Civil Engineering Topics

Abacus
The uppermost part of a colurnn capital or pilaster, on which the architrave rests. Also, a bead frame used as an arithmetic calculating aid.
Abamurus
A supporting wall or buttress, built to add strength to another wall.
Abram′s Law
A rule that the ratio of water to cement for chemical action to impart strength to concrete is 0.85:1.
Absorption Tower
A tower or column, which effects contact between a rising gas and a falling liquid, so that part of the gas may be taken up by the liquid.
Activated Carbon
Also known as Activated Charcoal.
Aerated Conrete
Concrete formed using gas-forming admixtures such as powdered zinc or aluminum combined with calcium hydroxide or hydrogen peroxide that form hydrogen or oxygen bubbles in the cement mix.
Air Exchange Rate
The rate at which outside air replaces indoor air in a given space.
Air Handling Unit
Equipment that includes a fan or blower, heating and/or cooling coils, regulator controls, condensate drain pans, and air filters.
Air Set Cement
A cement that sets through loss of water.
Air Source Heat Pump
These extract heat directly from the outside air and transfer it to water or air inside the building.
Anchor Bolt
A special type of bolt used to attach objects or structures to concrete.
Anchorage
A secure fixing.
Apron
A slab of concrete extending beyond the entrance to a building, particularly at an entrance for vehicle traffic.
Aqueduct
A channel designed to transport water from a remote source, usually by gravity.
Arch
A curved structural member that spans an opening and is generally composed of wedge-shaped blocks that transmit the downward pressure out laterally.
Arch Bridge
A curved structure that converts the downward force of its own weight, and of any weight pressing down on top of it, into an outward force along its sides and base.
Arch Dam
A dam with an arched shape that resists the force of water pressure; requires less material than a gravity dam for the same distance.
Architect
A person who designs all kinds of structures.
Architectural Acoustics
Lists all Architectural Acoustics topics in the Encyclopaedia.
Architectural Coatings
Coverings such as paint and roof tar that are used on exteriors of buildings.
Ashlar Masonry
Uniform, rectangular blocks of stone with parallel faces, as used in the construction of classical Greek and Roman buildings.
Astragal
A moulding, attached to one of a pair of swinging double doors, against which the other door strikes.
Backfill
Earth or earthen material used to fill the excavation around a foundation; the act of filling around a foundation.
Balanced Construction
A method of constructing manufactured wood products so that moisture content changes will be uniformly distributed and therefore will not cause warping.
Balconet
A false balcony constructed with a low railing outside a window.
Balcony
A projection from an upper story window or door surrounded by railing.
Ball Bearing Hinge
Hinge with ball bearings between the hinge knuckles to reduce friction.
Ballast
Any liquid or solid weight placed in a vehicle to change the weight distribution or trim.
Balusters
Small turned, square, or flat column that supports a rail; also used to form chair backs.
Balustrade
A series of balusters supporting the railing of a stairs or balcony.
Bannister
A handrail with supporting posts on a stairway.
Bargeboard
The finish board covering the projecting portion of a gable roof or part of the car body mounted vertically located between the front wheels.
Bascule Bridge
The deck is raised with counterweights like a drawbridge.
Batten
The narrow strips of wood nailed vertically over the joints of boards to form board-and-batten siding.
Batter
An inclined face of wall; hence battered.
Batter Boards
Horizontal boards at exact elevations nailed to posts just outside the corners of a proposed building.
Bay
A subdivision of the interior space of a building.
Bay Window
A window placed in a projection of an exterior wall of a building is called a bay window when the wall projection extends all the way down to a corresponding projection of the foundation.
Beam
A rigid structural element.
Beam Bridge
A simple type of bridge, composed of horizontal beams supported by vertical posts.
Bearing Partition
A partition that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.
Bearing Plate
A metal plate that provides support for a structural member.
Bearing Wall
A wall that supports a weight above in additional to its own weight.
Bed Moulding
A moulding in an angle, as between the overhanging cornice, or eaves, of a building and the sidewalls.
Bedrock
A general term for solid rock that lies beneath soil, sediments, or other unconsolidated material.
Belt Course
A horizontal board carried at the same level across or around a building. It is usually made of a flat member and a moulding.
