What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is a discipline of professional engineering which mainly relates and deals with the configuration and design, building of those structures, and upkeep the sustainability of the physical as well as the naturally formed structures comprising the likes of roads, bridges, buildings, canals and dams. Civil engineering is conventionally categorized into a variety of sub-disciplines. It is only second to military engineering in terms being the oldest engineering discipline, and it is distinct to differentiate non-military engineering from military engineering. The scope of civil engineering takes place in wide range of the public sectors ranging from municipals to national governments, and in case of the private sector, it ranges from individual homeowners to multi-national companies.


Civil engineering refers to the extensive application of both scientific principles and physics, as well as for the remedying lessening of the various problems that frequently occur in society, additonally its background is in a very deliberate way connected to the advances in comprehension of mathematics and phsyics all through the history of this discipline. Owing to the fact that civil engineering is an extensive multifaceted discipline and profession, comprising assortment of other specialized sub-disciplines, its history is connected to the information of soils, geology, hydrology, structures, materials science, geography, ecological environment, mechanics and other wide range of fields.

If we go through the history it is notable that majority of endeavours of architectal design and construction were carried out by artisan, in the ancient and medieval time period. These skilled stonemasons, carpenters and artisans slowly rose to the level of master builder. The knowledge and strategy regarding the constructions were confined to the guild and community was seldom supplanted through advances. Thus, the infrastructures, roads and the buildings were repetitive in nature and augemtation in scale was also largely incremental.

The work of Archimedes in the 3rd century BC, comprising of Archimedes Principle, which is the underlying base for our understanding of buoyancy, and practical solutions like the Archimedes’ screw are some of the earliest examples of a proper scientific approach to mathematical and physical problem which could be utilized ib civil engineerig. Similarly, Brahmagupta, an Indian mathematician, utilized arithmetic in the 7th century AD, which was based on Hindu-Arabic numerals, for excavation (volume) computations.

History of civil engineering profession

The practice of civil engineering may have come into the practice between 4000 BC and 2000 BC in Indus Valley, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Up until the modern times, there was no proper distinction between architects and engineers and their functions greatly overlapped. Construction of the pyramids of Egypt can be easily identified as some of the first instances of creation of large structures. Some other notable civil engineering constructions from around the world are  Qanat water management, the Parthenon by Iktinos in Ancient Greece (447–438 BC), the Appian Way by Roman engineers (c. 312 BC). Similar kinds of historic civil engineering constructions from the eastern world are the Great Wall of China by General Meng T’ien  and the stupas constructed in ancient Sri Lanka.

The term Civil Engineering was coined in the late 18th century so as to comprise everything civilian in contrast to military engineering. John Smeaton who created the Eddystone Lighthouse was the first self-claimed civil engineer.

In 1818 the Institution of Civil Engineers was created in London, England. Two years later in 1820 the renowned engineer Thomas Telford became its first president. The establishment received a Royal Charter in 1828, thus civil engineering formally got recognized 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 and exchange, and in the construction of ports, harbors, moles, breakwaters and lighthouses, and in the art of 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.”

History of civil engineering education

The first ever private school to educate on civil engineering in the United States was Norwich University, established in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge. Further, first degree in civil engineering in the USA was granted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1835. Nora Stanton Blatch in 1905 became the first woman to be awarded with civil engineering degree by  Cornwall University.

In United Kingdom, the mid nineteenth century, in the wake of Industrial revolution,  the division between civil and military engineering (served by the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich), combined with demands of the Industrial Revolution, produced new engineering activities and courses: the Royal Polytechnic Institution was founded in 1838, the private College for Civil Engineers in Putney was set up in 1839, and the United Kingdom’s first ever Chair of Engineering was built up at the University of Glasgow in 1840.

