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Civil Engineer Roles

Civil Engineer Roles

Civil Engineer Roles

For the civil site designers and land development engineers on this forum, do you do any basic structural analysis or design?

I am thinking that there is minimal to no structural design in this field:
  • Precast MH's and pipe sections are fairly standardized in the precast industry and many municipalities have standard plans
  • Specialty applications of precast structures could be designed by the precaster's PE
  • Many state DOTs have generic plans for retaining wall detailing based on soil assumptions
I know I missed a few items, but I would like to hear what you think about the need for basic structural engineering knowledge. What I mean by "basic knowledge" is, for example, the ability to design a concrete/steel/wood beam for gravity loads, but not necessarily the ability to design a building.

RE: Civil Engineer Roles

For a geotech we still do settlement and other calculations, but it is usually done by a computer program. Still needed however are the inputs, not by a cook book. My main excuse for the computer program is that it does in one second what a by hand calculation and graphics takes hours for one. Now hundreds can be done in blink of an eye, resulting in better results.

RE: Civil Engineer Roles

Overswing....Structural engineering is somewhat a subset of Civil Engineering, but in the last 20 to 30 years has greatly surpassed the general civil structural coursework. My original engineering degree was "Civil Engineering"; however, my practice has been concentrated in structural, geotechnical and materials engineering. I have done some general civil design for land development, but for a variety of reasons, was not interested in pursuing that effort.

There is a trend in licensing to limit the structural engineering aspect of civil engineering to those who specialize in the practice of structural engineering. That is the "SE" designation, separate or in conjunction with the "PE". Your state has not done that as yet, but many states are moving toward the SE designation for structural engineering.

RE: Civil Engineer Roles

Carries over from a time when there were only two types of engineers... military and civil.


RE: Civil Engineer Roles

It is important for civil site engineers to understand the basics of structural engineering, particularly when it comes to foundation loads and retaining wall design, but I haven't know any civil site engineers who do that type of design themselves in my ~20 years of experience in the field. We need to know generally how it's done, so we can do our site designs with an expectation that what we're drawing could be engineered, but we leave the design to professionals who do it regularly and have experience at it.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Civil Engineer Roles

Hi Overswing,
I've worked in both structural and land development firms though the great majority of my experience is in land development. I agree with others that even as a land development engineer, we should understand the basics of both structural and geotechnical engineering so we can provide not only provide practical designs but also coordinate and collaborate with those structural and geotech experts during the life of the project. It also kind of comes back to the liability approach of the company you are working at. In the previous firm (about 3 years) I was designing short retaining walls, and custom utility vaults, retrofit of existing underground utility structures and what I would call specialized thrust restraint blocks for thermal thrust restraint of high temperature water lines. In my current land development firm (6 years), I've done next to none structural design. However my structural experience with the special projects in my previous firm along with the structural firm I worked at, has become very valuable overtime as we get involved in some pretty complex land dev projects, particularly infill projects in dense city environments where you're not only dealing with the structure of your project but existing adjacent ones.

So the basic knowledge that you refer to, is something that I've been lucky to carry out / be exposed to in my career. My personal joke is that sometimes I feel like a "structural engineer trapped in a civil engineer's body" smile but to Ron's point, one is or started a subset of the other!

One last thing, my degree in school as it reads is in Civil Engineering but the concentration of my technical electives was in structural and transportation engineering. Not knowing what land development was all about (because it doesn't really get taught in school, at least 17 years ago) I thought I wanted to work in mass transportation systems focusing around structures including bridges. When I started in land development just to try it, I ended up falling in love with it. I do tend to be a sponge and just enjoy learning!

Just love what I do!

Hope this helps!

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