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Introduction to Civil Engineering


What is Civil Engineering?

Civil Engineering is the broadest of the engineering disciplines; it deals with planning, designing, constructing and maintaining a sustainable infrastructure.

Civil Engineering is an umbrella discipline comprised of the following specialized areas:

Structural Engineering
Geotechnical Engineering
Construction Engineering and Management
Transportation Engineering
Environment & Water Resources Engineering

Structural Engineering

Structural Engineers plan, design, and build structures of all types. Such as:

  • Industrial, storage and research facilities
  • Office buildings, apartments and houses
  • Sports and Recreational Facilities
  • Bridges, dams, tunnels, water towers and light houses
  • Roller-coasters, Powerline towers, etc.

As structures become more complex, the structural engineer must find creative solutions to optimize design and building integrity. They must identify and analyze problems to develop innovative solutions while considering building materials, earthquake resistance and aerodynamics. The modern structural engineer must often consider the rehabilitation and maintenance of structures, as well as energy efficiency.

Structural engineers are also branching into non-typical areas, such as designing aircraft, spacecraft and biomedical devices.

Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical Engineers are concerned with the properties and behaviour of soil and rock, flow of groundwater, as well as stability and settlement/deformation characteristics of slopes, retaining walls, and foundations.

The importance of geotechnical engineering cannot be overstated, given that all structures are supported or interact with the surface of the earth.

Many structural and geotechnical engineers work as part of design teams, become project managers and policy makers; often establishing their own companies.



Construction Engineering & Management

Construction is one of the largest industries in Canada.  Construction engineers and managers work in different organizations such as construction management firms, general contractors, specialty contractors, design-builders, consulting engineers, and architects and they may deal with residential, commercial, industrial, or heavy construction projects.

Construction engineers and managers are also employed in various capacities representing project owners, design professionals, constructors, suppliers, regulators, and other stakeholders involved with construction

Transportation Engineering

This discipline of engineering is largely concerned with road transportation, particularly within North America, as well as the design of non-road tansportation facilities, such as: rail and subway systems, airports, and shipping ports.

With increasing emphasis on sustainability, the design of pedestrian ways and bicycle paths has been receiving increasing attention.

The importance of transportation engineering is reflected by the fact that a well developed transportation network is vital to the health of the economy.

Environmental & Water Resources Engineering

Environmental Engineering combines scientific principles, computer modelling and aspects of public policy to create practical solutions for improving the quality of our air, water and soil.

Environmental engineers work within a multi-disciplinary context to design systems that minimize the use of materials, energy and water to maximize the protection of our natural ecosystems as we build our communities.

The need for environmental engineers has never been greater. Increasing population, deteriorating municipal infrastructure, climate change and stressed ecosystems all add up to a complex set of challenges and opportunities for environmental engineers.