Civil Engineering is a discipline that focuses on the design, production, and maintenance of public works. These could include roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, public buildings, and many other structures. Recently, there have been some notable stories concerning advancements in civil engineering and other accomplishments by prominent civil engineers. However, these stories often go unnoticed in the mainstream media. Let's take a look at just a few current events in civil engineering:
Current Events in Civil Engineering: Workforce Tensions
The people holding the position of civil engineer is growingly diverse. At one time, men dominated the field of civil engineering. Now, women and people of color are a growing demographic in the industry. Because of this, some discrepancies are evolving. Some serious concerns are coming from industry professionals regarding wages. For the most part, civil engineers are doing the same job when on a project. Despite this, a recent study finds that women make 24% less than their male counterparts. No matter the level, men, on average, make more than women in civil engineering. It's startling, especially as more women and minority groups are growing in the field.
A wage gap is nothing new, especially when it comes to genders. Women make 8% less than men on average in the United States. The difficulty in this case is the growing need of civil engineers. With so many public works projects sprouting up, the need is there. The question becomes whether or not this near 25% wage gap deters future engineers from studying the field. It's not unheard of to see students deterred from certain fields based on prejudices. As more and more roads, bridges, and infrastructure gets touched up in the U.S., the field is only going to grow.
More Work Requires More Workers
Nearly every state is looking to make some sort of infrastructure plan right now. At a federal level, Congress is also working on a plan to rebuild decrepit bridges, roads, and buildings. As taxes are sure to come, the money will be there for those looking to get into civil engineering. The question will become who takes those jobs? It's assumed that men will continue to serves as the majority demographic in the field. As women are given equal opportunity and consideration, however, wage gaps and workforce tensions might play a role in that. The key moving forward is keeping up with the needs of the market, and that means some changes are going to likely come.
The options are easy to differentiate. Either workers feel fulfilled, or they look for other jobs. The process of finding a job is not easy, even with relatively low unemployment. Nevertheless, potential engineering students considering civil positions are going to second guess their future if they might not make equal pay to equal work. Moving forward, it cannot go ignored. Rebuilding everything from tunnels to entire public buildings takes a good amount of labor. That labor will disappear if not given the pay it is deserved.
Current Events in Civil Engineering: Self-Healing Concrete
Concrete is a core component in the civil engineering field. However, the presence of a relatively low tensile strength means that periodic maintenance is inevitable. Over time, normal wear and exposure to the elements see the development of unsightly cracks, necessitating repairs, and in more severe cases, the need to tear down and rebuild the structure. However, these repairs can be costly. For instance, the periodic maintenance of bridges, tunnels, and infrastructure costs around 7 billion dollars annually in the European Union Alone.
The longevity of concrete is not guaranteed, and repairs are a costly necessity. Once concrete cracks, the reinforcement is exposed to corrosion as well, leading to a damaged frame.
The discovery of self-healing concrete ensures a prolonged lifespan and subsequently a lower cost of maintenance. Clearly, the durability and sustainability are core qualities in construction.
- The employment of SAP (Superabsorbent Polymers), also known as hydrogels. This component can absorb 500 times its weight, and this is without dissolution or loss of shape. Absorbed fluid results in swelling, which then dissipates to the surrounding matrix, closing the cracks.
- The use of CaCO3(Calcium Carbonate) precipitating micro-organisms. The organisms are part of the concrete matrix, and subsequently, precipitate Calcium Carbonate when a crack occurs. This emitted compound results in the crack filling.
- Use of encapsulated polymers. These polymers, preferably elastic, break, flow into the crack and fill it. The encapsulation material is typically composed of ceramic tubes or glass.
The primary idea is to make use of Calcium Carbonate and periodic precipitation to seal cracks when the cement gets wet. Bacteria use forms a core component of the development of this special cement, with microbes such as Bacillus Subtilis and Bacillus Pasteurii playing a critical role in the active ingredients. The products of hydration form a lasting solution to the cracking challenge. The advancement of civil engineering is reliant on the consistent development of better building material.
A chief motivator for the invention of self-healing cement is the incredible financial impact, with a vast amount of savings on maintenance. The initial costs of construction will rise a bit, but the structures will stand the test of time, raising the likelihood of more old structures in the future. The reward is the comparative ROI (Return on Investment), making self-healing cement a milestone discovery.
Additional information is available here.