Bending Moments
Internal forces on a structural element that cause the element to bend and thus create internal compression on one side of the element and internal tension on the other.
Board Foot
A unit of lumber volume, a rectangular solid nominally 12" x 12" x 1". The equivalent of a board 1-foot square and 1 inch thick.
Bracket
A horizontally projecting support.
Bratice
A timber tower, or projecting wooden gallery.
Brick
A shaped and burnt block of clay.
Bricklayer Hammer
A special hammer for chipping cement blocks and bricks.
Bridge
A structure built to span an obstacle - such as a river.
Brunel, Isambard Kingdom
Creator of the Great Western Railway, bridge builder and revolutionary naval architect.
Buckling Load
The limit of force beyond which a structure will buckle.
Building Acoustics
Acoustics associated with the operation and use of a building.
Building Envelope
Elements of the building, including all external building materials, windows, and walls, that enclose the internal space.
Building Paper
Water repellant paper used to assist in shedding incidental moisture what may penetrate exterior finishes of exterior wall construction.
Butt Hinge
One leaf attaches to the door′s edge, the other to its jamb.
Butt Joint
To place materials end-to-end or end-to-edge without overlapping.
Buttress
An exterior masonry structure that opposes the lateral thrust of an arch or a vault and adds extra support.
Buttress Dam
A gravity dam reinforced by structural supports.
Cable
Either a stranded conductor or a combination of conductors insulated from one another.
Cable-Stayed Bridge
A bridge in which the roadway deck is suspended from cables anchored to one or more towers.
Caisson
A watertight, dry chamber in which people can work underwater.
Cantilever Beam
A beam that is held in an encastre at one end whilst the other end is unsupported.
Casement Window
A window in which the frame is built in such a way that the sash can open out like a door when installed in a window unit.
CCHP
Abbreviation of Combined Cooling Heat and Power.
Ceiling
The overhead upper surface.
Cement
A substance that can be used to build together aggregates of sand or stone into a cohesive structure. May be a single compound or a mixture. May be hydraulic set, air set or chemical set.
Cement Mixtures
Listed as parts Cement to Sand to Aggregate.
Cement Slurry
A thin, watery cement mixture for pumping or for use as a wash over a surface.
Ceramic Tile
A ceramic surfacing unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, made from clay or a mixture of clay; and other ceramic material.
Chemical Set Cement
A cement that sets through reaction or precipitation.
CHP
Abbreviation of Combined Heat and Power.
Civil Engineer
An engineer who plans, designs, and supervises the construction of facilities essential to modern life.
Civil Engineering Calculations
Lists all Civil Engineering Calculations in the Encyclopaedia
Civil Engineering Weblinks
Lists all Civil Engineering Weblinks in the Encyclopaedia
Clapboard
Thin, narrow boards of tapering cross-section applied horizontally as siding on wood-frame houses.
Clay
Finely suspended earth mineral sometimes found as an impurity in water.
Clip on Hinge
Concealed hinge where the two parts of the hinge are attached by snapping them together.
Coffer
A sunken panel in a ceiling.
Cofferdam
A temporary dam built to divert a river around a construction site so the dam can be built on dry ground.
Cogeneration
A term used to describe the combination of different thermodynamic cycles for the purpose of increasing all-over cycle efficiency.
Column
A pillar, usually of round cross-section but sometimes square or octagonal, used to support the roof of a building, porch, or portico.
Combined Cooling Heat and Power
Utilises the waste heat from a fuel cell or engine with absorption chillers to provide air conditioning and hot or cold water alongside electricity.
Combined Heat and Power
Electrical power generator set where the waste heat is used to heat water for building heat supply or for industrial processes.
Combined Water and Power
Similar to CHP, but in this instance the waste heat is used to produce potable water.
Concealed Hinge
Hinge so constructed that no parts are exposed when the door is closed.
Concrete
Building material made from cement, sand, stone and water.

Concrete Aggregate
A mixture of sand, rock, crushed stone, expanded materials, or particles that typically compose 75% of concrete by volume.
Conservatory
A greenhouse attached to a house.
Construction Manager
A person who coordinates the entire construction process, from initial planning and foundation work through the structure′s completion.
Continuous Span Beam Bridge
Simple bridge made by linking one beam bridge to another; some of the longest bridges in the world are continuous span beam bridges.
