Civil engineering is evolving along with every other industry in response to technological innovation and social changes. Several trends are causing the profession to change far more than anything else. In this article, we’re going to take a glimpse into the future of civil engineering and what will be expected from civil engineers of the future.
Computer aided drafting is already standard for civil engineers. What is changing is the role of automation beyond mere digital storage of CAD documents. For example, while civil engineers routinely design structures down to the support beams, automated load testing of the 50 year winter snowstorm on the roof and earthquake testing of a building to be put up in California is now becoming common and may even occur after every design change. Another variation of this theme is the ability to export designs to 3D printers so that the models can be made automatically by the 3D printer instead of enlisting interns to assemble them, so the customer can get a real-world view of the structure they’ve outlined.
Online education does not yet replace in-person classroom discussions for teaching advanced undergraduate math and physics to students. However, online education is impacting civil engineering. Employers are recognizing online graduate courses like the online civil engineering program from Norwich University as equal to those taught at brick and mortar schools. Continuing education credits like annual ethics classes required for professional engineers are already routinely taught online.
One trend that modern technology has only accelerated is the rise of distributed workforce. You may hire an earthquake building code expert in California to review your designs created by civil engineers and architects in New York. Your environmental consultant may live in another state or the other side of the globe. And your civil engineers may work on site supervising construction, able to check in with worksite workarounds and report problems. This is only an extension of the information we all find available on demand through the internet. For example, many are able to enrol in online civil engineering degree programs to continue their education whether logging in after a long day in the office before going home or watching downloaded courses while riding on the train.
The high cost of civil engineering projects makes risk management an integral part of those projects. And risk management is now far more than having an insurance policy. Risk management can take the form of multiple engineers reviewing the design before it is approved, supply chain analysis to minimize the odds of schedule delays and formalizing contractual requirements with contractors to mitigate risk to the overall project. Simulations can help in this regard, as civil engineers wonder what disasters could strike the building and then simulate said disaster striking their building and seeing what happens.
New technologies are transforming the face of civil engineering as we know it. Automated design testing is now routine for products and communication technology is allowing civil engineers to connect with their peers from anywhere in the world. We have no idea what the future has in store, but civil engineering should continue evolving at neck breaking speeds in the next coming years.