Civil Engineering

Class notes

About Civil Engineering specialized fields

About Civil Engineering specialized fields

Civil engineering includes the planning, designing, construction, and maintenance of structures and altering geography to suit human needs.

Among the numerous fields in civil engineering we can mention: transportation (railroad facilities and highways); hydraulics (river control, irrigation, swamp draining, water supply, and sewage disposal); and structures (buildings, bridges, and tunnels).

Civil Engineering fields also include the following specializations:

  • Structural engineering

  • Geotechnical engineering

  • Environmental engineering

  • Transportation engineering

  • Construction engineering

  • Earthquake engineering

  • Environmental engineering

  • Geotechnical engineering

  • Water resources engineering

  • Materials engineering

  • Structural engineering

  • Transportation engineering

What is Civil Engineering and what does a civil engineer do?

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering involves the planning, designing laying out and constructing of buildings, railroads, highways, bridges, tunnels. They also work closely with architects and environmental engineers.

What does a Civil Engineer do?

Since civil engineering is very broad, civil engineering jobs are dependent on each chosen specialization taken by the engineer at University.

For civil engineering specializations there are usually three functions that are performed by the civil engineer:

  • The planning ( includes feasibility studies and designs)

  • Pre development (actually working on site making sure safety and all procedures are being followed correctly)

  • Post development

Environmental Engineering (Part II)

Environmental Engineering (Part II)

Recognition at about this time that water supplies, disease, and disposal of human waste were interconnected led to the requirement that used water and excrement be discharged to sewers. In 1850, a member of the Sanitary Commission of Massachusetts, Lemuel Shattuck, reported the relationship between water supply, sewers, and health. He recommended the formation of a State Board of Health, which would include a civil engineer, a chemist or physicist, two physicians, and two others. During this time, a French chemist by the name of Louis Pasteur was initiating research that was to found the field of bacteriology and connect bacteria with disease. In addition, Pasteur was to demonstrate the benefits of utilizing bacteria in industrial processes. The use of bacteria to stabilize municipal waste was coming to the fore.

In 1887, the Massachusetts State Board of Health established an experiment station at Lawrence for investigating water treatment and water pollution control. This station was similar to others that had been established in England and Germany and was the forerunner of eight others established throughout the U.S. Topics investigated were primary wastewater treatment, secondary treatment via trickling filters, and activated sludge.

As the population of the U.S. and the world continues to grow, greater demand is being placed on our natural resources. What were once adequate treatment and disposal methods now require far greater levels of cleanup before waste is discharged to water courses, the atmosphere, or onto the land. In essence, water, air, and land are no longer free economic goods, as has been assumed for so many years. The cost of using water, air, and land resources is the cleanup cost prior to their return to the environment.

Environmental Engineering (Part I)

Environmental Engineering (Part I)

During the evolution of the world, the water, air, and land resources available to our forefathers were immeasurably vast. So vast, in fact, that they appeared to be of infinite proportions, and their use and consumption were taken for granted. However, as the population grew, it became clear that these resources, particularly a clean and abundant water supply, were not infinite and, in some cases, not even available. A case in point is the water supply problem that confronted New York almost from its inception. A visitor to New York in 1748 declared, “There is no good water to be met within the town itself”. In 1774, the city authorized a water system, but it was not until 1841, when the Croton Aqueduct was completed, that New Yorkers could experience cool, clean water for drinking, bath, and fire fighting. They could even dream about the luxury of indoor plumbing. Four years prior to 1841, a son was born to a humble British family in the Yorkshire town of Thorne, who was to make a major contribution regarding the handling of human waste products. The child’s name was Thomas Crapper.. Crapper was an entrepreneurial sanitary engineer and the inventor of many improvements to indoor flush toilets.

By 1840, there were only 83 public water supplies in the U.S., but the demand was growing, and by 1870, there were 243. With these burgeoning public water supplies came the need to consider the disposal of the “used” water. In Europe during the Middle Ages, people simply threw their excreta out the window. Word has it that some sport was involved in this process involving the passersby in the street below.

