Civil engineering is a broad field of engineering dealing with the design, construction, and maintenance of fixed structures, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems. Civil engineering is the broadest of the engineering fields, partly because it is the oldest of all engineering fields. In fact, engineering was once divided into only two fields - military and civil. Civil engineering was defined to distinguish it from military engineering. Confusion continues in the United States, where the Army Corps of Engineers both is a large civil works organization, with responsibilities for such things as river navigability and flood control, but a separate military command is responsible for engineer troops in the U.S. Army.
Civil engineering today is comprised of many related specialties, which overlap and shade into each other.
Sub-disciplines of civil engineering
General civil engineering
General civil engineering is concerned with the overall interface of human created fixed projects with the greater world. General civil engineers work closely with surveyors and specialized civil engineers to fit and serve fixed projects within their given site, community and terrain by designing grading, drainage, pavement, water supply, sewer service, electric and communications supply and land (real property) divisions. General civil engineers visit project sites, review the work of specialists, and prepare construction plans. General Civil Engineering is also referred to as Site/Civil Engineering; a branch of Civil Engineering that primarily focuses on converting a tract of land from usage to another. Site/Civil Engineers typically apply the principles of Geotechnical Engineering, Structural Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Transportation Engineering and Hydraulic Engineering/Hydrology to residential, commercial, industrial and public works projects of all sizes and levels of construction.
Main article: Construction engineering
Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers with the help of Construction Machinery. As construction firms tend to have higher business risk than other types of civil engineering firms, many construction engineers tend to take on a role that is more business-like in nature: drafting and reviewing contracts, evaluating logistical operations, and closely-monitoring prices of necessary supplies.
Main article: Environmental engineering
Environmental engineering deals with the treatment of chemical, biological, and/or thermal waste, the purification of water and air, and the remediation of contaminated sites, due to prior waste disposal or accidental contamination. Among the topics covered by environmental engineering are pollutant transport, water purification, sewage treatment, and hazardous waste management. Environmental engineers can be involved with pollution reduction, green engineering, and industrial ecology. Environmental engineering also deals with the gathering of information on the environmental consequences of proposed actions and the assessment of effects of proposed actions for the purpose of assisting society and policy makers in the decision making process.
Environmental engineering is the contemporary term for sanitary engineering, though sanitary engineering traditionally had not included much of the hazardous waste management and environmental remediation work covered by the term environmental engineering. Some other terms in use are public health engineering and environmental health engineering.
Fire protection engineering
Main article: Fire protection engineering
Fire protection engineering, also called 'fire safety engineering' is the practice of application of science and engineering principles and experience to protect people and their environments from the destructive effects of fire. The underlying branches of science are fire science, fire dynamics and chemistry. Fire protection engineers, often civil engineers by training, typically design safeguards that aid in fighting fires, such as alarm, sprinkler, and smoke control systems. They are also involved at the design stage where structural design work is being done, and they provide expert advice on materials choices and in the protection of structural members. They are also employed as fire investigators, including such very large-scale cases as the analysis of the mechanism of the collapse of the World Trade Center. NASA uses fire protection engineers on its space program to ensure safety.
Main article: Geotechnical engineering
Geotechnical engineering is primarily concerned with the interaction of structures with earth materials, and structures constructed from earth materials. Geotechnical engineers analyse site conditions and design foundations and earthworks. Geotechnical engineers deal with soil properties, soil mechanics, compression and swelling of soils, seepage, slopes, embankments, retaining walls, ground and rock anchors, use of synthetic tensile materials in soil structures, soil-structure interaction, and soil dynamics.
Hydraulic engineering and Hydrology
Main article: Hydraulic engineering
Hydraulic engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water. This area of civil engineering is intimately related to the design of pipelines, water distribution systems, drainage facilities (including bridges, dams, channels, culverts, levees, storm sewers), and canals. Hydraulic engineers design these facilities using the concepts of fluid pressure, fluid statics, fluid dynamics, and hydraulics, among others.
Hydrology is the study of natural water flows, including streams and lakes, and rainfall. Hydrologic studies are often performed by hydraulic engineers or general civil engineers to properly design site improvements for drainage and to prevent flooding.
Main article: Materials science
Civil engineering also includes elements of materials science. Construction materials with broad applications in civil engineering include ceramics such as Portland cement concrete (PCC) and hot mix asphalt concrete, metals such as aluminium and steel, and polymers such as polymethylaccrylate (PMMA) and carbon fibers. Current research in these areas focus around increased strength, durability, workability, and reduced cost.
