The ancient Romans were the number one people to ask about engineering. They taught us several things about structural engineering that we still use to this day. They are:
1) The Dome – Many of our modern structures, including skyscrapers all the way to high school gyms would be impossible without the invention of the dome. Roman innovation allowed interior spaces to go from dark, cramped, heavily supported spaces to the large, open areas that domes provided.
2) Concrete – As a building material, concrete was lighter, stronger, and more flexible than the stone used before it. It could also set underwater, was strong enough to survive earthquakes, and could be poured into any form that could be molded. No wonder, it is still used today.
3) Heated Floors – Romans were the first to solve the problem of heating a room without burning the house down. Rather than introducing fire or steam into a room directly, they engineered a raised floor that was pumped with hot air and steam from an adjacent furnace, allowing heat to flow beneath the floor and in hollow pipes in the walls, without smoking out its inhabitants.
4) The Aqueduct are networks of underground pipes, above-ground water lines and elegant bridges, all designed to channel water into the city from the surrounding countryside. By the third century there were 250 miles of aqueducts just to supply Rome with clean water. They are so well engineered, they many aqueducts throughout the ancient world are still standing today.
5) The Segmental Arch – Romans perfecting the arch by finding that it could be built in sections, rather than needing one continuous arch to span a gap. By applying this, and using several arches to span a distance, the Romans exponentially increased the distance that could be covered by bridges. Segmental Arches also required less material, allowed water to flow more freely, and cut down on flooding and wear.