Corbel
A projecting wall member used as a support for some element of the superstructure.
Corbelled Arch
An arch constructed by successive layers of brick or stone projecting further towards each other from either side of the arch, until the gap is spanned.
Cornice
A cornice is an ornamental molding, or composition of two or more moldings, located at the exterior wall-roof junction of a building, beneath the eaves, or beneath the sloping ends of a gable roof.
Course
Level layer of stones or bricks.
Crenelated
Notched or indented, usually with respect to tops of walls, as in battlements.
Crocket
A projecting, foliate ornament of a capital, pinnacle, gable or buttress.
Crosswall
An interior dividing wall of a castle.
Cupola
A cupola is a short windowed tower, or dome, typically located in the center of a flat or low-slope roof.
Curtain Wall
A connecting wall hung between towers of a castle.
Cut and Cover
A method of tunnel construction that involves digging a trench, building a tunnel, and then covering it with fill.
CWP
Abbreviation of Combined Water and Power.
Dam
Generally serves the purpose of retaining water.
Deck
Supported roadway on a bridge.
Deck-Stiffened Arch
An arch connected by vertical elements to a deck beam that stiffens the arch in such a way that the arch carries almost no bending moments and can therefore be thin.
Dentils
Tooth-like ornaments used in the cornice compositions of main and porch roofs and gables.
Diaphram Arch
A transverse, wall-bearing arch that divides a vault or a ceiling into compartments, providing a kind of firebreak.
Distribution Panel
The main electrical control center, which contains switches or circuit breakers, is connected to the service wires and delivers current to the various branch circuits.
Diversion Channel
A bypass created to divert water around a dam so that construction can take place.
Dome
A roof formed by a series of arches, roughly forming a semicircle.
Donjon
The principal tower of a castle.
Door
Opening to a room, compartment or system.
Dormer Window
A window housed in a gable or similar structure affixed to the sloping part of a roof, providing natural light and ventilation to the rooms beneath the roof.
Double Hung Window
Two sashes which, when both are closed, are positioned one immediately above the other.
Downspout
The vertical part of a drainage system from a roof-which forms a channel or pipe to remove water from the gutters.
Downstream Face
The side of the dam that is not against the water.
Drawbridge
The deck can be raised and lowered.
Drum Tower
A large, circular tower, usually low and squat.
Drystone Wall
Unmortared masonry wall.
Drywall
An interior facing panel consisting of a gypsum core sandwiched between paper faces, also called gypsum board or plasterboard.
Dynamite
A blasting explosive, based on nitroglycerine, but much safer to handle than nitroglycerine alone.
Eave
This is the part of a roof which overhangs the exterior walls.
Elliptical Arch
Many mediaeval stone bridges were built with elliptical arches spanning rivers.
Embankment Dam
A dam composed of a mound of earth and rock; the simplest type of gravity dam.
Embrasure
A splayed opening in a wall that enframes a doorway or a window.
Engineering
A profession in which a knowledge of math and natural science is applied to develop ways to utilize the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of all human beings.
English Bond
A particular arrangement of bricks.
Environmental Engineer
An engineer who designs and operates systems to provide safe drinking water and to prevent and control pollution in water, in the air, and on the land.
Exposed Concrete Aggregate
A concrete surface with the aggregate exposed, formed by applying a retarder to the surface before the concrete has set, and subsequently removing the cement paste to the desired depth.
Exposed Hinge
Hinges that show on the outside when the door is closed.
Facade
Any important face of a building, usually the principal front with the main entrance.
Fire Resistance
The resistance of an object or system to fire. Fire resistance may be applied as a coating or as a methodology in a particular construction design.
Fire Resistant
Incombustible or slow to be damaged by fire; forming a barrier to the passage of fire.
Fire Retardent
Denotes a reduction in the flammability and in the spread of fire. Applied or pressurized chemical treatment to retard combustion.
Fire-Setting
An ancient tunneling technique in which rock is heated with fire and then doused with cold water, causing the rock to fracture.
Fixings and Fasteners
Lists all Fixings and Fasteners topics in the Encyclopaedia
Flame Spread Index
A numerical designation, applied to a building material, which is a comparative measure of the ability of the material to resist flaming combustion over its surface.