Education and Licensure

Civil Engineers normally have an academic degree in civil engineering. The time duration of the study is typically around three to five years, and after the completion of the degree, it is assigned as a Bachelors of Engineering (BE), or a four year certification in scientific studies in building and construction. The educational programs for the most part incorporates classes in Physics, Geometry, Arithmetic, Project Management, and other various design and particular subjects in civil engineering. Subsequent to taking essential courses in majority of  sub-disciplines of civil engineering they move onto have some expertise in at least one sub-disciplines at highly specialized level. While a college degree (BEng/BSc) ordinarily gives fruitful understudies industry-accredited capability, some scholarly establishments offer post-graduate degrees (MEng/MSc), which permit understudies to additionally have some expertise in their specific territory of interest.

In many nations, a four year certification known as Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in engineering symbolizes to the initial step towards professional accreditation, and an expert body affirms the degree program. In the wake of finishing a certified degree program, the specialist must fulfill a scope of prerequisites (counting work-experience and exam necessities) before being officially certified. Once certified, the specialist is assigned as an expert civil engineer (in the United States, Canada and South Africa), known as charted engineer (in most Commonwealth nations), a charted professional engineer (in Australia and New Zealand), or an European Engineer (in many nations of the European Union). There are universal understandings between applicable expert bodies to permit engineers to practice crosswise over national outskirts.

The advantages of accreditation shift contingent on area. For instance, in the United States and Canada, only the licensed  proficient engineer may get ready, sign and seal, and submit building designs, plans and drawings to government for approval, or seal building work for clients ranging from public to private. This prerequisite is implemented under the province law, for example, the Engineers Act in Quebec.

No such enactment has been authorized in different nations including the United Kingdom. In Australia, state authorizing of architects is constrained to only Queensland. All of the certifying bodies keep up a code of morals which all individuals must withstand by.

The engineers should abide by the contract law in their authoritative relationships with different parties they engage with. In situations where an engineer’s work falls flat, he might be liable to the law of tort of carelessness, and in outrageous cases, criminal charges. The engineer’s work should likewise conform to various different guidelines and controls, for example, construction standards and natural protection law.

Branches of Civil engineering

Usually, civil engineering is concerned with the general boundary of human constructed projects with the greater world. General civil engineers work often and closely with surveyors and highly professional civil engineers to design and construct dams, sewers, bridges, pavements and electric and communication supplies for which they use the knowledge and principles or theories from various disciplines or branches of  civil engineering. Some of the sub-disciplines or branches of civil engineering are listed below:

Construction engineering

Construction engineering includes the process of planning and its successful execution, transference of materials, site expansion on the basis of structural and geotechnical, environmental and hydraulic engineering. Owing to the fact that the construction organizations and firms normally  have greater business risk in comparison to other different kinds  of civil engineering firms possess, construction engineers regularly involve themselves in more business-like transactions, for instance, drafting and reviewing of contracts, assessing the logistical operations, and controlling the cost of supplies.

Structural engineering

Structural engineering is distinctly related with the field of structural design and structural assessment of different structures like buildings, bridges, big towers, tunnels, and flyovers. It is also concerned with the structural design and evaluation of off shore structures like the oil and gas fields in the sea, aero structure and other various structures. This comprise recognition of the loads which perform upon a structure and the forces and stresses which emerges inside that structure because of those pressure and then planning the design of the structure to efficiently support and withstand those loads. The loads can be the weight of the structures, , live loads, moving (wheel) load, wind load, earthquake load, load from temperature change or other different kind of load. It is a structural engineer’s duty to design structures so they are safe for utilization and to positively realize the purpose they are premeditated for. Because of the property of some loading conditions, different sub-disciplines inside the structural engineering have been created, comprising of wind engineering and earthquake engineering as well.

Geotechnical engineering

Geotechnical engineering is mainly concerned with the study of layers of soils and rocks supporting the civil engineering systems. The extensive knowledge from the field of soil science, and hydraulics, material science and mechanic as well is utilized for execution of safe and cost effective configuration foundations, retentive walls, and other different kinds of  structures. The various endeavors for the protection of groundwater and with safety preserve landfills have procreated a totally new scope of research which is also known as geotechnical engineering.

The proper identification of various soil characteristics pose difficult hindrances to the geotechnical engineers. The boundary limitations are frequently well identified in other sub-disciplines of civil engineering, however, not quite like the steel or concrete, the material characteristics and the reaction of soil are complex to predict and manipulate mainly because of its variability and limitation on thorough research on it. Additionally, soil displays nonlinear (stress-based) strength, rigidity, and dilatancy which further creates complexity in proper studying of soil mechanics.


