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Civil engineering is among the oldest professions in the world which mostly deals with designing, constructing and routine maintenance of built structures in our environment. Such structures include roads, dams and buildings so as to sustain the already built structures in order to increase their life span. Civil engineering as a profession has a wide array of fields which range from designing structures up to making the designs concrete through construction. The field of civil engineering creates opportunities for students to engage in a good number of careers whose foundation is based on civil engineering. This essay will be identifying civil engineering as a profession, careers in civil engineering, ethics involved and the nature of communication skills that are efficient in undertaking civil engineering competently.
The civil engineering profession
Civil engineering as a profession dates back to 2000BC when human beings in the Arab world decided to make shelters as opposed to sleeping in open areas. It was at this time when long distance trade was being established and transport machines had to be developed so as to facilitate the entire movement of man and his goods. During these ancient days, the responsibilities of architects had been merged with those of civil engineers and no distinct boundaries had been set between the two professions.
The early engineers are credited with the construction of Egyptian pyramids and immediately after the Romans constructed dams, roads and bridges hence marking the early days of the profession (Sherry, 1997).
However, it was not until the 18th century when the phrase civil engineering was introduced as a way of differentiating it from military engineering which was rampant at that time. Later on in the early 1800s, the Institute of Civil Engineers was formed by a group of civil engineers in London. This was the first professional body and the members coined a new definition of the profession as an art through which immense natural power sources are diverted towards making life more fulfilling for human beings (ICE, 2002).
In today’s world, civil engineering incorporates elements of physics and mathematics to create a wide range of structures. Mathematics is vital in civil engineering as measurements are used throughout while physics brings about a better understanding of the physical properties of materials used by engineers. For instance, the materials used to construct bridges are different from those used in buildings and only professions who understand physical concepts can establish the differences (Griggs, 1997).
For one to qualify as a professional civil engineer, they must undergo undergraduate studies with a bias in civil engineering. The Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Science degree often lasts for up to five years depending on the country and program. The units covered are wide ranging from design, mathematics, project management as well as communication skills. Generally the undergraduate programs are aimed at providing a basis of engineering with no specialization. However, upon completion of the undergraduate program, some universities have a provision for post graduate studies where specialization takes place (ICE, 2002).
Never the less, the undergraduate civil engineer is eligible to gain professional certification which is provided by the professional body that supervises the degree program. The certification allows the budding civil engineer to be recognized as a professional or chattered engineer hence permission to practice. Consequently, some countries have international civil engineering bodies that allow the professionals to practice across borders. A certified civil engineer is capable of undertaking numerous responsibilities which cannot be carried out by non-certified professionals. Such responsibilities include sealing deals that entail approving engineering activities for private or public organizations (Sherry, 1997).
Civil engineering careers
Some fields or professions have clear career paths paved out for young professionals. However, this is not the case with civil engineering as there is usually no definite route through which civil engineers should follow. Consequently, there are a number of areas in which civil engineers can specialize in after being in the field for some time. This shows that fresh civil engineering graduates cannot specialize immediately but rather they have to prove their competence in the area before being given full cognition as specialists in the area (Griggs, 1997).
Construction engineering is a career in civil engineering which involves designing and putting in reality the designs so as to develop structures. Construction engineering also involves development of hydraulic facilities, buildings and geotechnical features. The construction engineer often undertakes roles such as drafting the plan and determining the pricing of materials to be used until completion of the project (Oakes, Leone, & Gunn, 2001).
Environmental engineers on the other hand take up roles which are aimed at sustaining the environmental as a pollution free zone. This includes water purification, solid waste management and industrial ecology. Environmental or sanitation engineering incorporates studying the consequences of proposed environmental activities upon implementation in an area and their impact on the quality of life (ICE, 2002).
Some environmental engineers are involved in water resources engineering where management of water sources is dealt with exhaustively. Water resources engineering involves geologists and hydrologists who work together to collect water from natural sources. These professionals identify areas on the surface of the earth where water can be found and design ways of extracting the water. For instance, pipelines, culverts and aquifers and a specialty of the water resource engineers. Similarly, the construction of dams and irrigation systems are under the docket of hydraulic or water resource civil engineers (Sherry, 1997).
