Historically, Civil Engineering is the oldest branch of engineering and dates back at least 5,000 years to the profession of “master builder” involving pyramids, temples and irrigation projects. Engineering has changed greatly since those days but the fundamental principles have stayed the same. Engineers solve people’s problems with applied science and innovation.
Today’s problems are more complex and the needs of current and future societies have created challenges for engineering unparalleled in our history. The use of electronic data collection methods and the application of computers has revolutionized the practice of Civil Engineering. To interpret and satisfy these needs, Civil Engineers currently direct the spending of more than one tenth of Canada’s gross national product, more than any other professional group. The Civil Engineer must deal with the human impact of engineering. Social, moral and legal issues concern us to a far greater degree than ever before.
Civil Engineering has become an extremely diverse field with many areas of application. A summary of the major fields follow:
Structural Engineering deals with the design and construction of all types of structures including buildings and bridges. Emphasis is placed on mechanics and the behaviour of materials.
Infrastructure Management and Construction
Infrastructure Management and Construction deals with project management, construction materials, construction engineering and building engineering.
Water and Waste Management Engineering
Water and Waste Management Engineering addresses water and waste water treatment, surface and ground water pollution and control, solid and hazardous waste management, contaminant transport and behaviour in the environment. Support areas involving aquatic chemistry, computer modeling, simulation and laboratory experimentation as examples are also stressed.
Transportation Engineering deals with the planning, design, construction, traffic operation and evaluation of streets, highways, airports, and transit systems.
Geotechnical Engineering covers the engineering properties of soils, the fundamentals of soil mechanics, and the application of geotechnical data and fundamentals to the design of foundation elements, earth-retaining structures, excavations, earth embankments and highway pavements.
Engineering Mechanics deals with the rigorous study of mechanics, applied mathematics and related fields. This leads to an understanding of advanced analysis and leads to study in structural engineering, hydraulics, mechanics of solids and fluids, or properties of materials.
Experimental Mechanics involves the experimental investigations of the static and dynamic response of structures and machines, and in the development of improved techniques to obtain and analyze experimental data.
Water Resources Engineering
Water Resources Engineering covers the planning, management, design and operation of water supply and distribution systems, flood control and flood hazard mapping, hydrologic and hydraulic aspects of environmental issues, and application of remotely-sensed data to hydrologic and environmental problems.
Materials study involves structural engineering, mechanics or properties of materials and relates to materials science.
In addition, Civil Engineers often move outside traditional Civil Engineering fields. This translates into fields such as:
• Public Administration
• Management Science
• Business Administration
• Environmental Health
The Civil Engineer, regardless of whether she or he is a generalist or a specialist, draws heavily upon the work of the physical and social sciences, other professions and other branches of engineering. Moreover, as engineers have become involved in many interdisciplinary activities over the last decade, the job demarcation between boundaries of engineering has become much less restrictive. Certainly one of the advantages of completing a Civil Engineering program is that it allows professional registration while simultaneously providing a basis for further study and professional development in a large variety of specialized fields.