Surveying  refers to the the procedure by which a surveyor measures and calculates certain measurements and dimensions that happen on or close to the surface of the Earth. The surveying gear, for example, levels and theodolites, are utilized for precise estimation of the angular deviation, flat, vertical and slant separations and distances. With advances of computerization, electronic separation estimation (EDM), add up to stations, GPS studying and laser scanning have to a huge degree replaced the conventional instruments. Information gathered by intricate process of survey measurement is changed over into a graphical representation of the globe’s surface as a guide. This data is then utilized by structural specialists, civil engineers, and contractual workers and real estate agents to plan and configure from, expand on, and exchange, individually. Different components of a structure must be measured and situated in connection to each other and to site limits and adjoining structures. In spite of the fact that surveying is a particular distinct profession with partitioned capabilities and licensing courses of action, the civil engineers are prepared efficiently from the very basic level of reviewing and mapping, and in addition geographic data systems. Surveyors likewise lay out the courses of different transportation systems such as railroads, tramway tracks, interstates, streets, roads and pipelines too and additionally also position other framework, for instance,  harbors, before development.

Land Surveying

In North America and in the United Kingdom and majority of the Commonwealth nations land surveying is thought to be a different and a very distinct specialized profession. Land surveyors are not thought to be architects or engineers, and have their own proficient affiliations and permitting prerequisites. The administrations of an authorized land surveyor are by and large required for limit boundary surveys (to set up the boundaries of a parcel utilizing its legitimate description) and subdivision plans (a plot or guide in light of a survey of a parcel of land, with limit lines drawn inside the bigger parcel to demonstrate the production of new boundary and streets), both of which are for the most part alluded to as Cadastral surveying.

Construction survey

Construction survey over is for the most part performed by specific professionals. Not at all like land surveyors, the subsequent arrangement does not have legitimate status. Construction surveyors play out the accompanying errands:

  1. Surveying of the existing states of the potential work site, comprising the geography, existing structures and infrastructure framework, and underground foundation when conceivable
  2. “lay-out” or “setting-out”: putting reference focuses and markers that will direct the development of new structures, for example, streets or structures
  3. Confirming the area of structures amid development
  4. As-Built looking over: an overview directed toward the finish of the construction venture to check that the work approved was finished to the details set on arrangements.

Transportation engineering

Transportation engineering is mainly concerned with moving individuals and products productively, securely, and in a way helpful for a lively and vibrant community. This includes determining, planning, building, and keeping up transportation foundation which incorporates lanes, trenches, roadways, rail frameworks, air terminals, ports, and mass travel transit. It incorporates zones, for example, transportation outline, transportation arranging, movement building, a few parts of urban engineering, queueing hypothesis, pavement engineering and designing, Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), and wholesome infrastructure management.

Water resources engineering

Water resources engineering is basically subjected with the assortment and management of water. As a sub-discipline of civil engineering, it consequently comprises different subjects of hydrology, environmental science, resource management, meteorology and conservation as well. This field of civil engineering is concerned with the elements like management and prediction of both the quality and the quantity of water existing underground and water existing above ground (rivers, and streams and lakes) resources. Water resource engineers intricately assess and  model minute to very big areas of the ground surface to forecast the quantity of water as it flows into, inside or out of a facility. Even though the original design plan of the facility might be carried out by other engineers.

Hydraulic engineering is widely related with the flow and delivery of fluids, primarily water. This area of civil engineering is closely concerned with the design configuration  of pipelines, water supply network, and drainage facilities (comprising bridges and dams, channels and storm sewers), and canals. The hydraulic engineers plan and design these facilities and structures with application of various perceptions of fluid pressure,  fluid dynamics, and fluid statistics as well.

