5 Insights into How Towns are Imagined From an Engineer’s Perspective

From the early stages of a town’s conception to its full-fledged infrastructure, urban engineers work behind the scenes to make a town planner’s visionary ideas functional.

We’ve been discussing the influence of urban engineers on the planning and development of towns and cities (read our previous article). In this article, we’ll explore five key insights, featuring valuable contributions from Lithon civil engineer, Willie Knouwds.

1. Towns Spring Up Around Natural or Economic Resources

Historically, towns have often originated around natural resources or economic incentives. For instance, Windhoek was established around a hot spring known to local pastoral tribes, and Rehoboth also emerged due to natural hot-water springs. While this approach has worked in the past, modern challenges like overcrowding and strained services demand new strategies. Today’s engineers work with town planners to optimise space, which may involve densifying certain areas or even decentralising main business districts.

2. An Engineer’s Work Often Goes Unnoticed

While the spotlight is generally on town planners and urban designers, engineers are the hidden champions who bring the blueprints to life. They provide essential services like transport infrastructure, storm water drainage, sanitation, and clean drinking water. Especially in the realm of transport planning, engineers enhance the quality of life in cities by providing safe pedestrian promenades, cycle lanes, and beautiful green spaces. Most people don’t think to directly attribute these features to great engineering design.  

3. The Order of Service Installation is Important

Urban engineers follow a logical sequence when it comes to city planning. This includes working with the town planner to establish the hierarchy of roads in relation to human settlements, public transport nodes, and spaces for buses, bicycles, and pedestrians. Next up comes the installation of below-ground sewer lines which require meticulous early-stage planning. Subsequent stages include water supply and stormwater drainage systems. Here, the incorporation of green spaces is crucial not only for aesthetics but also for practical purposes like flood prevention. Alongside the water supply stage, you’d also be speaking to your electrical engineer about fitting in streetlights, power cables, and communications services.

4. One of the Biggest Challenges is Fitting Everything In

One of the toughest challenges for engineers is finding room for essential services like water lines, sewer systems, and electrical cables, especially in narrow sidewalks. Using 3D digital modelling, engineers ensure these services do not interfere with each other.

Fitting in services is even tougher in informal townships where space is limited, necessitating ‘reverse engineering’ of urban services. Engineers rely both on established guidelines and their intuition to make the most of available spaces.

5. Urban Engineers Need to Be Futurists

Urban engineers must anticipate the future needs of a city, whether that means making provisions for rapid transport systems, cycle lanes, or electric vehicle charging stations. While it’s not always possible to predict every future requirement, engineers need to be mindful of various possibilities.


Explore the Future of Urban Engineering with Lithon

As modern cities continue to evolve, an urban engineer’s role is becoming increasingly key to shaping efficient, future-ready, and livable urban spaces. If you’re gearing up for your next urban development project, Lithon’s engineering team is eager to bring their expertise to your venture. Get in touch with us at info@lithon.com.