As one of Houston’s oldest civil engineering firms, we at EHRA Engineering thought that it would be fun to put together a list of some of Houston’s most impressive civil engineering projects.
10.) Rice Stadium
Rice Stadium was really ahead of its time as far as seating capacity and design, the stadium holds approx. 70,000 and features a modern design. Rice Stadium replaced Rice Field in 1950, and was actually subsidized by the City of Houston. The stadium has played host to several historical events including a famous JFK speech in 1962, and Super Bowl VIII.
9.) Reliant Stadium
Reliant Stadium (Now know as NRG stadium) which opened in 2002, is one of the few stadiums that can actually make the Astrodome look small. The 1.9 million square foot facility was the first NFL stadium to feature a retractable roof. From the beginning Reliant stadium presented several interesting engineering challenges, including a natural grass playing surface within an enclosed stadium. This challenge was solved by bringing in interlocking natural grass trays. There have been several retractable roof stadiums built in the NFL since Reliant was constructed and each one has improved upon Reliant Stadium’s initial design, so in that respect Reliant Stadium served more as a proof of concept.
8.) Williams Tower
The Williams Tower, or the “Transco Tower” (as it was originally called) is a massive 64-story building located in uptown, near the Houston Galleria. Construction of the Williams tower was completed in 1982, and is one of the City of Houston’s most recognizable structures. Measuring a whopping 901 feet, the Williams Tower is the fourth tallest building in Texas, the 140th tallest building in the world, and is also considered the tallest skyscraper outside of a central business district (suburban area).
7.) The Houston Galleria
The Houston Galleria, is the largest shopping mall in the state of Texas, the 8th largest mall in the U.S., and probably the top tourist destination in Houston. The Galleria was originally the brainchild of famous oilman Glenn McCarthy in the 1940’s and later developed in the 1970’s by Gerald D. Hines. The Galleria is directly modeled after Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (located in Milan). The Galleria features an indoor skating rink, the “polar ice” (as it was originally called when it was built in 1970) was first ever ice skating rink to be built inside a shopping mall.
6.) Houston / Buffalo Bayou Waterworks aka “The Cistern”
Originally built in 1927, the “Cistern” was the City of Houston’s first underground drinking water reservoir. Reportedly, the Cistern provided several decades of service until it eventually sprung a leak that couldn’t be located or repaired. The massive, 87,500 sq. ft. underground site features hundreds of 25 ft. tall concrete columns. To really appreciate just how colossal this site is, check out the 3-D fly through video:
5.) San Jacinto Monument
The San Jacinto monument commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto, the final battle of the Texas Revolution. The octagonal column monument stands over 560 feet tall, a little over 12 feet taller than the Washington Monument (but everything is bigger in Texas, right?) The San Jacinto monument is also considered the tallest column monument in the world, which definitely qualifies as an engineering feat in its own right. However, there is also a 220 ton 34 ft. star that sits atop the monument adding to the engineering difficulty. The San Jacinto Monument was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1992.
4.) Fred Hartman Bridge
After the Houston Ship Channel was deepened to accommodate larger ships, the Baytown tunnel needed to be replaced. The answer was a suspension bridge, The Fred Hartman Bridge (also know as the Baytown Bridge) which spans the Houston Ship Channel. The bridge connects the cities of Baytown and LaPorte. Carrying over two miles of Highway 146, The Fred Hartman bridge is the longest cable stayed bridge in Texas.
3.) The Astrodome
Nicknamed “The Eight Wonder of the World”, the Houston Astrodome has been associated with engineering innovation since its inception. Not only was the Astrodome the world’s first multi-purpose domed sports stadium, it was also one of the first stadiums to utilize “ChemGrass” (artificial turf) which later became known as “Astroturf”. Although it has been in the news recently for its possible demolition, the Astrodome was at one time considered the crown jewel of sports stadiums. Originally completed in 1964, the Astrodome stands 18 stories tall, with the dome measuring approximately 700 ft. in diameter – A major engineering feat. The Astrodome is probably one of (if not the most) iconic structures in the Houston Area.
2.) Houston Ship Channel
The 50-mile Houston Ship Channel is a man-made port that expands from the Gulf of Mexico through Galveston Bay, the San Jacinto River, and ends just 4 miles east of Downtown Houston. The channel has been used to move ocean bound goods since around 1836. The original depth of the Houston Ship Channel was 25 ft. and it was eventually dredged to approximately 40 ft. to accommodate larger ships. The massive 25-mile Port of Houston complex, located within the Houston ship channel; ranks 1st in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage and second in the U.S. in total tonnage. In 1987, the Houston Ship Channel was designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Houston Ship Channel is a very important part of the Houston economy, and definitely a top 10 engineering feat.
1.) Addicks and Barker Reservoirs
Both the Addicks and Barker reservoirs help to prevent downstream flooding of the Buffalo Bayou which ultimately prevents flooding in the City of Houston. The Addicks reservoir is located in between Barker Cypress and the Sam Houston Tollway just north of Interstate 10, and covers approximately 26,000 acres. The Barker reservoir is located just to the south of Interstate 10 and west of Highway 6 and covers approx. 320 acres. Prior to the construction of these reservoirs in the late 1930’s, flooding was a serious problem within the City of Houston. Here is a video of The Great Houston Flood of 1935 (which eventually led to the creation of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs) : The Great Houston Flood of 1935 / prior to the construction of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. It is estimated that the Addicks and Barker reservoirs help to prevent approximately $16 million in average annual flood damage.
For over 75 years EHRA Engineering has helped the city of Houston grow by delivering exceptional civil engineering services. With over 14 professional disciplines under one roof, EHRA Engineering provides precise, resourceful, and innovative solutions to our customers. As Houston’s second oldest civil engineering firm, EHRA Engineering has been around long enough to see most of these amazing Houston area engineering projects through the years. We Hope that you have enjoyed our list of Top 10 Most Impressive Houston Area Civil Engineering Projects. Did we miss anything? Join the discussion let us know what you think, please visit our social media links:
Written By: Jim Russ
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