Civil engineers design and supervise the creation of structures. Not just buildings – civil engineers work on everything from tunnels and dams, to highways and airports, to water and sewer systems. They use computer technologies and advanced materials to design structures that meet the needs of a growing population while protecting the environment, reducing the dangers from natural phenomenon like storms, and considering future needs of the community.
Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems. They must consider many factors in the design process from the construction costs and expected lifetime of a project to government regulations and potential environmental hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Civil engineer – a person who practices civil engineering; the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected. Originally, a civil engineer worked on public works projects and was contrasted with the military engineer, who worked on armaments and defenses.
Civil engineering deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment.
- The construction of Pyramids in Egypt (circa 2700–2500 BC) might be considered the first instances of large structure constructions. Other ancient historic civil engineering constructions include the Qanat water management system (around 1000 BC), the Parthenon by Iktinos in Ancient Greece (447–438 BC), the Appian Way by Roman engineers (c. 312 BC), the Great Wall of China (c. 220 BC).
Meet the people in Civil Engineering
- Emily, Civil engineering – from humanitarian work to international business.
- Erin develops bridges and barriers that reduce traffic noise in neighboring communities
- Mark – Senior Construction Engineer, responsible for integrating construction needs and knowledge into drawing, specifications, equipment purchase orders, subcontracts, and project schedules.
Ready to treat the waste of millions
Located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant in the world, with a capacity of 370 million gallons per day (MGD), a peak capacity of 1.076 billion gallons per day and covering 150 acres.
To distribute water and support the distribution system, the Authority operates over 1,200 miles of pipes, five pumping stations, five reservoirs, four elevated water storage tanks, 36,000 valves and more than 9,000 public hydrants.
To collect wastewater, the Authority operates 1,800 miles of sanitary and combined sewers, 22 flow-metering stations, nine off-site wastewater pumping stations, and 16 stormwater pumping stations within the District. Separate sanitary and storm sewers serve approximately two-thirds of the District of Columbia. In older portions of the system, such as the District’s downtown area, combined sanitary and storm sewer systems are prevalent.
A sewage treatment plant was built on the Blue Plains site in 1938, providing primary (settling) treatment. The construction and improvements to the system follow the steps in the [/Engineering%20Design%20Process Engineering Design Process], leading up to the large and complex facility of today.
- Ask (What? Ask questions, understand the need, identify the problem, define) – In the years after the Civil War, the city of Washington expanded, but the Potomac River and surrounding waterways filled with sewage. Cholera epidemics and disease were rampant. Beginning in the 1880s, the city built a system of sewers that led to the Potomac, but it was not until the 1930s that any of the sewage was treated. What needed to be done to remove sewage? How would this improve the quality of life in Washington?
- Imagine (So what? Imagine, brainstorm, explore, discover) – What techniques and technologies were available to treat wastewater in the 1930s?
- Plan (Now what? Plan, design) – Dalecarlia WTP upgrades completed in 1964 increase the plant capacity to 164 million gallons per day (MGD) based on filtration rates of two gallons per minute per square foot, and a maximum capacity of 264 MGD. Its treatment scheme consists of screening, chemical additions for flocculation and sedimentation, rapid sand filtration, and chemical additions for chlorination, fluoridation and pH control. Was the additional capacity adequate to keep up with the growth of the city?
- Create (Do it. Create, try it out) – The original Dalecarlia WTP was completed in 1928. The plant capacity was increased in the 1950’s by the addition of two additional sedimentation basins, a 30 MG clearwell, a 577 MGD finished water pumping station and additional filters. A new chemical building and an additional filter building were completed in 1964. The city continued to grow bringing more pollution problems. How is capacity measured? What indicates that the system is not adequate?
- Improve (If this then what? Improve, make it better) – It was not until the 1960s that the region really took hold of its pollution problems, got federal funding, and built a greatly expanded Blue Plains plant. The plant has finally reached the completion of its advanced features, and the river has shown the dramatic results. What advancements are implemented in modern wastewater treatment systems?
- erosion – the carrying away or displacement of solids (sediment, soil, rock and other particles) usually by the agents of currents such as, wind, water, or ice by downward or down-slope movement in response to gravity or by living organisms (in the case of bioerosion).
- sedimentation – the deposition by settling of a suspended material.
- pipes, values, pumping stations, reservoirs, hydrants sewers, flow-metering, storm water, wastewater, screening, flocculation, sedimentation, rapid sand filtration, chlorination, fluoridation, pH control, erosion
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…
- Glaciers, Water and Wind – explore five different forms of erosion (chemical, water, wind, glacier and temperature).
- explore other examples of major civil engineering projects around the world.
- research innovative systems for waste treatment that can be used where electricity is not available or where there are other limitations make conventional systems unusable.
- Bridge Builder – video – Civil Engineer, Ken Brown, describes his job working for CalTrans
- Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, Facilities, History
- Potomac River Guide – Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant