Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings. Civil engineering is the oldest engineering discipline after military engineering, and it was defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering It is traditionally broken into several sub-disciplines including environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, municipal or urban 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 national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies.
Sub-disciplinesIn 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 engineeringCoastal engineering is concerned with managing coastal areas. In some jurisdictions the terms sea defense and coastal protection are used to mean, respectively, defence against flooding and erosion. The term coastal defence is the more traditional term, but coastal management has become more popular as the field has expanded to include techniques that allow erosion to claim land.
Construction engineeringConstruction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, and 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.
Earthquake engineeringEarthquake engineering covers ability of various structures to withstand hazardous earthquake exposures at the sites of their particular location.
Earthquake engineering is a sub discipline of the broader category of Structural engineering. The main objectives of earthquake engineering are
- Understand interaction of structures with the shaky ground.
- Foresee the consequences of possible earthquakes.
- Design, construct and maintain structures to perform at earthquake exposure up to the expectations and in compliance with building codes.
Environmental engineeringEnvironmental 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 engineeringGeotechnical 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 behavior 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 describes the behavior of soil, is also complicated because soils exhibit nonlinear (stress-dependent) strength, stiffness, and dilatancy (volume change associated with application of shear stress)
Water resources engineeringWater 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. 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 supply network, 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.
Materials engineeringAnother aspect of Civil engineering is materials science. Material engineering deals with ceramics such as concrete, mix asphalt concrete, metals Focus around increased strength, metals such as aluminum and steel, and polymers such as polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and carbon fibers.
Materials engineering also consists of protection and prevention like paints and finishes. Alloying is another aspect of material engineering, combining two different types of metals to produce a stronger metal.
Structural engineeringStructural 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 fulfill 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.
SurveyingSurveying is the process by which a surveyor measures certain dimensions that generally occur on the surface of the Earth. Surveying equipment, such as levels and theodolites, are used for accurate measurement of angular deviation, horizontal, vertical and slope distances. With computerisation, electronic distance measurement (EDM), total stations, GPS surveying and laser scanning have supplemented (and to a large extent supplanted) the traditional optical instruments. 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. Although surveying is a distinct profession with separate qualifications and licensing arrangements, civil engineers are trained in the basics of surveying and mapping, as well as geographic information systems. Surveyors may also lay out the routes of railways, tramway tracks, highways, roads, pipelines and streets as well as position other infrastructures, such as harbors, before construction.
In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and most Commonwealth countries land surveying is considered to be a distinct profession. Land surveyors are not considered to be engineers, and have their own professional associations and licencing requirements. The services of a licenced land surveyor are generally required for boundary surveys (to establish the boundaries of a parcel using its legal description) and subdivision plans (a plot or map based on a survey of a parcel of land, with boundary lines drawn inside the larger parcel to indicate the creation of new boundary lines and roads), both of which are generally referred to as cadastral surveying.
Construction surveying is generally performed by specialised technicians. Unlike land surveyors, the resulting plan does not have legal status. Construction surveyors perform the following tasks:
- Survey existing conditions of the future work site, including topography, existing buildings and infrastructure, and even including underground infrastructure whenever possible;
- Construction surveying (otherwise "lay-out" or "setting-out"): to stake out reference points and markers that will guide the construction of new structures such as roads or buildings for subsequent construction;
- Verify the location of structures during construction;
- As-Built surveying: a survey conducted at the end of the construction project to verify that the work authorized was completed to the specifications set on plans.