Technology is undoubtedly part of our everyday life, but should we be content merely to be passengers on this ride into the future, or do we have a responsibility to guide its course for the benefit of humankind and the wider world?
The East of England is a beautiful part of the world, however every part of it has been shaped by human activity over generations; even the most treasured landscapes are as man-made as the internet. In every era, countless small decisions have been made that together combine to form the present day environment.
Engineers have played a major part in creating the environment we see today, and they have alternately been viewed as the saviours of mankind or the authors of its destruction. In every case, they have however been enacting the norms and values of the society that they inhabit and which their work represents.
So what is to be the legacy of the 21st century engineer? Future generations will debate our work for good or ill, but there is no doubt that whatever we do today, it will not pass unnoticed.
The image to the right shows the essence of the English country house and garden. The engineer's influence is invisible - or is it?
The church in the background would have been at the forefront of technology at the time of its construction, with a timber-framed spire, arched windows and the largest spans achievable for the roof of the nave.
In front of this, there is a retaining wall over four metres high, more than two hundred years old. The house itself has interesting features too, with barrel-vaulted chimney breasts in the cellar and timber-framed internal supporting walls in the 18th Century style.
The work that Charles Tallack Engineering Consultancy (fore-runner of Structural Engineers Cambridge Ltd) designed and supervised is not visible from here, but has helped to enhance and conserve the idyllic environment. This comprised deepening the basement to allow a full-height kitchen and family room to be constructed, using selective underpinning and reinforcing the ground floor above to repair rot-damaged and poorly-altered joists and beams. The single-storey annexe had a new roof constructed around the existing one, giving a new lease of life to a dilapidated coach house.
This type of sensitive and discreet treatment of historic structures is a challenge that we particularly enjoy, and if the results are not visible to the world at large, perhaps this is a measure of success?
Contact us if you have a conservation project you would like Structural Engineers Cambridge to help you with.