Main article: Structural engineering
Structural engineering is concerned with the structural design and structural analysis of buildings, bridges, and other structures. This involves calculating the stresses and forces that act upon or arise within a structure, and designing the structure to successfully resist those forces and stresses. Resistance to wind and seismic loadings, especially performance near resonant frequencies, which affect the overall stability of a structure are major design concerns. Other factors such as durability and cost are also considered. In addition to design of new buildings, structural engineers may design a seismic retrofit for an existing structure to mitigate undesirable performance during earthquakes.
Main article: Surveying
Surveying is the process by which a surveyor measures certain dimensions that generally occur on the surface of the Earth. Modern surveying equipment, such as EDM's, Total Stations, GPS Surveying and Laser Scanning, allow for remarkably accurate measurement of angular deviation, horizontal, vertical and slope distances. This information is crucial to convert the data into a graphical representation of the Earth's surface, in the form a map. This information is then used by Civil Engineers, Contractors and even realtors to design from, build on, and trade, respectively. Elements of a building or structure must be correctly sized and positioned in relation to each other and to site boundaries and adjacent structures. Civil engineers are trained in the methods of surveying.
Main article: Transport engineering
Transportation engineering is concerned with moving people and goods efficiently, safely, and in a manner conducive to a vibrant community. This involves specifying, designing, constructing, and maintaining transportation infrastructure which includes streets, highways, rail systems, airports, ports, and mass transit. It includes areas such as transportation design, transportation planning, traffic engineering, urban engineering, queueing theory, pavement engineering, Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), and infrastructure management.
Water resources engineering
Water resources engineering is concerned with the collection and management of water (as a natural resource). As a discipline it therefore combines hydrology, environmental science, meteorology, geology, conservation, and resource management. This area of civil engineering relates to the prediction and management of both the quality and the quantity of water in both underground (aquifers) and above ground (lakes, rivers, and streams) resources. Water resource engineers analyze and model very small to very large areas of the earth to predict the amount and content of water as it flows into, through, or out of a facility. Although the actual design of the facility may be left to other engineers.
Education and Licensure
The practice of civil engineering is regulated by national or local governments nearly everywhere in the world. Many jurisdictions require that a civil engineer in responsible charge of a project be appropriately qualified or licensed. Appropriate qualifications usually include a college degree and a period of time working under the supervision of a more experienced engineer.
In the U.S., one must become a licensed Professional Engineer to do any civil engineering work affecting the public or to legally represent oneself as a civil engineer. Licensure requirements vary slightly by state, but in all cases entail passing two licensure exams, the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Principles and Practice exam (commonly called the PE), and completing a state-mandated number of years of work under the supervision of a licensed Professional Engineer. In addition, an educational requirement must often be met. All states accept a four year Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degree in Civil Engineering, from an ABET-accredited program, for their educational requirement. The acceptability of degrees in other fields varies by state; some states allow a person to substitute additional years of supervised work experience for the degree requirement. Although the American Society of Civil Engineers encourages states to raise the educational requirement to a graduate degree, advanced degrees are currently optional for civil engineers in the United States. Graduate study may lead either to a Master of Engineering, which is a Professional Master's degree, or to a Master of Science degree, sometimes followed by a PhD in civil engineering or a sub-discipline.
In the United Kingdom current graduates require a MSc, MEng or BEng (Hons) in order to become chartered through the Institution of Civil Engineers. The Institution also allows entrants with substantial experience to apply without this level of formal academic achievement. In practice, most civil engineers in the United Kingdom work without chartered status. Unlike in many other European countries, the term 'Engineer' is not legally protected within the United Kingdom.
In Australia and New Zealand, requirements are typically a four year Bachelor of Engineering (BE or BEng) degree, equivalent to the British MEng, which includes a work experience component of around 13 weeks in the final year of study.
International engineering agreements are designed to allow engineers to practice across international borders. In general, these agreements require both educational competencies and professional experiential competencies.
- American Society of Civil Engineers
- Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society
- Institution of Civil Engineers
- Engineers Australia or IEAust
- National Council of Structural Engineers Associations
References and sources
- University of Sydney's civil engineering industrial training outline - accessed 9 February 2007
- University of New South Wales's civil engineering industrial training outline - accessed 9 February 2007