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Civil engineering
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Civil engineering

In modern usage, civil engineering is a broad field of engineering that deals with the planning, construction, and maintenance of fixed structures as they related to earth, water, or civilization and their processes. Most civil engineering today deals with roads, structures, water supply, sewer, flood control, or traffic.

Engineering has developed from observations of the ways natural and manmade systems react and from the development of empirical equations that provide bases for design. Civil engineering is the broadest of the engineering fields. In fact engineering was once divided into only two fields--military and civil. All the engineering specialties have derived from civil engineering. Civil engineering is still an umbrella field comprised of many related specialities.

Sub-disciplines of civil engineering

General civil engineering

General civil engineering is concerned with the overall interface of fixed projects with the greater world. General civil engineers work closely with surveyors and specialized civil engineers to fit and serve fixed projects within their given site, community and terrain by designing grading, drainage (flood control), paving, water supply, sewer service, electric and communications supply and land (real property) divisions. General engineers spend much of their time visiting project sites, developing community/neighborhood consensus, and preparing construction plans.

Structural engineering

Structural engineering is concerned with the design of bridges, buildings, offshore oil platforms, dams etc. Structural design and structural analysis are components of structural engineering and a key component in the structural design process. This involves computing the stresses and forces at work within a structure. There are some structural engineers who work in non-typical areas, designing aircraft, spacecraft and even biomedical devices.

Geotechnical engineering

Supporting structural engineering is the field of geotechnical engineering. The importance of geotechnical engineering can hardly be overstated: buildings must be connected to the ground. Geotechnical engineering is concerned with soil properties, foundations, footings, soil-structure interaction and soil dynamics.

Transportation engineering

Transportation engineering is concerned with queueing theory and traffic flow planning, roadway geometric design and driver behavior patterns. Simulation of traffic operation is performed through use of trip generation, traffic assignment algorithims which can be highly complex computational problems.

Environmental engineering

Environmental engineering deals with the treatment of chemical, biological, and/or thermal waste, the purification of water and air, and the remediation of sites impacted by prior waste disposal. Among the topics covered by environmental engineering are water purification, sewage treatment, and hazardous waste management. Environmental engineering is related to the fields of hydrology, geohydrology and meteorology insofar as knowledge of water and flows are required to understand pollutant transport. Environmental engineers are also involved in pollution reduction, green engineering and industrial ecology.

Environmental engineering is the modern term for Sanitary engineering. Some other terms in use are public health engineering and environmental health engineering.

Hydraulic engineering

Hydraulic engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water. This area of engineering is, of course, intimately related to the design of bridges, dams, channels, canals, and levees, and to both sanitary and environmental engineering.

Construction engineering

Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers.

Material Science

Civil engineering also includes material science. Engineering materials include concrete, steel and recently, polymers and ceramics with potential engineering application.


A popular misconception is that civil engineering is far from the exciting frontiers in mathematics and computer science. In actuality, much of what is now computer science was driven by work in civil engineering, where structural and network analysis problems required parallel computations and development of advanced algorithms.

There are also civil engineers who work in the area of safety engineering, applying probabilistic methods to structural design, safety analysis and even estimates of insurance losses due to natural and man-made hazards.

See also