Civil Engineering has been evolving and developing just as the human race has over the many thousands of years. From Cavemen crossing rivers with the use of felled tree trunks, to using caves to provide shelter and protection from harsh weathers and environments.
Civil Engineering developed due to the abandonment of a nomadic lifestyle for humans between 4000 and 2000 BC. As humans were no longer travelling the requirements for shelter and its construction soon became apparent. Transportation of goods thus also became crucial to development hence the further development of the wheel and mechanisms that streamline the process of travelling via water arose. During this period Civils roles were carried out by carpenters, stonemasons, artisans, and master builders with knowledge held within a guild.
Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer Archimedes is one of the earliest examples of someone who pulled together various fields of knowledge applicable to Civil Engineering through “The Archimedes Principle” focused on Buoyancy. Early notable feats of Civil Engineering include The Great Wall of China, The Pyramids of Giza, Mesoamerican pyramids and the Parthenon by Iktinos in the Ancient Greece.
The term Civil Engineering in itself is relatively new. It was not until the 18th Century that the term Civil Engineering was coined and the reason for this was to distinguish it from military engineering. Civil Engineering referred to civilian life such a roads, bridges and public buildings. The National School of Bridges and Highways opened in 1747 in France. This was the first school of Engineering!
John Smeaton is the first self-proclaimed Civil Engineer. He constructed the Eddystone Lighthouse for example. Smeaton and a collection of his colleagues created the “Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers”. However, this ended up becoming more of a social society as opposed to academic. It was not until 1818 when the Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in London, creating the world’s first engineering society. 10 years after its creation I.C.E. received a Royal charter thus formally recognising Civil Engineering as a profession.
Present Day and Future
Civil Engineering in the modern day and age encompasses many different facets of the Engineering sector including and not limited to: Construction Engineering, Transportation Engineering, Water Resource Engineering, Earthquake Engineering and Environmental Engineering. It is all around us from our hospitals and schools to motorways and runways hence why it is so crucial.
The Future of Civil Engineering
Throughout history cities were built with three things in mind: how easy they were to defend, accessible fresh water, and convenience for trading. In comparison, modern cities have additional factors to consider such as how reliable and renewable the energy sources are that they use. As well as the efficiency of transport, sewerage systems and communications networks. This opens a challenge for Civil Engineers. They need to be able to provide infrastructure solutions and services whilst ensuring that they are still providing a pleasant place to live.
By 2050 it is estimated that more than 70% of the total world population will live in cities. With population growth, expecting to hit 8 billion alone by 2023, building cities from scratch will undoubtedly be the way forward. The first tangible example of this is currently happening in South Korea as they work on the construction of their new city “Sondogo” which focuses on the integration of new technologies with urban planning and development.
Another exciting example of this is in Africa, specifically Nigeria. Developers in Lagos have dredged the Atlantic Ocean in parts in order to create an island from scratch. The island called “Eko Atlantic” is to become the financial hub of the African continent in which they describe their vision as so: “Standing on 10 million square metres of land reclaimed from the ocean and protected by an 8.5 kilometre long sea wall, Eko Atlantic will be the size of Manhattan’s skyscraper district. Self-sufficient and sustainable, it includes state-of-the-art urban design, its own power generation, clean water, advanced telecommunications, spacious roads, and tree-lined streets.” Here we can see how Civil Engineers are crucial for the future of an ever-growing population.