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Civil engineering is not all about fancy buildings – it is about maintaining vital infrastructure. When people think of famous civil engineers from the past, they think of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Joseph Bazalgette, the great engineer of the Victorian age who saved London from cholera by constructing new sewers.
Today, civil engineering is often associated with the world's most jaw-dropping structures, such as Sydney Opera House, the Shard and China's Jiaozhou Bay Bridge. But civil engineering is also about maintaining and adapting the infrastructure that people depend on every day - roads, railways and bridges, energy and water supply, waste networks, and flood defenses. Civil engineers have to keep this infrastructure running effectively and adapt it to meet challenges, such as population growth, climate change, and natural disasters.
There are two types of civil engineering roles: consultants who focus on design work and generally spend more time in the office or working with clients, and contractors who are more involved with keeping an eye on the physical construction and are usually based on-site. Both are challenging environments, and all civil engineers are required to be innovative and logical individuals. Other essential attributes civil engineers need include: creativity, versatility, a problem-solving mind, and the ability to understand the bigger picture and to collaborate with a number of other professionals.
Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education.
The duties of a civil engineer may typically include any or all of the following:
Civil engineers inspect projects to insure regulatory compliance. In addition, they are tasked with ensuring that safe work practices are followed at construction sites.
Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer, public works director, or city manager. Others work in design, construction, research, and education. Civil engineers work with other professionals on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians.
Civil engineers design, build, and maintain the foundation for modern society – from roads and bridges, drinking water and energy systems, to seaports and airports, and the infrastructure for a cleaner environment, to name just a few. Civil engineering touches people throughout their day. Think of a civil engineer when:
- Turning on the tap to take a shower or drink clean water.
- Flicking on the lights and opening the refrigerator.
- Driving to work on roads and bridges through synchronized traffic lights.
- Taking mass transit or taking a flight for a vacation.
Entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life, civil engineers serve competently, collaboratively, and ethically as master planners, designers, constructors, and operators of society's economic and social engine - the built environment. They are stewards of the natural environment and its resources; innovators and integrators of ideas and technology across the public, private, and academic sectors; managers of risk and uncertainty caused by natural events, accidents, and other threats. They also serve as leaders in discussions and decisions shaping public environmental and infrastructure policy.
Sustainability is an issue that The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) defines as a set of economic, environmental, and social conditions in which all of society has the capacity and opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely without degrading the quantity, quality, or the availability of economic, environmental, and social resources. Sustainable development is the application of these resources to enhance the safety, welfare, and quality of life for all of society. Civil engineers shall be committed to the following ASCE Principles of Sustainable Development.
ASCE supports the following steps to achieve a sustainable project:
The feasibility of restoration, or return of depleted resources, shall be evaluated by the civil engineer.
ASCE recognizes the leadership role of engineers in sustainable development and their responsibility to provide effective and innovative solutions in addressing the challenges of sustainability. The ASCE Code of Ethics requires civil engineers to strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties. ASCE works on a global scale to promote public recognition and understanding of the needs and opportunities for sustainable development.
RELEVANT CODES AND STANDARDS
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) - A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets
Department of Defense
- Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC)
- UFC 1-300-09N Navy and Marine Corps Design Procedures
- UFC 3-201-01 Civil Engineering
- UFC 3-210-10 Low Impact Development
- UFC 3-220-05 Dewatering and Groundwater Control
- UFC 3-230-01 Water Storage, Distribution, and Transmission
- UFC 3-230-03 Water Treatment
- UFC 3-240-01 Wastewater Collection
- UFC 3-240-02 Domestic Wastewater Treatment
- UFC 3-250-01 Pavement Design for Roads and Parking Areas
- UFC 3-250-03 Standard Practice Manual for Flexible Pavements
- UFC 3-250-04 Standard Practice for Concrete Pavements
- UFC 3-250-08FA Standard Practice for Sealing Joints and Cracks in Rigid and Flexible Pavements
- UFC 3-250-09FA Aggregate Surfaced Roads and Airfields Areas
- UFC 3-250-11 Soil Stabilization for Pavements
- UFC 3-260-01 Airfield and Heliport Planning and Design
- UFC 3-260-02 Pavement Design for Airfields
- UFC 3-260-03 Airfield Pavement Evaluation
International Code Council
Department of Justice
Department of Transportation
ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
- American National Standards Institute
- American Society for Testing and Materials
- The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
- American Water Works Association
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Great Lakes – Upper Mississippi River Board (GLUMRB)
- Recommended Standards for Water Works
- Recommended Standards for Wastewater Facilities