Flashing
A thin edge of material formed at the parting line of a casting or forging where it is forced out between the edges of the form or die.
Flat Wood Drill
A wood drill that has a centre point to locate the drill and flats that bore the hole.
Flemish Bond
A particular arrangement of bricks.
Float Valve
A valve which automatically opens or closes as the level of a liquid changes.
Floor
The walking surface of a room or vehicle.
Flow Control Valve
A device used to control the flow of fluid contained in a pipe line.
Flying Buttress
A structure that adds support to a high wall or arch from a lower wall or arch.
Footers
The stones at the base of a bridge structure that take the loads onto the foundations.
Footing
The widened base of a foundation that spreads a load from the building across a broader area of soil.
Foundation
The portion of a building that has the sole purpose of transmitting structural loads from the building into the earth.
Gable Wall
The triangular wall beneath the end of a gable roof.
Gate Valve
A straight through pattern valve in which closure element is a wedge situated between two fixed seating surfaces, with means to move it in or out of the flow stream in a direction perpendicular to the pipeline axis.
Geodesic Dome
A dome composed of short, straight pieces joined to form triangles; invented by Buckminster Fuller.
Geotechnical Engineer
An engineer who evaluates and stabilizes foundations for buildings, roads, and other structures.
Girder
A beam, usually made from concrete or steel, that is designed to strengthen another structural element.
Graphic Statics
A method of analyzing a structure by visual diagrams rather than algebraic formulas.
Gravity Dam
A dam constructed so that its great weight resists the force of water pressure.
Ground Source Heat Pump
The heat is collected using a fluid that flows through pipes laid in the ground.
Gunpowder
Any of several low-explosive mixtures.
Gutter
A channel to collect water and snow melt at the eaves of a roof.
Guyed Tower
A tower that is supported with a chain, wire, rope or rod.
Header Bond
A particular arrangement of bricks.
Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning
Lists all Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning topics in the Encyclopaedia
Hogging
The upwards bending in a beam, usually over its piers, that is the counterbalance to sagging in other sections of the beam.
Hollow Box
A structural element made up of a combination of vertical and horizontal walls that together carry the loads.
HVAC
Often used abbreviation of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning.
Hydraulic Set Cement
A cement that sets through reaction with water.
Jack Rafter
A shortened rafter that joins a hip or valley to the top of a wall plate.
Joist Hanger
A metal stirrup that supports the ends of joists so that they are flush with the girder.
Keystone
The central stone in an arch, and begins the distribution of the vertical load forces down and around the arch.
Killed Steel
Steel treated with a strong deoxidizing agent.
Knee Brace
A corner brace, fastened at an angle from wall stud to rafter, stiffening a wood or steel frame to prevent angular movement.
Knife Hinge
Pivot hinge that resembles two blades of a knife.
Lance-Wood
An elastic wood suitable where some degree of bending is required.
Lath
The material used to attach stucco or plaster to the framing of a building.
Lift Bridge
The deck is raised vertically like a massive elevator.
Light Loss Factor
Used to calculate illuminance loss after a given period of time and under given conditions, like dirt accumulation and heat buildup in the fixture.
Light Reflectance
The measure of light reflectance is that fraction of the specified incident light is reflected by the surface.
Lintel
The horizontal beam placed over an opening.
LLF
Abbreviation of Light Loss Factor.
Load Bearing
Supporting a superimposed weight or force.
Loose Joint Hinge
A hinge having only two knuckles, to one of which the pin is fastened permanently.
Loose Pin Hinge
Hinge having a removable pin to permit the two leaves of the hinge to be separated.
Mantle of a Light
The element that is heated to cause illumination such as the cloth type element in gas lights often used in yards for area lighting.
Masonry
A building material such as stone, clay, brick, or concrete.
Materials
Lists all Materials topics in the Encyclopaedia
Monolithic Dome
A dome composed of a series of arches, joined together with a series of horizontal rings called parallels.
Mormon Clamp
A term applied to a clamp installed around a cylindrical object to connect two halves together.
Movable Bridge
A bridge in which the deck moves to clear a navigation channel.
Needle Beam
A steel or wood beam threaded through a hole in a bearing wall and used to support the wall and its superimposed loads.
Nonbearing
Not carrying a load.
