Civil engineering is one of the oldest and most established engineering disciplines. It deals with the design, construction and maintenance of both the man-made and naturally-built environment. It has many sub-disciplines, such as construction engineering, architectural engineering, environmental engineering, transportation engineering, geotechnical engineering, water resources engineering, quantity surveying and coastal engineering among others. Civil engineering projects include the design, construction and maintenance of: dams, highways, buildings, bridges, river diversions, tunnels, plumbing systems and railroads among others.
Engineering Design and Construction Process
As mentioned earlier, there are many sub-disciplines. When an idea of a construction project is conceptualized, it must first be developed by architects and detailed engineering schematics drawn. The next step is to have the plans approved by the client and financing pre-approved. An environmental impact assessment (EIA) must then be carried out to determine the possible effects, both positive and negative, of the project on the environment. This is usually a lengthy process and the biggest hurdle for any project.
If the project passes the EIA test, it moves to the next stage, which is identification of a suitable contractor for the job, hiring a project manager, funding and obtaining building permits from local authorities. Once the contractor has been hired, electrical, plumbing, carpentry and HVAC sub-contractors are identified and hired to help with the project.
Every project must have a licensed contractor, project approval number, project manager, project supervisor, subcontractors and EIA approval number. All these details must be clearly indicated on a visible project details board. While the contractor will be responsible for implementing the project, the project supervisor will be tasked with ensuring the construction works match the schematics or engineering plans.
Training of Civil Engineers
Civil engineers normally go through a 4 to 6-year training program before joining the profession. These courses are normally offered at local universities which only admit the brightest students. These courses normally include classroom instruction and practicals. Any civil engineering course must cover basic engineering project management, quantity surveying, engineering drawing and design, basic architecture and construction technologies among other things. Before graduating, students must go on field attachment to get hands-on experience, which will help them choose an area to specialize on. This may be water engineering or structural engineering among others.
Upon graduating, graduate engineers must register with their professional body and work under a registered civil engineer for a certain period of time. During this period, the graduate engineer must handle at least one major engineering project. In some countries, there is usually a professional exam which graduate engineers must pass before being registered as professional engineers.
Civil engineers normally handle the design and supervisory roles but the actual civil works are handled by engineering technicians and craftsmen who either have a diploma or certificate in a relevant field. These professionals must work hand in hand with electricians and plumbers to ensure all the water, gas and drain pipes as well as electrical conduits are installed as the construction works continue. Every member of the construction team must fully understand their roles and perform their duties as required to ensure successful implementation of the project.