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Everything you need to know about Civil Engineering

Do you realize the amount of strangers whose work helps you on a daily basis? Every single day, their silent contributions have helped our lives exist in the ways we know them to be possible. Whom am I referring to? Civil Engineers! Plenty of industries affect our lives, that we are conscious of. For example, we’re aware of the importance of great teachers, and the education and growth they provide. We thank doctors for the cures they curate, and firemen and women for their heroic, brave endeavors. We are grateful to the police officers who put their lives on the line to try and keep our streets safe. But what about the streets themselves? Roadways that make our daily commuting possible; whether we’re driving to work, or to visit an old friend. It has been many years since we’ve traveled by horses on trails from town to town. (Although the thought of a lover traveling to see you on horseback does hold a sense of romanticism… Or maybe that’s Valentines Day being right around the corner. 😉 ) But traveling on horseback through the rain on a Monday through traffic? Not so romantic. Thankfully, we have Civil Engineering professionals to create roads, bridges, airports and more; to help us get to where we’re going conveniently. And dry!

What is Civil Engineering?

What exactly is “Civil Engineering”? To put it literally, in Oxford’s words, it is the “branch of engineering concerned with the design and maintenance of roads, bridges, dams, and similar structures”. To add, Britannica offers a little more detail, by explaining it is “the profession of designing and executing structural works that serve the general public such as dams, bridges, aqueducts, canals, highways, power plants, sewerage systems, and other infrastructure. All of which I believe people would agree, hold high importance in our everyday lives. See? Civil engineers- also greatly serving the public and helping to make life as we know it possible!

Originally, the term was first created specifically to differentiate between civil and military engineering, back in the 18th century. Although forms of civil engineering have been around as early as human beings began to exist. It was almost the evolution, if you will, of humans broader instincts- to seek shelter for safety. But instead of caves, and trails, we now have homes and roads. Civil engineering did that!

The “Father of Civil Engineering”: John Smeaton

So who started this industry of Civil Engineering? The answer; is John Smeaton. Known as the “Father of Engineering“, John Smeaton is considered the first civil engineer. During the Industrial Revolution, he developed scientific methods to harness water, wind, and steam power. He also created waterwheels and windmills. In addition, Smeaton wrote a published report regarding the correlation between pressure and velocity for objects moving through the air to help further studies of the industry. Throughout time he became responsible for the design and building of a variety of bridges, harbors, canals, and lighthouses. Overall, he was most notably famous for his design of the Eddystone Lighthouse (between 1756-1759), featuring interlocking masonry that required true expertise.

Furthermore, in 1771 John Smeaton created and founded the Society of Civil Engineers. Now known as the “Smeatonian Society“, the purpose was to bring together like minded professionals including engineers, entrepreneurs, and lawyers in order to cooperate in promoting public works projects, while ensuring the parliamentary powers required to execute their plans.

What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

As stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems”. Obviously, a bridge can’t be built overnight. There is an abundance of detailed plotting and planning that goes into every single engineering project; especially the ones that ensure or involve safety. For example, an engineer would not only have to design a picture or general layout of a bridge. They must have every single detailed carefully mapped out prior to lifting a single piece of wood. This includes building material, to the beam placements, to the degrees of angles for every component, and much more.

The work environment for civil engineers can vary day to day, or depending on what stage of a project they are working on. For example, some days an engineer may be in the design phase of a project and spend their days in an office environment. While other days, they may be physically found at the actual construction sites themselves.

Furthermore, civil engineers must be licensed by their respective states in order to offer services directly to the public.

Civil Engineering

Main Types of Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering can be broken down into multiple subcategories. Engineers study and learn about their focused sector to have a more masterful skillset required to perform operations to the best of their abilities. Different subfields of civil engineering can be broken down into:

  • Structural Engineering
    • Structural engineers can perform a multitude of tasks; including smaller jobs like simple home improvements, to giant projects like designing and constructing skyscrapers that can withstand storm-force winds.
  • Construction & Management Engineering
    • This branch of engineering focuses on design principles of construction, as well as building code regulations and operational steps for projects. Often, building information modeling (BIM) is a component of designing projects at hand, such as residential or commercial buildings.
  • Geotechnical Engineering
    • Geotechnical Engineering involves the study of rocks and soil; as well as any other material that may support a structure or system. These engineers are experts on the chemical properties of earth materials, as well as making decisions on whether natural slopes can safely handle additional weight.
  • Environmental Engineering
    • Environmental Engineering involves reducing any of the potentially negative overall impact of construction projects on the world’s ecosystem. Additionally, environmental engineers manage natural resources for construction projects, as well as heroically design mechanisms that help solve pollution issues.
  • Transport Engineering
    • When it comes to transport engineering, think of the components necessary to make transportation possible; such as: railroads, subways, airways, and sea ways.
  • Water Resources Engineering
    • Water Resource Engineering concentrates on projects such as designing infrastructure in towns and cities that provide safe drinking water. They are masters of the hydrologic cycle which refers to the motion of water molecules throughout the atmosphere. Projects they can be involved in include the design of water distribution centers, irrigation systems, plant nurseries, and human-made lakes and ponds.

Why is Civil Engineering Important?

So why exactly is civil engineering important? After reading this far through, the answer already may seem a little obvious. The work that stems from civil engineering provides countless necessities that we as a society need, in order to live life as know it. In very general terms, it basically is engineering for the people! If designing our roadways wasn’t imperative enough, having to design properly functioning sewerage systems tops the list of importance for me. With knowing how to design and build safe and secure power-plants following closely behind!

There are actually not many areas of our life that remain unaffected and/or unassisted by civil engineering; including aspects that keep us safe – deeming the subject and industry of extreme importance.

Sources

©️ 2023 Eastern Engineering Group wrote and published this article. All rights reserved.

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