Are We Making Progress?

by John Hartman, Program Chair Architectural Drafting and Design, Globe University – Woodbury

Structural Engineering is a discipline that draws on Drafting and Design and physics.  The basic goal is to design structures that protect, support and last.    As technology has advanced, so has our ability to build taller and longer structures.

Architectural Drafting and DesignI stop to question if advanced technologies are always better than classic early design. While on a recent vacation to New England, I decided to begin a study of historical covered bridges. Yes, there are many titles on the subject and I will not become an expert, but the beauty and elegance of historical buildings and bridges is an excellent topic for amateur photographers. 

Today, throughout our Nation, we have a significant list of bridge structures that are labeled “structurally deficient”. Yet, every day we drive over these bridges with blind faith in engineering.  Thinking that today is not the day that a structural failure will occur.  It’s not that long ago that we experienced the catastrophic effect of a bridge failure here at home in Minnesota. I crossed that bridge that very morning while returning from an architectural field trip.  A long time respected and successful NTI alumnus survived the collapse that very afternoon.   

While driving through the New England countryside in search of these classic covered bridges, I found it exhilarating to cross the road deck of a wood constructed structure built almost 150 years ago that is still open for traffic and is not listed on a “structurally deficient” list. 

The important take-away is to look to the past for what works, take pride in building something that will last and protect, and also be a structure that someone will want to blog about 150 years from now.