Earthquake engineering

Earthquake engineering basically comprises of designing and construction of buildings and structures to resist the dangerous earthquake experiences. Earthquake engineering is a sub-categorization of structural engineering. The basic goals of earthquake engineering are to comprehend the interface of buildings and structures on the wobbly ground; predict the effects of the probable earthquakes; and plan and design, build and upkeep those structures to perform at earthquake in compliance with building codes.

Environmental engineering

Environmental engineering refers to the modern term for sanitary engineering, even though sanitary engineering at first did not comprise many of the perilous waste management and ecological remediation functions which are currently covered in an extensive manner by environmental engineering. Environmental health engineering and Public health engineering are other terms which are used in place of environmental engineer.

Environmental engineering mainly engages with proper action of biological, thermal and chemical wastes, refinement of water and air, and additionally to remove the contamination in the contaminated sites after waste disposal or because of incidental contamination. Amongst various topics enclosed by environmental engineering, some of them  are contaminant transport, water purification, treatment of waste water, air pollution, management of solid waste  and finally dangerous waste management. The environmental engineers manage and oversee activities pollution decrease, green engineering, and industrial environment. Environmental engineers also amass extensive information and asses on different environmental consequences of proposed activities.

Municipal or urban engineering

Municipal engineering is mainly related with city framework. This includes determining, planning, building, and looking after avenues, walkways, water supply systems, sewers, road lighting, metropolitan strong waste administration and transfer, stockpiling stations for different mass materials utilized for support and open works (salt, sand, and so forth.), open stops and cycling framework. On account of underground utility systems, it might likewise incorporate the common bit (channels and get to loads) of the nearby appropriation systems of electrical and media communications administrations. It can likewise incorporate the improving of waste gathering and transport benefit systems. Some of these orders cover with other structural building strengths, however city designing spotlights on the coordination of these foundation systems and administrations, as they are regularly constructed all the while, and oversaw by the same metropolitan specialist. City specialists may likewise outline the site common works for expansive structures, mechanical plants or grounds (i.e. get to streets, parking garages, consumable water supply, treatment or pre-treatment of waste water, site seepage, and so forth.)

Material science and engineering

Materials science is a subject which is intricately related to civil engineering. Material science and engineering studies the basic properties of materials, and engages with the ceramics like concrete and mix asphalt concrete, very strong metals like aluminum and steel, and polymers comprising of the polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and carbon fibers as well.

Additionally, Material engineering comprises the defense and deterrence. The process of alloying comprises two kinds of metals to create another metal with anticipated characteristics. It comprises of nanoscience and nanotechnology. The materials engineering is at the vanguard of academic research. It is also an essential part of forensic engineering and failure analysis as well.

Coastal engineering

Coastal engineering is basically apprehensive of the proper management of the coastal areas. In some authorities, the terms coastal protection and sea defense refers to the defense and protection against calamities flooding and erosion. However, the term coastal defense is the more conventional term, but the term coastal management has become more widespread since the field has stretched to methods that permit erosions to claim land.

Forensic Engineering

Forensic engineering refers to the examination of materials, items, structures or segments that come up short or don’t work or capacity as planned, bringing on individual harm or harm to property. The outcomes of disappointment are managed by the law of item risk. The field additionally manages retracting procedures and systems prompting to mischances in operation of vehicles or hardware. The subject is connected most normally in common civil law cases, in spite of the fact that it might be useful in criminal law cases. For the most part the reason for a Forensic designing examination is to find bring about or reasons for failures with a view to enhance execution or life of a segment, or to help a court in deciding the realities of a mischance. It can likewise include examination of licensed innovation claims, particularly licenses.

Control engineering

Control engineering (or control frameworks engineering) is the branch of structural designing subject that applies control theory to outline frameworks with anticipated practices. The practice utilizes sensors to gauge the yield execution of the gadget being controlled (frequently a vehicle) and those estimations can be utilized to offer criticism to the info actuators that can make rectifications toward craved execution. At the point when a gadget is intended to perform without the need of human contributions for accuracy it is known as automatic control, (for example, cruise control for managing an auto’s speed). Its nature is multidisciplinary, thus control frameworks engineering exercises concentrate on usage of control frameworks for the most part determined by mathematical modelling of systems of assorted range.