Civil engineering is an engineering discipline that handles designing, constructing, and maintaining all physical or naturally built environments. Built environments are composed of buildings, bridges, roads, dams, drainage systems, and many more (Columbia). With proper designs and meticulous calculations, civil engineers provide safety to all users ranging from building occupants to drivers in the form of structural stability or ease of transportation. Research in construction materials, techniques, and practical application enable civil engineers to convert drawings into reality. In addition, the maintenance of existing built environment prevents the sudden structural failure of infrastructure and enables pre-existing structures to be renovated to adapt to new environmental changes. With a better understanding of civil engineering, how exactly does climate change impact civil engineering?
It is the job of civil engineers to ensure both the structural stability of structures and the safety of all occupants against the natural elements without compromising their comfort and ease of living. Climate change is the drastic change in the weather pattern in a region. Examples of such change are rising temperatures, prolonged precipitation activity, rising sea levels, and many more (my climate). The drastic change in weather paterns introduces more variables the civil engineer needs to consider while designing new infrastructures. In addition, civil engineers need to consider the effects of the new environmental changes on pre-existing structures such as increased rain or snow load, increased stress on structural members due to hotter temperatures, water resistivity of construction materials, etc. Civil engineers throughout the world need to be especially wary of several climate change effects like rising sea levels, more frequent extreme tropical storms, and increased precipitation activity.
Traditionally engineers forego over-engineering in favor of more efficient engineering in terms of both costs and labor. As such, during the design phase, a civil engineer would design a structure based on the region’s weather data such as the average rain level, frequency of natural disasters, average wind speed, etc. (Mehta et al 52). Using the weather data, civil engineers calculate the structural load induced by the building’s weight, approximation of the occupants, and environmental loads such as rain, snow, and wind. Based on the calculations, civil engineers can determine the specifications of each structural member, like their size and material. As such, the imminent environmental changes such as rising sea levels will prompt civil engineers to design a structure to be elevated well above the floodplain or utilize water-resistive materials on lower floors to ensure both the occupant and the structure’s safety (NYC DCP 2013). Thus, civil engineers need to reconsider factors that were not issue in the past and design a structure that will adapt to the environmental changes caused by climate change.
In addition, civil engineers need to not only design the building to withstand loads induced by day-to-day activities but also extreme activities like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. All three natural disasters introduce an immense load on the building, and it is the job of the civil engineer to make a design that can survive such events. Climate change not only causes the rise in sea level but also increases the intensity and frequency of meteorological disasters. In response, the civil engineer will heavily rely on concrete foundations to allow the buildings to withstand extreme wind and water loads caused by meteorological events like hurricanes (BMS CAT 2019). As such civil engineers need to future-proof the structures they design to adapt to not only the current environment but also the environmental changes in the future.
Work Cited Page
Build hurricane-proof house: Blackmon Mooring & BMS Cat. BMS CAT. (2021, April 23). Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.bmscat.com/2019/05/7-best-practices-for-building-a-hurricane-proof-house/.
Columbia University. (2018, September 12). What is civil engineering? Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.civil.columbia.edu/about/what-civil-engineering.
What are the effects of climate change and global warming? myclimate. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.myclimate.org/information/faq/faq-detail/what-are-the-effects-of-climate-change/.
Designing for Flood Risk. New York City Department of City Planning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/plans-studies/sustainable-communities/climate-resilience/designing_flood_risk.pdf.
Mehta, Madan, et al. Building Construction: Principles, Materials, and System. 2nd Edition, Pearson, 2013.