The Future of Civil Engineering
Civil engineering is one of the oldest branches of engineering that deals with the design and construction of buildings, roads, bridges, and other large-scale structures. It has existed since the first human settlement and has advanced with the construction of large projects such as the Pont du Gard in France and the Great Wall in China. More recently, emerging fields such as artificial intelligence and nanotechnologies have been making shockwaves in numerous fields, civil engineering included. Continue reading below for more details on the future of the civil engineering field.
Reshaping Transportation Engineering
Transportation engineering is a discipline of civil engineering that deals with the infrastructures required to transport people and goods around. With the emergence of semi-autonomous and electric vehicles such as those made by Tesla, roads will have to be changed to adapt to these self-driving vehicles. For example, highway lanes could be organised by the different types of traffic on the road to separate autonomous vehicles from commuter cars and bicycles. The number of charging stations will also need to be increased as more people make the switch to electric vehicles.
Additionally, new ideas such as the Hyperloop can change the future of how people travel. This concept was proposed by Elon Musk and involves the construction of massive tubes extending from one place to another, with pods travelling inside these tubes at speeds of over 700 mph. Since this project involves the construction of massive tubes to house a low-pressure environment, new infrastructures will have to be designed to accommodate these tubes and terminal stations.
Artificial Intelligence and Construction Engineering
Artificial intelligence, or AI, involves machines learning by themselves from previous experience. Some famous examples of AI include chess-playing computers and self-driving cars. In the construction industry, AI has the potential to replace many professional tasks normally delegated to younger engineers. This is because big data, which are large amounts of data banks collected from various projects, can be processed by computers to use as learning experiences. This means that AI can help make many of the crucial decisions traditionally delegated to engineers on a construction site. This will result in huge improvements in the speed of the project delivery and reductions in the overall costs and carbon emissions.
Structural Engineering and the High-Tech Revolution
Structural engineering is another discipline of civil engineering that is facing major changes due to high-tech advancements in the industry. In fact, the future of structural engineering might see structural engineers being made completely redundant. This is mainly due to the advancements in computer modelling that enables the generation of highly complex structures via AI without the help of human power. Cloud computing can enable access to enormous calculating power which will reduce the time and skill required to make these complex designs. For example, the selection of member sizes used in steel-frame structures can now be done within seconds via a computer instead of many days as required by a structural engineer using traditional methods.
One such example of a high-profile project is the construction of the Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s tallest building located in Dubai. The building was designed by structural engineers using computer simulation and modelling to choose the best form after many possible iterations. This final design has been optimized for minimal wind loads and material quantities. Engineers were also able to work on the proposed form directly with architects instead of waiting until the architects’ plans were drawn up.
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Graduate Civil Engineer - East GrinsteadAt Conrad Consulting in East Grinstead, United Kingdom
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Associate Director (Structures)At Conrad Consulting in Glasgow, United Kingdom
Nanotechnology in Civil Engineering
Nanotechnology involves the study of materials that are 0.1 to 100 nanometers in size. It is a field that emerged in the past several decades and has numerous applications across a wide variety of fields, including civil engineering. In the construction industry alone, investments have been made by venture capitalists and corporations in the concrete and steel used to build structures. For example, incorporating nano silica, nano-clays, or nano iron particles in the concrete can improve the pore structure of the concrete as well as combat the problem of low strength at the early stages. In the production of steel beams, copper nanoparticles can be added to the surface of the finished product to reduce the roughness which will then reduce the overall stress and fatigue of the structure. Other problems such as corrosion and fatigue can also be reduced with the addition of various types of nanoparticles.