Green living covers a number of categories, from sustainable communities, to energy efficient homes, to “smart” cars.
Civil engineering isn’t one of the better known or “sexier” engineering disciplines. Indeed, when people do think of civil engineering, they picture sunburned surveyors out on the edge of a road with their transits.
But there is much more to civil engineering than road work, and those who study and work in it will find that the skills acquired within it can open the door to a number of careers, including ones dealing with “green living”.
Green living covers a number of categories, from sustainable communities, to energy efficient homes, to “smart” cars. At first glance, none of this seems to have a direct connection to civil engineering. But read on to learn how one of our oldest engineering disciplines is right at home in the 21st century.
Everyone agrees that one way to help improve energy efficiency in communities is to replace or upgrade aging infrastructure systems. The problem is that after decades, much of it is so badly buried, it’s difficult to get a start in making corrections by mapping existing systems. In the UK, civil engineers are using electromagnets to help them locate and map buried systems.
As civil engineers lay out the ground work for project sites, they are increasingly using abandoned or reclaimed land. By reusing these properties, engineers help to limit environmental degradation on additional parcels of land.
Make Nature Part Of The Design
It’s hard to improve on nature, and civil engineers are increasingly making natural features on a project site energy efficiency tools instead of removing them as they would have in years past. Trees may be left in place for example, to cool a building naturally, and to help prevent damaging erosion.
The selection of the right site is important, but studies have shown that the proper orientation of a building can increase its energy efficiency by as much as 25%. Civil engineers today orient buildings to take maximum advantage of what is known as “day lighting”, or natural light. As a result, they’ll place most of a building’s windows in its northern and southern portions, among many other techniques.
If planning to pursue a master’s in civil engineering, students should plan to devote a fair amount of time to studying site design and environmental studies, but the results are worth it. Civil engineers have discovered that knowledge and more nuanced approaches in dealing with everything from wetlands to site soil types results in structures that are more stable and has fewer storm water waste and runoff issues.
There are a number of other ways in which civil engineers can help both communities and private homeowners to achieve energy efficiency, ranging from adding rain gardens to designs to laying out planned community grids that incorporate mass transit and supported walking paths. So take a second look at those surveyors the next time you’re out for a drive. They may not be just mapping out a road or building, but one that’s in the best long term interest of both humans and nature.
Lizzie Weakley, the author of this article, is a freelance writer
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