The construction industry is one of the largest and most diverse industries in the world with billions of people operating in this trade. Whether it is the spaces to live on, places to work on, recreational spots, or creating wonderful monuments, construction is universal. One of the natural or learned skills required in the industry of engineering and construction is the science of mathematics.
Mathematics has existed since the beginning of the universe. It is a universal tool used as one of the foundations in the creation and building process of almost anything and everything. In principle, maths can describe or be part of the solution to anything.
From Astronomy to Astrology, from outlining blueprints to creating extraordinary skyscrapers, it’s a tool to find solutions and balance out the proportions of any given element.
Mathematics has been utilised in the field of engineering and construction since the ancient period. Ancient engineers and architects were also mostly mathematicians who contributed to the creation of extraordinary wonders in the world such as the great pyramids, fabulous temples, extravagant stadiums, and other stunning monuments, etc.
In today’s modern era of industrialisation, the value and demand for the construction and engineering industry have reached soaring heights. Having a good background in mathematics can provide quality work, maintain the stability of finance and resources as well as be insured against causing accidents and other collateral damages. Therefore, this particular industry requires its builders to have a good grasp of science and mathematics background in its field.
Now, let’s understand what connects maths to the construction industry by learning how and why maths is applied in structural engineering, and which important elements of maths engineers should know.
How maths is applied in engineering and construction industries?
Engineers are expected to design and create within regulation by using the art of science to solve problems all the while dealing with constraints on the strength and durability of materials, budget, social and environmental factors, and more.
There is a lot of calculation involved when creating something. Maths is used in several aspects of engineering- such as the dimensions, size, understanding structures, understanding the mechanics of construction project work, etc.
There are two types of maths, theoretical or pure maths and applied maths. Builders in the field of engineering and construction industry use applied maths (applied maths could have once been considered theoretical in nature).
Real-life examples of maths being used in construction
Don’t we all admire the marvelous man-made wonders of the world? From Taj Mahal to Burj Khalifa, these magnificent structures were built on the foundation of art and arithmetic.
- The geometrical shape of a triangle is known to be the strongest shape that has been used for strength and stability which has been applied in building the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower and even the roofs of the house.
- Using construction pulleys and cranes as a means to lift, move and position heavy materials in construction.
- Construction of a curved structure such as domes, bends and arches for ventilation.
- Building a dam by measuring the pressure, depth and density of the water. As well as evaluating the direction and location for the safety of everyone.
- Trigonometry has been applied in structural areas such as surveying, geodesy and navigation.
- Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world standing at over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet). To build such a massive structure, many ancient and modern engineers used mathematical equations that specially deal with physics.
- The entire structure of the Taj Mahal is assembled based on maths. It’s known for the perfect mirror-symmetry and the golden ratio of its dome.
- Using the skills of geometry, many architects have created beautiful and complex features of optical illusions in ancient and modern structures.
Mathematics has always played a vital role in conducting engineers’ daily tasks and for achieving sturdy projects, these everyday maths branches include statistics, calculus, algebra, geometry, trigonometry among others because everything that is engineered needs a base structure.
Important correlations between maths and construction engineering
Here’s a little overview of which maths sections are important for the construction and civil engineering field.
1. Statistics and Probability
Statistics and Probability are basic branches of mathematics whose uses are very crucial during the preliminary phase of planning any project. Probability is about assessing the chances and figuring out the outcome. Whereas statistics is about dealing with various data obtained using different strategies.
The statistics and probability are applied by civil engineers to quantify the static loads in view of natural occurrences such as fire, earthquake, tsunami, landslide, flood, etc.
Statistics are used to cross-examine the hazardous incidents that ensued in the past and trace the frequency of it occurring again. Probability is used by engineers in predicting the possible hazards so that they can design competent structures to handle the threat and stay durable.
Algebra is one of the most important mathematics branches concerned with finding statistics by solving equations using certain letters and symbols that represent figures and fractions.
It’s safe to say that algebra is used by engineers in almost every project. The use of the x-axis and y-axis for designing 2D graphs of the structure planning is one of the characteristics of algebra that is often used in civil engineering. Algebraic equations are also used in purchasing building materials and utilising the resources suitably for quality work within a safe budget.
Example of algebra used in engineering:- You have a deal of 100 Rs project. You bought building materials for 60 Rs. You are now left with a balance of 40 Rs. You need builders to complete the project, which costs 5 Rs per person. How many builders will you get with that 40 Rs?
This is where an algebraic equation comes in handy for the engineers to solve the problem.
Can you solve the simple maths problem above?
Calculus is the science or mathematical study of change. It is related to measuring the rate of change, limits (maxima and minima), and the differentiation and integration of functions. Calculus is used in determining the rate of change of motion, time, electric current, vibrations, expansion, and heat by using the concepts of derivative and differential. Utilising the Integral calculus also deals with determining the aggregate of areas, masses, volumes, sums, and quantities.
Trigonometry the science or study of triangles is one of the most important branches of mathematics that deals with the relations between the sides and angles of triangles. Sine, Cos, Tan, Cosec signifies certain angular measurements represented by the calculations based on the relationship between the lengths and angles.
Trigonometry is frequently used in the field of civil engineering when surveying a structure. Surveyors use trigonometry to calculate the elevation of the area, the distance between the places, and different angles of the layout to determine the extent of its size and limitations. The detailed calculations deduced by trigonometric functions are not just limited to helping create sturdy roofs, staircases, bridges, ramps, etc. but are also used for detecting navigation systems.
Geometry is another important mathematical device used in designing structures with proper and precise angles using shape, symmetry, size, direction, and other useful properties to make them strong and durable. Taj Mahal is one of the most geometrically awe-inspiring wonders of the world. From its perfect symmetrical planning to its golden ratio, the use of geometry can be observed throughout the structure of this marvelous mausoleum. The maths behind the architecture of the Taj Mahal is one of the reasons for its beauty and durability that we still marvel at today.
Similarly, in today’s world, civil engineers use well-evaluated geometrical designs as a means to construct highways, bridges, dams, stadiums, tunnels, bridges, and other structures.
In conclusion, working in the engineering and construction industry can make a real difference in the economy as well as the environment we live in. Designing and constructing buildings that we use and operate every day could be around for years and centuries to come with the right application of science and mathematics.
Maths is much more diverse than what we learned at the junior level. But its basics are extremely important and fairly easy to understand if we make its learning fun and simple because we do use arithmetic in our day-to-day life for the simplest of things. Maths is everywhere, all you have to do is look for it.
An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’,