Over the past few decades, vast changes in developed and developing nations have spurred new trends within the field of civil engineering. In particular, rapidly growing economies and increased efforts toward sustainability have become critical for many project managers and engineers. For those within the field, it’s important to stay abreast of these advancements in order to enhance their skills and knowledge within the civil engineering industry.
Building Energy Conservation
Many cities and government organizations across the globe have made sustainable energy a priority in the interest of energy conservation and minimizing the environmental impacts of civil engineering projects. This progressive ideology is a major factor for many project initiatives and is of particular importance for those within the field of civil engineering. The concept focuses on designs that limit energy usage and reduce environmental impact, as well as conserving resources and revenues. Many building energy conservation projects make use of solar energy for heating and electricity to eliminate the need for fossil fuels and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels, such as landfill gas, is also a common approach to many of these efforts.
One example of a large-scale project that utilizes building energy conservation strategies is One Angel Square in Manchester, England. The facility conserves thermal energy using a heat recovery system and utilizes an innovative rainwater recycling process. The building project sets the tone for similar, large-scale projects to help the global society move toward sustainable infrastructure in the future.
The green building trend incorporates the building energy conservation approach along with prioritizing sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives. These include conservation of the raw materials used in the building process and strategic approaches to building locations that minimize the project’s impact on local ecosystems. Conceptual design of these projects accounts for positioning of the building to maximize the utilization of sunlight for lighting and heating purposes, as well as seasonally and regionally appropriate energy sources such as wind, water, and biofuel. Green building projects may also feature raw materials, such as bamboo for floors or drywall from recycled materials, which are chosen based on their eco-friendly nature and reusability.
Green building also promotes the reduction of building waste by designing and implementing a process for recycling leftover raw materials when construction (or destruction) is complete. In Los Altos, California, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters is one example of these energy and raw material conservation methods. For this building, civil engineers have developed a rainwater collection system for irrigation and water for its bathroom plumbing, while also maximizing sunlight and utilizing solar panels. In addition, well over ninety percent of the building was constructed from recycled raw materials from demolished structures.
Water Resource Engineering
Water resource engineering emerged in large part due to the increasing frequency of water crises around the world. The process entails new and innovative approaches to the design and construction of water resources and water facilities geared toward effectively maintaining a sustainable supply of clean, safe drinking water. Projects often include improving designs to water treatment facilities, wells and other water resources to both minimize water loss and ensure water safety in addition to watershed development and maintenance, wastewater management, and recycling.
Another aspect of water resource engineering involves preventative maintenance and design to avoid financial and human loss due to flooding and natural disasters. In Andhra Pradesh, India, the Water Sector Improvement Project, which seeks to improve their water infrastructure, is nearing its end in 2018. This project was backed by the World Bank beginning in 2010 and has helped improve irrigation practices and enabled the government to better manage the water resources. Canals and dams are also currently being improved to help modernize the country’s water infrastructure to provide water to certain regions that have had little or no access to water.
Another trend in civil engineering is in the geotechnical sphere and involves the process of evaluating soil and rock properties to determine the suitability of conditions for building structural foundations. Potential projects that rely on geotechnical expertise include bridges, reservoirs, skyscrapers, roads, and tunnels. Another key facet of the evaluation of building sites is determining risk factors involved with geographical hazards like sinkholes, earthquakes, and other potential natural disasters. This process typically consists of the assessment of structural and chemical properties of soil and rock.
The geotechnical engineering process also includes improving conditions of soil and rock structures to sustain infrastructure and prevent the effects of erosion. Burgess & Niple’s Buechel Basin, located in Louisville, Kentucky, is an example of using geotechnical engineering to inform site analysis and design. The project was initiated to solve the problem of sewage overflow during heavy rains due to lack of storage space. The analysis allowed for improvements to the designs of wet weather storage basins and other structures at several sites to complete the largest and most cost-effective storage facility in the state.
Municipal engineering encompasses the construction of infrastructure specifically for urban centers. Populations worldwide have increased over the years, and the vast majority of people around the world continue to flock toward these urban centers. New design innovations and effective maintenance of existing infrastructure are critical in these growing urban hubs. Municipal engineering is the overall coordination of all urban infrastructure, from the construction of sidewalks and roads to the effective disposal of waste. In the coastal town of Oak Island, North Carolina, the Cape Fear Engineering Company worked with the city and contractors to expand the town’s municipal sewage system. Their efforts allowed service to be extended to areas that had previously relied on septic systems by installing sewer lines, vacuum systems, and pump stations. The project, which required a great deal of accuracy and flexibility, was ultimately a success. These five civil engineering trends are emerging on a global scale as the need for responsible and sustainable infrastructures continue to grow. Whether it’s developing green architecture or constructing the infrastructure for urban centers, the latest trends in civil engineering can provide civil engineers with new strategies and methods for solving both short- and long-term social and environmental challenges of the coming decades.
As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.
Norwich University offers exceptional opportunities to help advance your knowledge, target your skills, and gain greater proficiency as a professional civil engineer. The online Master of Civil Engineering program at Norwich University is designed to enhance your technical knowledge, management skills and engineering competence by delivering a modern, practice-orientated education that fosters creativity and critical thinking for problem-solving and innovation.
Energy Conservation in Public Buildings, Energy.gov
Green architecture, Encyclopaedia Britannica
Environmentally Friendly Building and Remodeling Materials, Better Homes & Gardens
26 of the most powerful female engineers in 2016, Business Insider
Buechel Basin Wastewater Storage Facility, Burgess & Niple