What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

From the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt, to the Great Wall of China, civil engineers have played an important role in creating the world we know. 


Civil engineers design, construct and maintain the civil infrastructure that allows us to live in our homes without fear of our roof caving in, drive on our roads without 24/7 gridlock and sinkholes, and go up the 27th floor of a building, never doubting that the building won’t faceplant onto the city below it. These engineers are a vital part of the bedrock on which modern society is built.


What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is one of the oldest branches of engineering but it’s a broad field that includes several sub-disciplines. Civil engineers use physics and scientific principles to solve problems related to the building of structures, how they interact with the earth, and how they are influenced by natural forces like earthquakes and hurricanes.


With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that civil engineers specialise in a wide range of sub-disciplines focusing on different aspects of the construction process. Geotechnical, structural and environmental engineers are some examples of the civil engineering disciplines. As are transport, coastal, forensic, materials science, municipal and water resources (hydraulic) engineers. And that doesn’t even name all of them! 


What do civil engineers design and build?

Civil engineers design and build everything from bridges to skyscrapers. Structures like bridges are designed to carry vehicles safely across rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. Buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and other disasters. Roads are designed to move people safely and efficiently from place to place. Infrastructure like dams are designed to store water and prevent flooding. Tunnels are designed to transport people and goods underground. The list goes on.


What tools do civil engineers use to do their job?

Civil engineers use computers, drafting tables, measuring instruments, and other equipment to plan, design, and construct large-scale projects. They also use software programs to analyse data and make important decisions. 

Since most of the structures designed by civil engineers are pretty big, they can’t build life-size prototypes of their projects, but they may build smaller scaled-down models or use 3D computer modeling software to visualise how a construction might behave in reality. Today’s software is very advanced and is able to simulate real-world scenarios like earthquakes, extreme weather, and more.


How has civil engineering shaped our world?

Civil engineering has been used since ancient times to build cities, temples, pyramids, and other structures. In the Middle Ages, civil engineers were responsible for building cathedrals, castles, and fortifications. During the Industrial Revolution, civil engineers designed factories, railroads, and highways. Today, civil engineers continue to improve transportation systems, power plants, water treatment facilities, and other infrastructure.


How will civil engineering influence our future?

As technology continues to advance, so too will the field of civil engineering. New technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence will allow us to build more complex structures than ever before. These new technologies will also make construction safer and less expensive.

We’re involved with a wide range of civil engineering projects at Lithon. Find out more about how our civil engineering services can help you in your next project.