Oriented Strand Board
A building panel composed of long shreds of wood fibre oriented in specific directions and bonded together under pressure.
Overhang Beam
A beam that is supported by two or more supports and has one or both ends projecting beyond the support.
Particle Board
A building panel composed of small particles of wood and resins bonded together under pressure.
Penstock Valve
A type of simple gate valve, used to contain fluids in open channels and often found in waste water treatment plants.
Piano Hinge
Designed to extend for the length of the moving part to which it is applied.
Pile
A long, round pole of wood, concrete, or steel driven into the soil by pile drivers.
Pile Driver
A machine that repeatedly drops a heavy weight on top of a pile until the pile reaches solid soil or rock or cannot be pushed down any farther.
Plane Wood
A North American wood that resembles beech, durable in water but not in air.

Plaster of Paris
Partly dehydrated gypsum.
Plasterboard
A board used in large sheets as a backing or as a substitute for plaster in walls and consisting of fiberboard, paper, or felt, bonded to a hardened gypsum core.
Plenum
Air compartment connected to a duct or ducts.
Plumb
Exactly vertical.
Plywood
Thin sheets of wood glued together with the grains running in different directions to improve the strength of the resultant board.
Pneumatic Form
A concrete roof shape defined by inflating a bladder that gives a form defined by pressure loading.
Precast Concrete
A concrete horizontal structural member that is cast and cured in other than its final position.
Pre-Stressed Concrete
A method of construction whereby compression forces are applied to concrete elements with the goal of counteracting the tension that would otherwise occur due to loads.
Pylon
The tower above a bridge deck that usually carries cable stays.
Rabbet
The portion of a doorframe into which the door fits.
Radiant Heating
Heating system in which warm or hot surfaces are used to radiate heat into the space to be conditioned.
Rafter
A framing member that runs up and down the slope of a pitched roof.
Rawlplug
The inventer of the original wall plug was John Rawlings and he marketed the Rawlplug.
Rebar Size
Numerical size designations for steel reinforcing bars used to strengthen concrete.
Reinforced Concrete
Steel bars embedded in concrete and designed to take the tension that occurs on account of loads.
Reinforcing
Where a structure such as a girder or a concrete slab has been strengthened or stiffened by extra material or by the addition of trusses.
Rock Tunnel
A passage constructed through solid rock.
Roof
The covering on the uppermost part of a building.
R-Value
Under uniform conditions it is the ratio of the temperature difference across an insulator and the heat flux.
Sacrificial Anode
Coupling of a more active metal to a structure resulting in a galvanic current flow through the corroding electrolyte.
SAE Steel
Steel manufactured under the specifications by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Sagging
The tendency of a beam to bend downwards, when acted on by a load, including its own weight.
Sand
A term generally given to rock with a grain size between 1/16mm and 2mm.
Sandblasting
A process of blowing sand by compressed air with considerable force through a hose against an object.
Shear Walls
Solid concrete walls that resist shear forces; often used in buildings constructed in earthquake zones.
Shingle
A small thin piece of building material often with one end thicker than the other for lying in overlapping rows as a covering for the roof or sides of a building or structure.
Silt
Sediment particles ranging from 0.004 to 0.06 mm in diameter.
Silver Sand
A sand with a very low iron content.
Skylight
An opening in a roof to admit light.
Soffit
The undersurface of a horizontal element of a building, especially the undersides of a stair or roof overhang.
Soft-Ground Tunnel
A passage constructed through loose, unstable, or wet ground, requiring supports to keep the walls from collapsing.
Soldier
A brick laid on its end, with its narrow face toward the outside of the wall.
Span
The distance a bridge extends between two supports.
Spillway
An overflow channel that allows dam operators to release lake water when it gets high enough to threaten the safety of a dam.
Splaying
Walls are splayed when they are constructed somewhat "off square", i.e., a few degrees from the normal rectilinear form.
Stable
In nuclear physics if something is stable it means it does not decay.
Stainless Steel
Any steel containing at least 10.5% Cr as the principal alloying element.
Steel
An iron-based alloy containing manganese, usually carbon, and other alloying elements.
Stiffened Suspension Bridge
A suspension bridge with a stiff horizontal deck.
Story
Floor of a skyscraper.
Strap Hinge
A surface hinge of which both leaves are of considerable length.
