Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and natural built environment, including works such as bridges, roads, canals, dams and buildings. Civil engineering is the oldest engineering discipline after military engineering, and it was defined to distinguish it from military engineering. It is traditionally broken into several sub-disciplines including environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, water resources engineering, materials engineering, coastal engineering, surveying, and construction engineering. Civil engineering takes place on all levels: in the public sector from municipal through to federal levels, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies.
History of the civil engineering profession
Engineering has been an aspect of life since the beginnings of human existence. Civil engineering might be considered properly commencing between 4000 and 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia when humans started to abandon a nomadic existence, thus causing a need for the construction of shelter. During this time, transportation became increasingly important leading to the development of the wheel and sailing. The construction of Pyramids in Egypt (circa 2700-2500 BC) might be considered the first instances of large structure constructions. Other ancient historic civil engineering constructions include the Parthenon by Iktinos in Ancient Greece (447-438 BC), the Appian Way by Roman engineers (c. 312 BC), and the Great Wall of China by General Meng T'ien under orders from Ch'in Emperor Shih Huang Ti (c. 220 BC). The Romans developed civil structures throughout their empire, including especially aqueducts, insulae, harbours, bridges, dams and roads.
Until modern times there was no clear distinction between civil engineering and architecture, and the term engineer and architect were mainly geographical variations referring to the same person, often used interchangeably. In the 18th century, the term civil engineering began to be used to and exchange, and in the construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters and lighthouses, and in the art of distinguish it from military engineering.
The first self-proclaimed civil engineer was John Smeaton who constructed the Eddystone Lighthouse. In 1771 Smeaton and some of his colleagues formed the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers, a group of leaders of the profession who met informally over dinner. Though there was evidence of some technical meetings, it was little more than a social society.
In 1818 the Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in London, and in 1820 the eminent engineer Thomas Telford became its first president. The institution received a Royal Charter in 1828, formally recognising civil engineering as a profession. Its charter defined civil engineering as:
|“||"...the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man, as the means of production and of traffic in states, both for external and internal trade, as applied in the construction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation and docks for internal intercourse navigation by artificial power for the purposes of commerce, and in the construction and application of machinery, and in the drainage of cities and towns."||”|
The first degree in Civil Engineering in the United States was awarded by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1835.
History of the science of civil engineering
Civil engineering is the application of physical and scientific principles, and its history is intricately linked to advances in understanding of physics and mathematics throughout history. Because civil engineering is a wide ranging profession, including several separate specialized sub-disciplines, its history is linked to knowledge of structures, materials science, geology, soils, hydrology, environment, mechanics and other fields.
Throughout ancient and medieval history most architectural design and construction was carried out by artisans, such as stone masons and carpenters, rising to the role of master builder. Knowledge was retained in guilds and seldom supplanted by advances. Structures, roads and infrastructure that existed were repetitive, and increases in scale were incremental.
One of the earliest examples of a scientific approach to physical and mathematical problems applicable to civil engineering is the work of Archimedes in the 3rd century BC, including Archimedes Principle, which underpins our understanding of buoyancy, and practical solutions such as Archimedes' screw.
The civil engineer
Education and licensure
Civil engineers typically possess an academic degree with a major in civil engineering. The length of study for such a degree is usually four or five years and the completed degree is usually designated as a Bachelor of Engineering, though some universities designate the degree as a Bachelor of Science. The degree generally includes units covering physics, mathematics, project management, design and specific topics in civil engineering. Initially such topics cover most, if not all, of the sub-disciplines of civil engineering. Students then choose to specialize in one or more sub-disciplines towards the end of the degree.
Graduates can choose to pursue a postgraduate degree such as a Master of Engineering, Master of Science, or a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering. The Master of Engineering degree may consist of either research, coursework or a mixture of the two. The Doctor of Philosophy consists of a significant research component and is often viewed as the entry point to academia. In the United Kingdom and various other European countries, the Master of Engineering is the minimum acceptable qualification for accreditation by the relevant professional bodies, and is often included as an extra year on the undergraduate engineering degree.
In most countries, a Bachelor's degree in engineering represents the first step towards professional certification and the degree program itself is certified by a professional body. After completing a certified degree program the engineer must satisfy a range of requirements (including work experience and exam requirements) before being certified. Once certified, the engineer is designated the title of Professional Engineer (in the United States, Canada and South Africa), Chartered Engineer (in most Commonwealth countries), Chartered Professional Engineer (in Australia and New Zealand), or European Engineer (in much of the European Union). There are international engineering agreements between relevant pressional bodies which are designed to allow engineers to practice across international borders.
