Civil and Environmental Engineering Subfields

Civil and Environmental Engineering is typically divided into sub-fields, although most projects involve several of these sub-fields. Civil and Environmental engineering sub-fields include;

Water Resources Engineering

Water resource engineers work with water. They determine how much water is needed, where water is available and how much is available, and then determine how to transport water to where it is needed. They design works to control the flow of water, such as canals, dams, levees, diversions, and drainage channels and ditches. Other water resource projects might include protecting beaches from erosion, keeping harbors clear of silt, and locks and dams for navigation. Water resource engineers often work on multi-purpose projects that provide benefits such as flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, irrigation, water supply, and enhancing the environment. Water resource projects might even include fountains and water slides.


Some areas currently of interest to water resources engineers include:

The first picture shows the power house for Friberg Dam on the Otter Tail River north of Fergus Falls, MN. The power house is a replica of the tomb of Roman Emperor Theodoric, while the second shows a control gate for a storm sewer in Fargo, ND.

Power house Control gate

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Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineers work to protect human health and safety and protect the natural environment from pollution. They plan, design, operate, and maintain systems to treat drinking water, remove pollutants from water and air, safely dispose of solid wastes (garbage) and hazardous wastes. They may work to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous wastes, and help industries prevent pollution by improving their production methods. Environmental engineers may also be involved in enforcing environmental regulations. Some areas currently of interest to environmental engineers might include:

The first picture shows clean-up of a lead-contaminated site, while the second shows a water-softening basin at the new Fargo Water Treatment Plant.

Lead-contaminated siteWater-softening basin

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Transportation Engineering

Transportation systems are used to move people and goods safely and efficiently. Transportation engineers are involved with planning, designing, construction, operation, and maintenance of the transportation infrastructure. The infrastructure consists of streets, highways, railroads, airports, waterways, ports, mass transit, bike trails, and pedestrian walkways. One of the challenges is to improve current transportation facilities to meet increasing demand, and to smoothly integrate new facilities within the exisisting infrastructure.

Some of the areas of current and future interest to transportation engineers include:

The first picture shows a subway station, while the second shows a tri-level highway interchange at the intersection of I-94 and I-29 in Fargo, ND.

Subway stationBridge

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Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineers work with soiil and use it as an engineering material. Most civil engineering projects are supported by the ground, or may be under the ground. Geotechnical engineers design foundations for structures, retaining walls to hold back embankments, subgrades for highway and airport pavements, and soil fills for levees, dams, and embankments. They design tunnels and offshore drilling platforms. They also work with environmental engineers to clean up contaminated sites, and analyze seepage of groundwater. Some of the current areas of interest in geotechnical engineering include:

The first picture shows a retaining wall, while the second shows a caisson being drilled for a deep foundation for the new Fargo Water Treatment Plant.

Retaining wallCaison

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Structural Engineering

Structural engineers design all types of structures. The more familiar ones might include buildings, bridges, towers, and dams. Some of the more unusual structures include roller coasters, aircraft, and sports stadiums. The forces these structures must withstand include their own weight, wind, earthquakes, and snow. Structural engineers design the beams, columns, trusses, frames, and foundations to carry these loads.. The materials they work with usually include concrete, steel, and wood. Structural engineers who design buildings must coordinate their designs with mechanical and electrical engineers who design the heating, ventilating, and electrical systems, and also work with an architect who designed the layout of the building. For projects such as bridges and dams they work with other civil engineers such as transportation and water resources engineers..

Some of the interesting work going on in structural engineering includes:

The first picture is of a train station, while the second is an office building with an external steel frame.

Train stationBuilding

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