Geotechnical engineering is yet another career for civil engineers who handle rock and soil engineering. For instance, hydraulic or earthquake engineers have to developed an understanding of the nature of soil or rocks in an area before making any construction plans. Before dams are constructed, a geotechnical engineers has to specifically design walls which will support the weight of the water in relation to the type of soil in that area. This career is challenging as at times soils can demonstrate a variety of characteristics which may affect structures constructed in that area due to miscalculations (Oakes, 2001).
Structural engineering entails developing structures and analyzing their usage in relation to their impact on the lives of human beings working around them. These structures include towers, bridges and gas fields. Structural engineers often identify the nature and weight of loads whose pressure will be felt by the structure before designing the final plan. Bridges for instance should sustain loads being passed over them without exposing the users to any form of danger. Towers on the other hand should be as tall as possible and they should not be brought down by minimal natural or man made activities. A structural engineer should therefore ensure that each structure is not only sufficiently strong but also stable and aesthetic as well. Structural engineers are the brains behind some of the most scenic structures in the world for example the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol and the Burj Khalifa tower found in Dubai which is recognized as the world tallest tower in the world (Sherry, 1997).
Transportation engineering is another career in civil engineering where roads, airports and sea ways feature. Urban engineering falls under this field where engineers design and construct roads within urban areas under the jurisdiction of municipal authorities. The transport system is complex and each form of transport has a direct impact on the other hence coordination has to be established and sustained to prevent chaos. Traffic flow for instance has to be managed at a certain point such as roundabouts where street lights control vehicular movement (ICE, 2002).
Ethics in civil engineering
The code of ethics in civil engineering was developed by the Institute of Civil Engineers, a professional body that sets standards for beginners and practicing civil engineers. The professional body ensures that the status of engineers is sustained by making sure that all professionals safeguard the quality of work done by them and their colleagues. The Institute of Civil Engineers also provide materials and standards which are used by trainers in universities so that all civil engineering graduates are armed with details of the code of ethics way before they graduate (Griggs, 1997).
One of the ethical elements in civil engineering is the building code which applies to construction engineering where buildings and other structures are being made. This code protects the general public from any harm at the construction site and after the structure has been completed. As a licensed professional, the civil engineer has a right to cancel further construction if the building poses intense danger to constructers or individuals in the vicinity of the structure (ICE, 2002).
Some building codes of ethics regard fire so that the civil engineer has to avail sufficient fire exits incase the building or structure is burning. Similarly, evacuation exits should be positioned in places where the occupants of the structure can easily access. The other section of the building code calls for structures constructed to be resistant to natural calamities. These include tornadoes, floods and earthquakes so that areas that are prone to such catastrophes should not have extremely large or tall structures as these are at a higher risk of collapsing (Sherry, 1997).
Consequently, very tall buildings should be accurately marked with anti-collision markers which reduce crashing of aircraft on the structures. The civil engineer should take the initiative of including the markers in the design so that the constructor can incorporate it in the right place. Failure to include this feature will cause fatal accidents as low flying aircraft may fly through the building (ICE, 2002).
Material used for construction should be harmless in that they should not emit poisonous fumes that may harm occupants. The materials should also be strong enough to sustain the weight especially in bridge and dam construction. Some materials are known to wear and tear over time hence only those with a longer lifespan should be used in major structures especially those that will house large numbers of individuals. The soil or rocks in surrounding areas should be assessed before commencing the construction due to the ability of the building to collapse if the earth crumbles beneath (ICE, 2002).
Consequently, the building code states that requirements for special buildings should be adhered to before and during construction. For instance, buildings used to store inflammable products should not be constructed in the same way as residential buildings. The other requirement is dependent on the number of people who will be occupying the building. This is significant as a building with a higher occupancy rate should have more exists as a way of minimizing incidences incase of an emergency. The number of people occupying a building will also determine the nature of energy provision which will meet the needs of all occupants (Sherry, 1997).
