The work of civil engineers is all around us – we experience it as we drive over a bridge, turn on a faucet, or even visit a public park. Although the field is critical to modern life, many people are unsure about what exactly a civil engineer does and why their work is so necessary. To help clarify, we at Carolina Services have composed a list of 7 things to know about civil engineering.
1. Definition: Simply put, civil engineering is a broad field of disciplines that are concerned with the design, construction, and maintenance of both public and privately owned structures. The goal is to create structures and systems that can withstand forces of nature and bear the load for which they are designed.
2. Applications: Civil engineering has a variety of applications such as designing and building roadways, public transportation routes, and structures to prevent coastal erosion. They are also tasked with the construction of business and residential buildings, determining the placement of sidewalks and sewer networks, the treatment of contaminated ecosystems, the collection and treatment of water, land surveying, and the engineering of materials such as concrete, steel, and polymers.
3. Factors that affect designs: Civil engineers consider both gravity forces (such as the weight of furniture and people on upper floors) and lateral forces (such as seismic activity). Topographical information and data about the geology of a site also affects how an engineer will design the foundation of a structure.
4. How it differs from architecture: Although the two are similar and often overlap, an architect is typically more concerned with the aesthetics of a design, while a civil engineer’s primary goal is the ability of a structure to withstand a variety of conditions. An engineer will often ensure the practicality of an architect’s design and that materials used in the construction of a building have the appropriate characteristics.
5. The significance of land surveying: Civil engineers can perform topographic, cadastral, and city surveys. As mentioned above, topographic surveys inform the engineer on how to design the foundation of a structure. Topographic surveys also prevent structures from being built in areas at high risk for flooding or extreme seismic activity. Cadastral surveying refers to property boundaries, thus preventing legal disputes, and city surveying ensures that any new structure will be able to connect to the street and water and sewage lines.
6. Civil engineers provide an unique and crucial service: Private business owners may underestimate the necessity of using a civil engineer when beginning a construction project and may rely on the work of an architect and contractor to perform this role. However, the education, examination, and necessary experience required before an engineer becomes a licensed professional equips them to address the stresses a structure will face far more thoroughly than a contractor or architect. They are also uniquely trained to complete tasks most efficiently.
7. Hiring a civil engineer is very affordable: One of the most important things to know about civil engineering is just how affordable it can be! Information provided by the 1996 Means Construction Cost Index suggests that civil engineer fees typically account for only 1% – 3% of total construction costs. Furthermore, hiring an engineer initially can prevent business owners from having to make costly repairs down the road.
At Carolina Services, Inc. we are proud to offer civil engineering services. Contact us today for more information on the role of a civil engineer and how we can help build your business safely and efficiently.
Photo courtesy of: James Willamor