What is a Civil Engineering Project?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A civil engineering project is a project which involves the construction and renovation of a structure or significant alteration in the environment. An example of a built civil engineering project might be a hydroelectric dam which is used to generate power which providing flood and irrigation control, while an environmental alteration might involve beach nourishment to protect a coastline. While many people link the discipline of civil engineering with public works projects, civil engineering projects can also take place in the private sector, as when a firm constructs a major office tower or when a homeowner requests the services of an engineering company to repair damage caused by a natural disaster.

A wind farm, a type of civil engineering project.
A wind farm, a type of civil engineering project.

Civil engineering projects are taking place on a very diverse scale all over the world. Some examples of civil engineering projects include: updating a city's sewage processing system to accommodate a growing population, building a canal, constructing a bridge, widening a roadway, wetlands restoration, and earthquake retrofitting of private homes so that they will meet local building codes. There are many disciplines within the very broad field of civil engineering, and projects also typically involve input from other experts as well as a civil engineer, with an engineering firm supervising the civil engineering project to ensure that it is done correctly.

Wetland restoration is one type of civil engineering project.
Wetland restoration is one type of civil engineering project.

The term “civil engineering” was coined to differentiate this very old branch of the field of engineering from the even older military engineering, which involved the application of math and science to military problems. Developing earthworks to serve as fortifications is an example of military engineering, for example, while creating earth walls to contain livestock falls under the purview of civil engineering. Some notable civil engineering projects such as the Great Pyramids, the Parthenon, and the Great Wall of China have lasted for thousands of years.

A ship going through a lock at the Three Gorges Dam. Civil engineers design and help build public structures like dams.
A ship going through a lock at the Three Gorges Dam. Civil engineers design and help build public structures like dams.

Civil engineering utilizes math and science to serve the human population in some way. Civil engineers are very concerned with the safety and efficiency of every civil engineering project, and they are also engaged in making projects which are designed to be lasting, which means that they must be flexible enough to accommodate changing usage needs in addition to being very sturdy and built to meet or exceed safety requirements.

A civil engineer might help build dams, bridges, or roads.
A civil engineer might help build dams, bridges, or roads.

A civil engineering project can involve starting from scratch to meet a need or solve a problem, as when civil engineers construct a wind farm which is used to generate renewable energy. It can also involve renovating, retrofitting, and updating existing projects to address changing uses and damage, in addition to correcting or fixing structures which were built with techniques now deemed outdated, or which failed due to faulty construction.

The Great Pyramids of Egypt were an ancient civil engineering project.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt were an ancient civil engineering project.
The Greek Parthenon has lasted thousands of years.
The Greek Parthenon has lasted thousands of years.
Building new traffic tunnels is a fairly common civil engineering project.
Building new traffic tunnels is a fairly common civil engineering project.
Immense research and planning goes into every civil engineering project.
Immense research and planning goes into every civil engineering project.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

tlcJPC

@Agni3 - I don't know...I hope if we leave anything at all it's something really grand. But, be our luck, it'll be a porta potty or something. Nah, just kidding. I think that the Blue Ridge Parkway would be a cool civil engineering legacy to leave behind.

I wonder, how does one become a civil engineer? Do you have to be good at math and science or is one enough?

Agni3

That is pretty awesome! Who new that the pyramids and all were outcomes of civil engineering projects? I never thought about it that way - you know, being able to use math and science to make some pretty wonderful structures that could last over thousands of years. Wonder what we might leave behind?

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