Civil engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with the design and construction of large-scale buildings, roads, bridges and other structures. It is a broad field that encompasses many different specialties, each with its own unique set of skills and responsibilities. These civil engineers oversee a construction project from start to finish, coordinating all the different professionals involved in that project, including architects, builders, electricians, plumbers and financiers. Much of construction management involves keeping risk to a minimum, focusing on safety and compliance with local, state and federal building codes.
The seven main fields of civil engineering are municipal and urban engineering, transportation engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, environmental engineering, water resources engineering and coastal engineering. Municipal and urban engineering deals with the design of basic municipal infrastructure, such as streets, sidewalks, sewers, street lighting and solid waste management. Engineers working in municipal and urban engineering may also be responsible for the design and maintenance of public parks and underground utility lines. All aspects of municipal public infrastructure, including waste collection networks and bridges, are influenced in some way by municipal and urban engineers.
Transportation engineering involves designing transportation systems such as roads, highways, and public transportation networks. The operation and maintenance of these transportation systems, as well as an understanding of traffic control systems, are also part of the responsibilities of a transportation engineer. Geotechnical engineering is a specialization that involves the study of rocks, soil and any artificial material that supports a system. The stability of the soil and rock on which a project is built, as well as their chemical composition, are the main considerations of the geotechnical engineering specialty.
Softer soils require different construction methods than harder terrain or rocks, and geotechnical engineers can prevent foundations from crumbling or damaging erosion caused by runoff patterns in a project's terrain. Structural engineering is another branch of civil engineering that includes all structural analysis and structure design. Structural engineers are responsible for analyzing and designing structures that can safely withstand loads and withstand stress and force. Their designs must meet all project specifications and meet all safety requirements.
Their structures must be able to withstand natural disasters, environmental conditions and meet design criteria and codes to ensure public safety. Environmental engineering is the branch of civil engineering that studies the effects of projects on the environment. Environmental engineers study and evaluate impacts on cultural resources, impacts of noise, threatened and endangered species, water quality, air quality, wetlands, and socio-economic impacts, to name a few. Its objective is to identify the environmental impacts of a project and suggest ways to eliminate or mitigate those impacts.
The objective of environmental engineering is to help develop a project that has the least impact on the natural environment. Water resources engineering focuses on the management of water resources for human use. This includes studying how water moves through pipes and channels through natural forces in physical science (hydraulics). Water resources engineers are responsible for designing systems for collecting water from rivers or lakes for drinking or irrigation purposes.
They also design systems for controlling floods or managing wastewater treatment plants. Coastal engineering is a specialization that focuses specifically on the creation of projects that sustain or improve the environment in which they exist. Many advances have been made in sustainability in recent years, including the use of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind or water, better insulation to reduce energy use, and plumbing fixtures that use less water, among other methods. Environmental engineers can also position buildings more sustainably to take advantage of natural lighting or solar energy harvesting, for example.
Civil engineers must have a broad set of skills beyond mathematics and science, including problem solving, decision-making, and leadership. The GTE program aims to train civil engineers who are experts in the study of the behavior of soils and rocks under the influence of load forces and soil-water interactions. After completing their undergraduate degrees, students can also choose to pursue graduate studies in their preferred area of specialization.