green year-round.

        12. The Four Seasons Hotel – The second tower will host the hotel at a 252m height creating a 6-star luxury space for guests.

        Set for completion in 2029, construction commenced this year by Multiplex and is expected to generate 4,700 construction jobs!


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