Buildings and Infrastructure

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Over the past centuries humans have been building houses in which to live, establishing roads, railways and canals along which to travel and transport goods, and building factories and other buildings from which to develop their industry. When we think of all these uses of the land, we can use the word infrastructure. The building of this physical infrastructure is in fact closely related to the soil. After all, soil gives the support for the physical foundations of the houses, factories, roads, railways and other buildings. Just as using soil for agriculture or forestry requires a special knowledge of the soil, so does the use of soil for buildings of all sorts.

There is a well-developed science relating to the use of soils for building purposes. It is called Soil Mechanics, and is a form of Civil Engineering. Soil Mechanics seeks to understand the behaviour and suitability of soils for use for construction purposes. Because soils vary in their texture, properties and behaviour from place to place, it is essential to have a good understanding of the soils on and in which buildings and other constructions are to be built. Failure to have this understanding can lead to catastrophic events with loss of life and there have been many examples of this going back in history. The message is 'Know your soil well before you begin to build'!

As the world population continues to increase so will the demand for housing and other parts of the infrastructure. It is important then to realise that that use of land for this purpose usually completely prevents its use for other purposes in the future. If soil is covered over and built on, we say the soil is sealed. Soil sealing is usully permanent - once land is built on it is rarely turned back to open countryside. Soil sealing clearly has implications for the balance of land use into the future - the more land we use for building upon, then the less will be available for food production and for supporting natural habitats.

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