Engineering and Construction Management Essay—Ancient Roman Aqueduct and Bath Construction
The city of Rome served as the center of the ancient Roman Empire which came into being in 27 BCE after the decline of the Roman Republic. The Roman civilization continued to spread up until the empire’s demise in the fifth century CE. The modern-day Rome has a long-standing reputation all over the world for its immaculate civic architecture, resounding military conquests, and art. Accordingly, it is apparent that sound engineering techniques were central to the development of Rome. The Roman civilization was the first of its kind to use water extensively. To this effect, they built aqueducts to channel water from distant springs and to sustain their baths, fountains, restrooms, gardens, and sewage system. Bathing was central to the Ancient Roman society and culture. As such, magnificent imperial bathing complexes as well as smaller facilities, both private and public, were a common occurrence in Rome.
Sustainable Planning and Design
The first and many subsequent ancient Roman aqueducts were constructed underground purposefully to abate water pollution and imperatively, to protect the water supplies from enemies. Due to the propensity of the empire to war during those times, risk perception was fundamental to the designs of the systems. The Roman aqueducts were designed to rely heavily on gravity to operate. To this effect, they were slightly angled downwards to enhance the flow of water. Siphons – closed pipes running along the ground of the lower area – were used to transfer water through low basins or valleys. Arches, otherwise known as arcades were the most outstanding features of the ancient Roman aqueducts. Several arcades were made up of tiers. To maintain stability, the tires were stacked, and the foundations of the arches built such that the sturdier foundations bore the axial strains between the stones.
The Ancient Roman baths also commonly referred to as thermae were designed and built along a central axis. The design incorporated the caldarium (hot bath), a confined area for the warm bath (tepidarium), the basilica which contained the cold bath (frigidarium), and an open-air pool (natatio). Changing, depilation, massage, and medical consultation rooms were arranged symmetrically on the sides of the baths. Immediately from the changing rooms, the Romans would go to exercise in the gymnasia after which they would get into laconica or sauna with aiming to induce even more sweat. Regarding funding these projects, public resources, as well as private finances, especially in the case of private bathhouses, was used. Occasionally, additional resources in the form of war booties would be channeled to the construction projects.
Most of the labor for the construction of aqueducts and baths was obtained from the slaves of the empire. The courses of aqueducts mostly lay underground along tunnels that needed significant amounts of physical and human resource to build. After the route had been appropriately designed, the constructors dug a series of shafts, then referred to as putei, at about two hundred and thirty feet intervals in line with an antiquated Persian style called qanat (National Geographic Partners, LLC). On attaining the desired and planned depths, the construction of the specus or channel would be commenced. The shafts primarily found use in sending down the construction materials and carrying away the dirt which would be collected in baskets (National Geographic Partners, LLC). During the construction process, cranes were used to lower stone blocks, which in most instances, would be obtained from nearby quarries to line the inner walls of the tunnel. Concrete or bricks were sometimes used in place of the blocks, depending on the proximity of the construction site to a quarry and the general availability of material. The channel was then made waterproof using a coat of opus signinum, a type of mortar that comprised crushed bits of tiles and fragments of amphorae (National Geographic Partners, LLC).
The Romans used various surveying tools to chart the courses of aqueducts across the land (Taylor). Chorobates, which are flat-bedded wooden frames fitted with water levels were used for checking horizontal dimensions. Gromas were used for plotting and checking angles and courses. However, they were later replaced by the dioptra, which was the precursor of the modern-day theodolite. The construction materials used was bricks, tiles, mortar, concrete, and stone blocks. A mixture of crushed ceramic and lime were used to face the structure. As the construction process kept advancing, wooden scaffolding was erected to aid the laborers. A centering was used to bear the weight of the arch until construction was complete. It was only removed when the slotted blocks could adequately support themselves. Roman engineers preferred narrow cascades as they provided optimal strength. Massive pillars were erected to bear the weight if the arch tires and were made longer at the structure’s base. The water channel or specus was placed at the topmost level of the viaduct and concealed with a vault or roof. Occasionally, multiple channels were laid on top of each other.
Early Roman baths seemed not to have been planned comprehensively and were mostly simple assemblages of various structures. Nevertheless, with time their structures were harmonized, and they became more slightly as they were often set in parks and gardens. Heating using braziers was replaced with sophisticated heating systems (Cartwright). Under-floor heaters fueled using wood-burning furnaces produce warmth under the elevated floor which was supported by narrow pillars of circular or polygonal bricks, hollow cylinders, or solid stone. Square tiles covered in decorative mosaics were used to pave the floors. The insertion of hollow rectangular conduits which contained heated air conferred the heating effect to the walls. Additionally, special bricks were used to insulate the rooms from heat loss (Cartwright). The use of glass windows also allowed for better temperature control and permitted the penetration of sun rays into the facility. Purpose built aqueducts supplied water to the more massive baths. Large boilers affixed over the furnaces were used to heat the water. Cold water was introduced through lead pipes to the hot pool using bronze half-cylinders coupled to the boilers. On being released into the heated pool, convection facilitated the circulation of the water (Cartwright).
Enhancing Quality of Life
Rome’s aqueducts facilitated the channeling of water into the city whose consumption rate had increased over time. Foremost, the aqueducts were complementary to the baths which were very pivotal in the Roman culture. The water supply from the aqueducts sustained households, and improved sanitation as restrooms and the sewerage systems depended on it significantly. Some aqueducts were also constructed to supply water to industries, often through open channels cunt into the ground. The mining industry mainly benefited immensely from the construction of aqueducts. The Ancient Roman aqueducts also found use in agriculture (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.). Farmers who had no access to rivers or springs could obtain licenses to draw specific quantities of water at a fee. The water would then be used to water the livestock and to irrigate crops.
The ancient Roman baths played a critical role in the Roman culture since these facilities were the most common places for the socialization of people from various backgrounds and classes (Cartwright). The more sophisticated baths even contained forts, libraries, townhouses, and villas. The Roman society’s social gradation was reflected by the operation of the spas as there were three different entry points: one for men, the other one for women, and the third one for the slaves who were often tagged along by the rich people to attend to their needs in the bathhouse. Notwithstanding this apparent distinction, men and women would visit the bathhouses at separate times. Bathing in Ancient Rome was an almost daily ritual for a majority of the people, despite their different social statuses and classes. Usually, particular times mostly in the afternoons were set for bathing, and the ritual would proceed for hours.
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