The advantages of certification vary depending upon location. For example, in the United States and Canada "only a licensed engineer may prepare, sign and seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval, or seal engineering work for public and private clients.". This requirement is enforced by state and provincial legislation such as Quebec's Engineers Act. In other countries, no such legislation exists. In Australia, state licensing of engineers is limited to the state of Queensland. Practically all certifying bodies maintain a code of ethics that they expect all members to abide by or risk expulsion. In this way, these organizations play an important role in maintaining ethical standards for the profession. Even in jurisdictions where certification has little or no legal bearing on work, engineers are subject to contract law. In cases where an engineer's work fails he or she may be subject to the tort of negligence and, in extreme cases, the charge of criminal negligence. An engineer's work must also comply with numerous other rules and regulations such as building codes and legislation pertaining to environmental law.
There is no one typical career path for civil engineers. Most engineering graduates start with jobs of low responsibility, and as they prove their competence, they are given more and more responsible tasks, but within each subfield of civil engineering, and even within different segments of the market within each branch, the details of a career path can vary. In some fields and firms, entry-level engineers are put to work primarily monitoring construction in the field, serving as the "eyes and ears" of more senior design engineers; while in other areas, entry-level engineers end up performing the more routine tasks of analysis or design and interpretation. More senior engineers can move into doing more complex analysis or design work, or management of more complex design projects, or management of other engineers, or into specialized consulting, including forensic engineering.
Engineers are in high demand at banks, financial institutions and management consultancies because of their analytical skills.
In 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 divisions. General engineers spend much of their time visiting project sites, developing community consensus, and preparing construction plans. General civil engineering is also referred to as site engineering, a branch of civil engineering that primarily focuses on converting a tract of land from one usage to another. Civil engineers typically apply the principles of geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, environmental engineering, transportation engineering and construction engineering to residential, commercial, industrial and public works projects of all sizes and levels of construction.
Coastal engineering is concerned with managing coastal areas.
Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers. 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.
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, waste water treatment, air pollution, solid waste 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.
Geotechnical engineering is an area of civil engineering concerned with the rock and soil that civil engineering systems are supported by. Knowledge from the fields of geology, material science and testing, mechanics, and hydraulics are applied by geotechnical engineers to safely and economically design foundations, retaining walls, and similar structures. Environmental concerns in relation to groundwater and waste disposal have spawned a new area of study called geoenvironmental engineering where biology and chemistry are important.
Some of the unique difficulties of geotechnical engineering are the result of the variability and properties of soil. Boundary conditions are often well defined in other branches of civil engineering, but with soil, clearly defining these conditions can be impossible. The material properties and behaviour of soil are also difficult to predict due to the variability of soil and limited investigation. This contrasts with the relatively well defined material properties of steel and concrete used in other areas of civil engineering. Soil mechanics, which define the behaviour of soil, is complex due to stress-dependent material properties such as volume change, stress–strain relationship, and strength.
Civil engineering also includes elements of materials engineering, also known as 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 polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and carbon fibers. Current research in these areas focus around increased strength, durability, workability, and reduced cost.
Structural engineering is concerned with the structural design and structural analysis of buildings, bridges, towers, flyovers, tunnels, off shore structures like oil and gas fields in the sea and other structures. This involves identifying the loads which act upon a structure and the forces and stresses which arise within that structure due to those loads, and then designing the structure to successfully support and resist those loads. The loads can be self weight of the structures, other dead load, live loads, moving (wheel) load, wind load, earthquake load, load from temperature change etc. The structural engineer must design structures to be safe for their users and to successfully fulfil the function they are designed for (to be serviceable). Due to the nature of some loading conditions, sub-disciplines within structural engineering have emerged, including wind engineering and earthquake engineering.
Design considerations will include strength, stiffness and stability of the structure when subjected to loads which may be static, such as furniture or self-weight, or dynamic, such as wind, seismic, crowd or vehicle loads, or transitory, such as temporary construction loads or impact. Other considerations include cost, constructability, safety, aesthetics and sustainability.
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 electronic distance measurement (EDM), total stations, GPS surveying and laser scanning, allow for 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 of 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 basics of surveying and mapping, as well as geographic information systems.
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, canals, 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.