Stretcher Bond
A particular arrangement of bricks.
Structural Engineer
An engineer who investigates the behaviour and design of all kinds of structures.
Stud
A fastener which is threaded at both ends with an unthreaded shank in between.
Subfloor
Rough or structural floor placed directly on the floor joists or beams to which the finished floor is applied.
Surface Mount Hinge
Both leaves secured to the surface of the door and frame.
Surface Water
Rainwater collected and running on the surface of the land rather than being confined to drains and water courses.
Surveying
A branch of applied mathematics, including geometry and trigonometry, that aids in determining and delineating the form, extent, and position of the land.
Surveyor′s Wheel
A device for measuring distance.
Suspended Deck
A roadway or railway that hangs from cables slung over towers or from the underside of an arch.
Suspension Bridge
A bridge in which the roadway deck is suspended from cables that pass over two towers.
Swing Bridge
The deck that rotates around a centre point.
Swing Clear Hinge
Interior door hinge that allows the door to open completely clear of the door opening so that large equipment may pass through the opening of the door.
Tailings Dam
A dam, usually made of earth and rock, used to contain mining waste.
Tensegrity
An array of tension cables and compression rods that supports a structure that were invented by Buckminster Fuller student Kenneth Snellson.
Tension Ring
A support ring that resists the outward force pushing against the lower sides of a dome.
Thermal Insulation
The materials and methods used to reduce heat transfer.
Thin Shell Concrete Structure
A curved concrete surface whose thickness is small in relation to its length and width.
T-Hinge
Surface hinge with the short member attached to the jamb and the long member attached to the door.
Three-Hinged Arch
A curved structure with hinges usually at each abutment and at the crown.
Threshold
The wood or metal beveled floor piece at door openings that commonly separates non-continuous floor types.
Truss
Structural framework of triangular units for supporting loads over long spans.
Tuned Mass Damper
Another name for a Dynamic Vibration Absorber.
Tunnel
An underground passageway.
Tunnel Boring Machine
A mechanical device that tunnels through the ground.
Tunnel Shield
A cylinder pushed ahead of tunneling equipment to provide advance support for the tunnel roof; used when tunneling in soft or unstable ground.
Undercoat
A coating applied prior to the paint finishing or top coat.
Union
A plumbing fitting that joins pipes end-to-end so they can be dismantled.
Unstable
Characteristic of a structure that collapses or deforms under a realistic load or a chemical that decomposes.
Upstream Face
The side of a dam that is against the water.
Vapour Barrier
A moisture-impervious layer applied to the surfaces enclosing a humid space to prevent moisture travel to a point where it may condense due to lower temperature.
Vault
An arched brick or stone ceiling or roof.
Vent
An opening in a vessel or other enclosed space for the removal of gas or vapour.
Viaduct
A road or rail bridge of considerable length, usually carrying vehicles at an elevated height across a valley or round a mountain side, as opposed to simply across a specific obstacle.
Voussoirs
The trapezoidal stones that are often used to form a rounded arch.
Wall
Solid structure that defines and sometimes protects an area.
Water Hammer
Banging of pipes caused by the shock of closing valves - eg taps.
Water Hardness
Water contaminated with compounds of calcium and magnesium.
Well
A pit or hole sunk into the earth to reach a supply of water.
Wind Brace
A diagonal structural member whose function is to stabilize a frame against lateral forces.
Wind Tunnel
A tunnel with a large fan that is used by engineers to test the effects of high winds on a structure.
Wind Turbine
A device that converts kinetic energy from the wind, also called wind energy, into mechanical energy; a process known as wind power.
Winder
A stair tread that is wider at one end than at the other.
Window
A piece of glass with plane parallel sides which admits light into or through an optical system and excludes dirt and moisture.
Wood
A hard substance which forms the branches and trunks of trees and which can be used as a building material, for making things, or as a fuel.
Wood Screws
The diameter and pilot drill size versus wood screw gauge.
Wooden Mallet
A hammer with a wooden head.
Wrap Around Hinge
Cabinet hinge that wraps around and attaches to the back edge of the door or the face frame offering extra strength.
Z Tie Wall
A Z-shaped reinforcing strip used as a support bracket from the structural wall to the masonry veneer.

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