What is Civil Engineering?

Eiffel Tower, 1900, Paris, France

Civil engineering is the oldest and broadest engineering discipline among all the engineering fields. The field deals with the planning, designing, and construction of buildings and various other structures. From huge dams to sky high buildings, from suspension bridges to offshore drilling platforms, every physical concrete structure comes under civil engineering.

The usage of civil engineering dates back to the ancient times. Most of the seven wonders, including Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal, are the creation of flawless civil engineering skills. Some of the world’s oldest civilizations such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro are also the product of immaculate civil engineering. After all, how can one ignore the magnificent architecture of Rome’s Coliseum or the unique design of the great Eiffel tower?

Sub-Branches of Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is the most diverse field of all the engineering branches. Technically speaking, civil engineering is the creator of the whole world’s infrastructure. Structures such as tunnels, dams, sewers, bridges, highways, canals, industrial plants, residential buildings, railway lines, airports etc come under the category of civil engineering. Moreover, as the population of the world increases and the technology becomes more advanced, the need for better infrastructure will increase around the world. Civil engineering continues to cater to these needs in all the sectors and aspects of human life.

The need for infrastructure has increased by leaps and bounds in each and every sector. In order to concentrate and manage the construction process in each sector, the field of civil engineering has been divided into various sub-disciplines. This means that on the basis of applications, the stream of civil engineering has been segregated into several branches to make the construction process easier and more manageable. Some of the main branches include – bridge engineering, construction engineering, coastal engineering, geotechnical engineering, environmental engineering, transportation engineering, surveying etc.

Application and Process

An ideal process of civil engineering will include the construction of a concrete structure right from the planning to the maintenance of the structure even after it is made. Civil engineers are the professionals who perform the functions involved in a construction process. They plan, design and analyze each and every part of the structure before starting the actual construction process. Designs of all the parts of the building along with precise specifications are drafted on drawing sheets prior to the construction process. A study of various forces that can act at each of the building corners is made and on the basis of that further modification in the design is done. Even the minutest corner of the planned structures is scrutinized to check the amount of stresses and strains that might arise when the structure is built or in the process of making. Apart from this, the structures are also provided with tolerance levels to adjust deviations due to wind, seismic activities, or natural calamities. These tolerances allow the building to resist the natural forces and thus stand strong without being impacted.

Thus civil engineering deals with setting up reliable structures with guaranteed longevity. Also, with an increase in awareness towards renewable sources of energy, the applications of civil engineering have also increased. Environmental engineering, a sub-branch of civil engineer, deals with constructing structures that have low impact on the environment and leave no carbon foot prints. Environmental engineering also deals with creating structures on both onshore and of shore sides in order to make efficient and environmentally friendly sources of energy. Some of these applications include various methods to purify the contaminated air and water, utilizing solar energy, generating fresh water, utilizing wind and water energy, and protecting the marine environment.

Civil engineering is becoming more and more diversified with the increase of applications. Moreover, the guidelines of constructing structures have also become more stringent, stressing issues such as human safety and resistance to natural and man-made calamities.


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