Similarly, ventilation and lighting of the structure will also be dependent on number of people occupying the building at any given time. Escalators should be availed in buildings with more than two storeys so that exits may be increased for evacuation purposes. The building code also states that civil engineers should consider the disabled when designing structures. This includes those in wheelchairs; the blind and the deaf so that specialties facilities can be installed in the structure so as to enable them access and exit the building without any mishaps (Oakes, 2001).
The building code also takes into account qualifications of individuals who are undertaking the construction. The code applies to professionals who are licensed so that any civil engineer who is not certified should not undertake any pivotal role in construction. This is significant as collapse or failure of a building that is under the supervision of professional civil engineer exposes them to the tort of negligence on the lower sides while extreme cases are termed as criminal negligence (ICE, 2002).
These building codes are vital as they provide guidelines on how structures should be built as a way of maintaining the standards of the civil engineering profession. The building code is an equivocal tool that prohibits a reoccurrence of incidents or mistakes that have been experienced by other civil engineers. However, the civil engineer is given the opportunity to do what is required as the code does not force him/her to stick to the conducts. Consequently, upon adherence to the guidelines, the civil engineers competence is exhibited as the resulting structure will be proof of their capability (Griggs, 1997).
Communication skills for a civil engineer
Communication skills are relevant to civil engineers as they get to interact with other professionals in the field hence they should be in a position that allows them to exchange information efficiently. Civil engineers learn plenty of engineering jargon in class which may be a challenge when communicating to clients or other professionals at the construction site. These jargons may be irrelevant when used to address someone who does not understand them hence civil engineers should be wary of the profession of their colleagues so as to use appropriate language (ICHEmE, 2002).
The other crucial communication skill for the civil engineer is based on length of report or plan. Usually designs or plans for civil engineering projects are long and detailed so that the recipient may comprehend the message quickly. However, sometimes the recipient may not be patient enough to read through the entire report or plan hence the civil engineer has to provide a brief and accurate report free of technical terms (ICHEmE, 2002).
Plans and designed should be accurate but this does not mean that a lot of words should be used to compile the entire report. For instance, diagrams or pictorial presentations are adequate as they provide a better illustration of the entire design than words. However, consistency should be sustained throughout the report so that the entire plan or design flows from the first section to the very last. Consistency in communication enables the receiver or respondent to understand the sent message much easier as their train of thought is not interrupted (ICHEmE, 2002).
At certain times, a civil engineer uses PowerPoint to communicate his ideas or information to clients or bosses. In such a scenario, the civil engineer has to present his points in a concise manner so that participants can follow the entire proceeding without loosing focus. Presentations should be exciting to reduce monotony and boredom amongst the listeners, the presenter or civil engineer should include relevant examples as well as pictorial illustrations which are catchy to create a better memory for the presentation (ICHEmE, 2002).
The nature of jokes or examples used during a presentation or conversation with other business partners is dependent on the audience. Therefore, a civil engineer should understand their audience so that they may filter or sort the information being delivered according to the recipient audience. Such a move will make it easier for the listener to blend with others and also relate with content being delivered. For instance, it would be disastrous to deliver a speech on civil engineering careers to a group of civil engineers who have been practicing for more than twenty years. Such a speech would however be highly appreciated by fresh graduates or those who are still in college (ICHEmE, 2002).
Civil engineers should also develop adequate listening skills which will enable them listen when others are speaking. Effective listening skills include active listening where the civil engineer patiently listens and understands what has being said by the other party before responding. Active listening involves encouraging the speaker to continue talking by nodding or asking leading questions which will prompt the speaker to continue speaking (ICHEmE, 2002).
Civil engineering is one of the many professions which have been around for quite a while hence it has cut a niche for its members in the entire world. As a career, civil engineering involves plenty of fields or which are concerned with designing or planning structures, constructing and routine maintenance of structures which have been designed by the civil engineers. Structures which have benefited from these professionals include towers, dams, bridges and buildings all which have been designed and supervised by the civil engineers. In conclusion, civil engineers have a set of guidelines known as civil engineering code of ethics which guide activities of the professionals. The code of ethics is significant in streamlining activities of civil engineering so that only those who are certified are allowed to practice. On the other hand, a civil engineer professional must be armed with adequate communication skills which will enable them to conduct business efficiently as they will be capable of exchanging information with others.