35 Fundamental Facts About Civil Engineering

If you’re interested in a civil engineering career, you may not know that this science is as old as the hills, yet as young as the 18th century. Additionally, there are at least ten sub-disciplines within this field that range from engineering buildings to sea walls to roller coasters and to water slides. If you’ve ever marveled at the Hoover Dam or the Empire State Building, then you’ve witnessed the technology, design and science of civil engineering. This list provides 35 fundamental facts about this career, its diversity and its engineering wonders.

About Civil Engineering

Engineering Students
  1. Until modern times there was no clear distinction between civil engineering and architecture, and the terms engineer and architect often referred to the same person until the 18th century.


  2. In the 18th century, the term “civil engineering” came into use to describe engineering work that was performed by civilians for nonmilitary purposes.


  3. The first self-proclaimed civil engineer was John Smeaton who constructed the Eddystone Lighthouse.


  4. Civil engineers frequently work on complex projects which involve many technical, economic, social and environmental factors.


  5. Civil engineering takes place on all levels: in the public sector from municipal through to national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies.


  6. Civil engineers also help to preserve the environment by assisting in the cleaning up of existing pollution and planning ways to reduce future pollution of air, land and water.


  7. The first private college to teach Civil Engineering in the United States was Norwich University, Vermont, founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge.


  8. The first degree in Civil Engineering in the United States was awarded by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1835.


  9. The first civil engineering degree to be awarded to a woman was granted by Cornell University to Nora Stanton Blatch in 1905.


  10. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was founded in a coffee shop in London in 1818 by eight young civil engineers, the youngest was 19.


  11. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was founded in 1852. It is the oldest national engineering society in the United States.


  12. All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public.


  13. According to a 2009 survey, people with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering started at $52,048 a year on average.

Civil Engineering Sub-Disciplines

Urban Architecture
  1. Coastal engineering is concerned with managing coastal areas. The term coastal defense is the more traditional term, but coastal management has become more popular as the field has expanded to include techniques that allow erosion to claim land.


  2. Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers.


  3. Earthquake engineering is dedicated to reducing earthquake risk by advancing the practice of this science.


  4. Environmental engineering can be involved with pollution reduction, green engineering, and industrial ecology and involves protecting the environment and human health.


  5. Geotechnical engineering is an area of civil engineering concerned with the rock and soil that supports civil engineering projects.
  6. Materials engineering and sciences deals with materials such as concrete, mix asphalt concrete, metals as well as paints and finishes.


  7. Municipal or urban engineering involves specifying, designing, constructing, and maintaining streets, sidewalks, water supply networks, sewers, street lighting, municipal solid waste management and disposal, storage depots for various bulk materials used for maintenance and public works, public parks and bicycle paths.


  8. Structural engineering is concerned with designing structures to be safe and serviceable for their users


  9. Transportation engineering is concerned with moving people and goods efficiently, safely, and in a manner conducive to a vibrant community.


  10. Water resources engineering is a discipline that combines hydrology, environmental science, meteorology, geology, conservation, and resource management.

Civil Engineering Feats

Burj Al Arab
  1. The longest street in the world is Toronto’s Yonge Street, listed as 1,178 miles (1,896 km) in length — roughly the distance from San Diego, California, to Seattle, Washington.


  2. A civil engineer created the slippery part of the water slide. Without the right flow of water, there is no ride.


  3. The Channel Tunnel is one of the greatest civil engineering projects of the 20th century, has an ultimate design capacity of 600 trains per day each way under the English Channel.


  4. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, also known as the Pearl Bridge, has the longest central span of any suspension bridge. The central span is a staggering 1,991 meters, or 6,532 ft.


  5. It took a century to overcome deep waters, strong winds, and high chance of earthquakes to build the Rion-Antirion Bridge. Completed in 2004, it spans the Gulf of Corinth and won an Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement award.


  6. The Itaipu Dam, located at the Brazilian-Paraguayan border, is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual generating capacity.


  7. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world and has become an internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco and California.


  8. The Empire State Building was built in just 18 months during the Great Depression and was one of the first to employ the then new fast track construction technique. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City and New York State.


  9. the Hoover Dam, standing 726.4 feet high, is one of the tallest concrete dams ever built and created one of the largest man-made lakes in the U.S.


  10. The Burj Al Arab is a 5-star luxury hotel located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At 321 m (1,053 ft), it is the fourth tallest hotel in the world. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship.


  11. The Netherlands North Sea Protection Works is a marvel of coastal engineering created to protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea.


  12. The Millennium Force Roller Coaster in Sandusky, Ohio, is the world’s tallest (310 feet) and fastest (92 mph) roller coaster, and is supported by 226 footers using 9,400 yards of concrete. It took 175 truckloads of steel to create the frame.