Cover image for Built : the hidden stories behind our structures / Roma Agrawal.
Built : the hidden stories behind our structures / Roma Agrawal.

First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Bloomsbury USA, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2018.

Physical Description:
300 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Storey -- Force -- Fire -- Clay -- Metal -- Rock -- Sky -- Earth -- Hollow -- Pure -- Clean -- Idol -- Bridge -- Dream.
Looks at the history of structural engineering, discusses the science behind the field, describes how engineers keep modern buildings from falling down and how a bridge can span distances, and compares modern solutions with those from ancient cultures. --Publisher.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
624.1 AGR Book Adult General Collection

On Order



The wonders of engineering revealed--by the inspirational female engineer behind The Shard, Western Europe's tallest building.

While our cities are full of incredible engineering feats, most of us live with little idea of what goes into creating the built environment, let alone how a new building goes up, what it is constructed upon, or how it remains standing.

In Built , star structural engineer Roma Agrawal explains how construction has evolved from the mud huts of our ancestors to skyscrapers of steel that reach into the sky. She unearths how humans have tunneled through solid mountains; how we've walked across the widest of rivers, and tamed nature's precious water resources. She tells vivid tales of the visionaries who created the groundbreaking materials used to build the Pantheon and the Eiffel Tower; and explains how careful engineering can minimizetragedies like the collapse of the Quebec Bridge. Interweaving science, history, illustrations, and personal stories, Built offers a fascinating window into a subject that makes up the foundation of our everyday lives.

Author Notes

Roma Agrawal is a structural engineer who builds BIG--bridges, sculptures, train stations, and skyscrapers, including western Europe's tallest tower, the Shard. A tireless promoter of engineering, scientific, and technical careers to young people, particularly underrepresented groups such as women, she has advised policymakers and governments on science education and has given talks to thousands around the world at universities, schools, and organizations, including two for TEDx. She is a television presenter and writes articles about engineering, education, and leadership. Her awards for technical prowess and success in promoting the profession include the Institution of Structural Engineers' Young Structural Engineer of the Year Award and the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering's Rooke Award. Built is her first book. She grew up in Ohio, New York, and Mumbai, and now lives in London. / @RomaTheEngineer

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Structural engineer Agrawal introduces engineering to the masses in this enthusiastic, easy-to-read primer to her field of work. Organizing her book around the fundamental concepts and building blocks of engineering, Agrawal traces the evolution of construction from simple mud huts to contemporary skyscrapers and demonstrates how basic materials (e.g., clay, metal, rock) are enhanced by modern-day advances in scientific modeling to yield complex new designs. The chapter on force, for instance, looks at the ways structures are built to hold the weight of their occupants and withstand the force of external factors such as wind and earthquakes, and includes examples such as the Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taiwan, which contains a 660-ton pendulum designed to absorb the energy of an earthquake. Throughout the book Agrawal balances stories of historical figures such as Emily Warren Roebling, a field engineer who oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1880s, with insights into the developments of today's architectural wonders. Though the writing is often overly awestruck (as when Agrawal proclaims that buildings "provide the canvas of our existence"), the book successfully communicates the author's love of engineering and the extraordinary impact of her profession on the everyday lives of people. Illus. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

ONCE, IN A YOUNGER AMERICA, architects and engineers alike were simply called "builders": people, mostly men, who had both design and construction skills. But after the American Institute of Architects was founded in 1857, the professions split. Architects began to garner all the glory while engineers toiled in their shadows. At the 1964 dedication of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, then the world's longest suspension bridge, Robert Moses actually seemed to forget the name of Othmar Ammann, its designer and arguably the greatest engineer of the last century, referring to him only as "a Swiss." Such oversights have become rarer these days in the face of societal and environmental changes that demand we use and waste less. Engineers are responding with astonishing solutions culled from multiple disciplines. Supertail buildings like One World Trade Center, Shanghai Tower and the Shard are touching new ceilings of safety, sustainability and efficiency. Mimicking nature, infrastructure can now self-diagnose and self-heal when problems arise. Uses for graphene, one atom thick and the strongest material yet, are still a twinkle in the structural imagination, but not for long. Engineers are saving the world. If that sounds like a grand claim, it's because engineering is so seamlessly integrated into every facet of our lives that it is all but invisible. Drawing on varied examples across centuries and continents, Roma Agrawal's "Built" seeks to tell this untold history - for, as the author claims, the "engineered universe is a narrative full of stories and secrets." Agrawal is a rarity: a female structural engineer in an adamantly male profession. A self-proclaimed "geek," she shares her discoveries far above and below ground with an enthusiasm worthy of Dora the Explorer. She will inspire young women who are considering a career in engineering. In early chapters, Agrawal slowly builds a foundation on familiar concepts, but your patience will soon be rewarded with more esoteric investigations into "hidden engineering." Two of the most interesting chapters - "Pure" and "Clean" - examine water and the technologies that have been developed to collect and process it. No one cares "about poo," a drainage engineer complains in "Clean." Agrawal disagrees. In fact, she shines when explaining the sorts of things people might be too shy to admit they find inherently fascinating. In Japan, for instance, Agrawal tries out an amped-up toilet, itself an engineering marvel of heat, water and music. She then leaps back to the 18 th century, when Japan traded in solid human waste, a valuable agricultural commodity for an island with little land and a growing population. As the "turd trade" boomed, laws were enacted that entitled landlords to their tenants' feces (but not their urine). Agrawal hopscotches to London and its once sewage-filled Thames, commemorated as "Monster Soup" in an 1828 etching, one of the book's many black-andwhite illustrations. The river's stench was so rank that at last, in 1859, city officials approved Joseph Bazalgette's proposal for a new sewage system. Nearly 20 years in the making and 1,300 miles long, that network also created space for the London Tube, the first underground railway. The sewers moved untreated effluent from central London and out to sea. Agrawal notes that "it may come as a surprise to learn that we use exactly the same system today." Enter the engineers. Work has begun on the Thames Tideway Tunnél. When completed in 2023, this massive infrastructure project will expand the existing system and divert waste to treatment plants before releasing it to the sea. Most of this super-sewer will run beneath the riverbed, eliminating the need to dig up city streets and the strata of foundations and utilities beneath them. Equally ingenious is their plan to use the river to transport 90 percent of construction material. The amount of wastewater into the Thames will be reduced from 62 million to 2.4 million tons annually. Economy, for engineers as well as poets, is the sum definition of beauty. ? JUDITH DUPRÉ is the author, most recently, of "One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building."

Library Journal Review

With a lifelong passion for skyscrapers, bridges, and sculptures, structural engineer and first-time author Agrawal here explains engineering concepts in easy-to-understand ways, such as how cathedral ceilings maintain their dome and how stone arches retain their shape. Each of the book's 14 chapters covers a different aspect of structural engineering; black-and-white photographs as well as line drawings of structures allow for a better understanding of engineering concepts. Most importantly, Agrawal describes the work of designing specific kinds of structures, especially the challenge of maintaining efficiency and a budget that is sometimes at odds with sound design. Her breezy, conversational writing style adds a personal touch to what could otherwise be a dry subject. VERDICT A unique addition to public library collections on technology and engineering.-John Napp, Univ. of Toledo © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Storeyp. 1
Forcep. 7
Firep. 43
Clayp. 59
Metalp. 73
Rockp. 93
Skyp. 111
Earthp. 145
Hollowp. 165
Purep. 181
Cleanp. 201
Idolp. 221
Bridgep. 241
Dreamp. 265
Acknowledgementsp. 273
Sourcesp. 277
Photography creditsp. 283
Indexp. 285