Highway engineering is a branch of civil engineering, which concentrates on the design, construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, and tunnels.
It is an important discipline within the civil engineering industry, which can be traced all the way back to the Roman era, and is constantly evolving to keep up to date with a wide variety of factors.
Factors That Affect Highway Engineering
As mentioned above, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration when looking at the construction of highways, roads, pavements, and other related projects. There are constant increases in the amount of traffic on roads in the UK, evolutions within the cars themselves, and all kinds of pollution to consider. This is all in addition to the constantly evolving highway safety regulations.
The first thing a highway engineer needs to consider before starting a project is the current and future traffic volumes, whether that be vehicles on a highway or footfall on a pavement. This will help with the prediction of potential maintenance costs, as well as helping the engineer to decide on materials and design.
In addition to securing financing for the initial project build, ongoing maintenance costs need to be considered and calculated. The technology available, the evolution of highway design, and the economic environment all cause this to be another constantly evolving factor.
Pollution & Environmental Impact
There are several kinds of pollution to be considered when planning any kind of highway engineering project. It’s not just pollution of air and water that are looked at, although they are still scrutinised in detail.
For example, noise pollution. Highway engineers will look at the possible interference with daily life from noise during construction of the project and the subsequent traffic that will frequent the area.
Highway engineers have to consider all of these factors in addition to those that are considered by all civil engineers (such as materials and safety regulations) before even reaching the design phase. We’ll get on to that at a later date, though…
Civil engineering is arguably one of the oldest practices in engineering, with even the Great Pyramids being considered by some to be an amazing feat of civil engineering. In short, it is the engineering discipline that covers the design, construction, and maintenance of a ‘built environment’.
What is a built environment?
The term “built environment” refers to any kind of structure or surroundings that are considered to be man-made. Bridges, buildings, roads, canals, airports, dams, tunnels, and parks can all be considered a built environment, and it is the design, construction, and management of these that civil engineers are in charge of.
What does a civil engineer do?
Civil engineering actually covers a wide variety of occupations, so each civil engineer you meet may be responsible for a completely different job or sector.
Just some of the disciplines under the umbrella for civil engineering are:
- Architectural engineering
- Environmental engineering
- Structural engineering
- Transportation engineering
- Water resources engineering
- Construction surveying
- Construction engineering
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you can see that there is a wide range of possible directions a civil engineer can take.
Overall though, a typical civil engineer will be in charge of all aspects of a building project. Architectural drawings are created to help civil engineers manage a construction team, and guide them towards completion of the project. They will be present at regular intervals throughout the construction of a project to review the progress, and ensure it will be completed on time and on budget.
What makes a civil engineer different to other construction workers?
If you read the above and thought a civil engineer’s job looks like that of a site manager, or surveyor, you’d be half way there. A civil engineer is, in simple terms, a culmination of all jobs within the construction industry. As they need to oversee a project from start to finish, there is so much they need to consider.
Planning a large structure requires an in-depth knowledge of physics, mathematics, geology and hydrology. They must have an understanding of all the site specifications in addition to being aware of the properties of all available construction materials, and the capabilities of all available machinery.
They can then apply this knowledge to the project in hand, taking in to consideration several other factors including cost, safety, and energy efficiency.