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Profession of designing and executing structural works that serve the general public, including bridges, canals, dams, harbors, lighthouses, roads, tunnels, and environmental works (e.g., water-supply systems). The modern field includes power plants, aircraft and airports, chemical-processing plants, and water-treatment facilities. Civil engineering today involves site investigations and feasibility studies, structural design and analysis, construction, and facilities maintenance. The design of engineering works requires the application of design theory from many fields (e.g., hydraulics, thermodynamics, nuclear physics). Research in structural analysis and the technology of materials such as steel and concrete has opened the way for new concepts and greater economy of materials. The engineer's analysis of a building problem determines the structural system to be used. Structural designs are rigorously analyzed by computers to determine if they will withstand loads and natural forces.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on civil engineering, visit Britannica.com.