Basic Functions of Construction Engineering

Basic Functions of Construction Engineering

The activities involved in the construction engineering for projects include the following basic functions:

Cost engineering

The cost estimating, cost accounting, and cost-control activities related to a project, plus the development of cost databases.

Project planning and scheduling

The development of initial project plans and schedules, project monitoring and updating, and the development of as-built project schedules.

Equipment planning and management

The selection of needed equipment for projects, productivity planning to accomplish the project with the selected equipment in the required project schedule and estimate, and the management of the equipment fleet.

Design of temporary structures

The design of temporary structures required for the construction of the project, such as concrete formwork, scaffolding, shoring, and bracing.

Contract management

The management of the activities of the project to comply with contract provisions and document contract changes and to minimize contract disputes.

Human resource management

The selection, training, and supervision of the personnel needed to complete the project work within schedule.

Project safety

The establishment of safe working practices and conditions for the project, the communication of these safety requirements to all project personnel, the maintenance of safety records, and the enforcement of these requirements.

Innovations in Construction

There are several innovative developments in technological tools that have been implemented or are being considered for implementation for construction projects. New tools such as CAD systems, expert systems, bar coding, and automated equipment offer excellent potential for improved productivity and cost effectiveness in industry. Companies who ignore these new technologies will have difficulty competing in the future.

Goals of Project Management

Goals of Project Management

Regardless of the project, most construction teams have the same performance goals:


Complete the project within the cost budget, including the budgeted costs of all change orders.


Complete the project by the scheduled completion date or within the allowance for work days.


Perform all work on the project, meeting or exceeding the project plans and specifications.


Complete the project with zero lost-time accidents.


Resolve disputes at the lowest practical level and have zero disputes.

Project start up

Successfully start up the completed project (by the owner) with zero rework.

Construction Contracts

Construction Contracts

Construction projects are done under a variety of contract arrangements for each of the parties involved. They range from a single contract for a single element of the project to a single contract for the whole project, including the financing, design, construction, and operation of the facility. Typical contract types include lump sum, unit price, cost plus, and construction management.

These contract systems can be used with either the competitive bidding process or with negotiated processes. A contract system becoming more popular with owners is design-build, in which all of the responsibilities can be placed with one party for the owner to deal with. Each type of contract impacts the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties on a project. It also impacts the management functions to be carried out by the contractor on the project, especially the cost engineering function.

A major development in business relationships in the construction industry is partnering. Partnering is an approach to conducting business that confronts the economic and technological challenges in industry in the 21st century. This new approach focuses on making long-term commitments with mutual goals for all parties involved to achieve mutual success. It requires changing traditional relationships to a shared culture without regard to normal organizational boundaries. Participants seek to avoid the adversarial problems typical for many business ventures. Most of all, a relationship must be based upon trust. Although partnering in its pure form relates to a long-term business relationship for multiple projects, many single- project partnering relationships have been developed, primarily for public owner projects. Partnering is an excellent vehicle to attain improved quality on construction projects and to avoid serious conflicts. Partnering is not to be construed as a legal partnership with the associated joint liability. Great care should be taken to make this point clear to all parties involved in a partnering relationship.

Partnering is not a quick fix or panacea to be applied to all relationships. It requires total commitment, proper conditions, and the right chemistry between organizations for it to thrive and prosper. The relationship is based upon trust, dedication to common goals, and an understanding of each other’s individual expectations and values. The partnering concept is intended to accentuate the strength of each partner and will be unable to overcome fundamental company weaknesses; in fact, weaknesses may be magnified. Expected benefits include improved efficiency and cost effectiveness, increased opportunity for innovation, and the continuous improvement of quality products and services. It can be used by either large or small businesses, and it can be used for either large or small projects. Relationships can develop among all participants in construction: owner-contractor, owner-supplier, contractor-supplier, contractor-contractor. (Contractor refers to either a design firm or a construction company.)