Tuesday, 8 April 2008

What is civil engineering?

Not many people know much about civil engineers and what they do. They might know that they build bridges and tall buildings but they rarely appreciate exactly how much our lives - and civilisation itself - depends on civil engineering. Much of it we think about - either because we can't see it, or because it works so well we take it for granted.

At the most basic level civil engineering is about providing people with clean water, shelter and sanitation. These things are fundamental to human life and arguably civil engineers have saved more lives than the medical profession.

...but it's more than just that. Civil engineering covers a huge array of disciplines as this video from the Institution of Civil Engineers shows.

You might be thinking, "but what has this got to do with timber?" Well quite a lot as it happens. Timber is one of the few renewable building materials and it becoming increasingly important for larger construction projects as well as for building homes. For this reason, civil engineering degrees are now more likely to include timber as well as steel and concrete (especially the courses we run at Napier). But civil engineering is also needed to create and maintain forests, to prepare the ground, ensure the right amount of water in the soil, and to provide access roads and bridges. In fact, if you've not watched the firrs DVD, you might be surprised to learn that the Forestry Commission employs civil engineers.