The design and then construction of public works – bridges, dams, in addition to various other large infrastructural projects - is what is known as the trade of civil engineering. The trade dates back to the time when people began shaping their environments within the first settlements, and is thus among the oldest of engineering branches.
Earlier engineers would build bridges, roads, walls, and dams. They dug irrigation ditches, wells, and trenches. As larger groups of individuals began to congregate towards towns and cities, there was a greater necessity for a source for clean water, a network of streets, a way to dispose of waste, in addition to lines of defense against any aggressors.
Ancient projects that relied on great feats of civil engineering include the Great Wall of China, roads constructed by the Roman Empire, the Mayan ruins of Copan, Tikal, and Palenque, and the Masa Verde cliff dwellings, to name a few.
Many of the earlier civilizations created monuments as a way to appease their gods and rulers. It may have been a simplistic mound, or something on a more grandiose scale such as Stonehenge in Somerset, England, or the Pyramids of Giza. Unfortunately, the names of engineers who were behind the construction of such magnanimous efforts are lost to antiquity.
Perhaps, as you’d expect, people are far more likely to remember great civil engineering projects by name as opposed to by the engineer who was responsible for the design. For example, the Hoover Dam, which was designed by John L. Savage, the Golden Gate Bridge by Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis, and the Brooklyn Bridge by John August Roebling together with the help of his son, Washington Roebling. There are few exceptions to this rule, but one that does stand out is the Eiffel Tower by Gustave Eiffel.
What is the work of a civil engineer?
Civil engineers utilize complex software programs such as Autocad integration to design and the implement the construction of large projects and systems. This can include buildings, roadways, tunnels, airports, dams, and expansive systems for sewage treatment and water supplies.
They may also be involved in onsite preparations like excavations, grading, and earth moving for large construction projects. They can be responsible for preparing specifications for nondestructive and destructive testing of materials and structures in terms of their reliability, performance, and long-term durability.
A few recent and ongoing projects that involve civil engineering and are worthy of note include:
- A Johns Hopkins University team carried out tests to ascertain how well buildings which were constructed of cold-formed steel may withstand earthquakes.
- At the University of Maryland, engineers are experimenting on smart bridges. These bridges are capable of sending out warnings when in danger of collapse.