Science in the context of construction and engineering

There is good scope in GCSE physics and chemistry to make clear links with construction and engineering in order to add context and to support and enthuse those students following these vocational qualifications.

Common to most specifications for construction and engineering, students will need a good understanding of the nature of forces and their effect on construction materials:

  • relationship between mass, density and volume; loading as the result of gravitational attraction
  • relationship between force (load), mass and acceleration; moments; Hooke’s law
  • stress; strain; modulus of elasticity
  • effect of forces on construction materials in general use: steel, concrete, brick, aluminium alloys, glass, plastics
  • key properties of materials: strength, stiffness, density, stresses (compressive, tensile, shear, bending); change of shape on loading

Students will also need to understand how changes in temperature affect construction materials:

  • changes of state;  cooling effect of evaporation; expansion and contraction (including the expansion of water on freezing and the effect this has on porous construction materials);
  • coefficients of thermal expansion for construction materials

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly.  Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment.   Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.