Current Events in Civil Engineering: The Creation of Aerogels from Waste Plastic Bottles
Plastic bottle waste has proven to be a real challenge in the modern world. Even though they still cause major problems, plastic containers are the most recycled plastic in the world. A team from the NUS (National University of Singapore) has succeeded in developing a methodology for the conversion of this waste plastic into useful aerogels.
The team from NUS worked on making this discovery between 2016 and 2018. This ability to give the gels varying surface treatments enables the creation of a range of products with different applications.
Some of the defining qualities of aerogel are:
- Easy handling
- Recycling common plastics results in a cleaner environment. The annual volume of plastic waste is expected to top a trillion tons by 2021. This waste ends up in oceans and ultimately leads to a polluted environment. In spite of this, recycling ensures a cleaner, healthier environment.
- The incorporation of varied methyl groups gives aerogels the ability to absorb an impressive amount of oil swiftly. Experiments have proven these unique aerogels to be seven times more efficient than commercial sorbents.
- The insulation properties of PET aerogels makes them suitable for fire safety purposes. While firefighters have to contend with heavy coats and breathing equipment, they could use something better. Thankfully, lighter jackets lined with aerogel are lighter and safer. This quality allows production of affordable heat-resistant attire. A layer of fire retardant components makes it withstand temperatures in the region of up to 620 degrees.
- Production of carbon dioxide absorbing masks. PET aerogel made with an amine coat quickly absorbs carbon dioxide. The absorption levels can be equated to that utilized in the production of gas masks. These carbon dioxide-absorbing masks can prove priceless when evacuating high-rise buildings in the event of a fire.
Thus, the conversion of universal PET plastic waste to aerogel multiplies its uses and helps create a better environment. An impressive array of aerogel uses means that plastic isn't just recycled into more plastic. Over time, more applications will necessitate a larger scale of recycling, changing waste into a wide variety of useful products. Here’s a link for more information.
Current Events in Civil Engineering: Industrial Exoskeletons
Manual work on construction sites can be tiring. The process of performing manual tasks during construction, however, has proven a logical necessity. Site personnel ferry equipment and do all manner of jobs to make the building process successful. Due to the nature of the work, injuries and chronic joint and muscle pain are common. Employees will almost always feel the wear and tear on a physical level. However, the advancement of technology is bringing solutions to remedy the harsh working conditions on construction sites. SuitX is one of the latest inventions aimed at making site work more manageable for workers.
The company manufactures an exoskeleton that gives a considerable boost to physical strength, offering support to your shoulders, back, and legs. Considering that employees spend hours bent over and working in uncomfortable postures, the strain will take effect, and this is precisely why the support to these body parts is so important.
- LegX- this is meant to support the legs
- BackX – built to support your back as you lift heavy objects
- ShoulderX – constructed to support the shoulders, reducing fatigue experienced by the arms
The suit absorbs all weight as a result of body mass and awkward working postures, as well as the added strain from objects ferried around the course of daily tasks. The designers of the innovative exoskeleton come from the Berkeley mechanical program. As a result of their extensive research, the inventions make it possible to work longer in physically exhausting situations, with minimal strain and considerably reduced long-term effects. The design aligns the force applied parallel to the worker's joint, thereby minimizing the level of stress or physical wear and tear.
With the primary customers for the technology reaping the benefits, it is fast gaining popularity to include clientele in manufacturing, aerospace, as well as logistics and vehicle manufacturing. With this in mind, a stronger frame equates to more work, and the support to joints compares to more extended periods of work without physical strain. The exoskeleton directly translates to added productivity and a more comfortable worker. Over time, there is the likelihood of large-scale adoption of this technology, alleviating the adverse effects of manual labor. Additionally, this design is likely to undergo refining and upgrades, leading to a more efficient and affordable product. The link to the official site.
Current Events in Civil Engineering: GPS Integration into the Construction Process
Site management can be a tedious exercise, especially for huge projects run by a large number of employees. Many activities take place concurrently at any given site, and it can be utterly impossible for one or two individuals to provide sufficient oversight. It is due to the need for proper monitoring that GPS technology has taken root on work sites, with tracking mechanisms put in place for both employees and equipment, manual or automated. With GPS technology, it becomes easier to monitor the movement of personnel.
- Protection of site equipment and vehicles from theft. Over time, theft of site equipment has been a constant concern. Without proper surveillance, expensive equipment has disappeared from construction sites, even with the presence of security cameras. So that, GPS trackers aren't dependent on visual monitoring and offer more security.
- Examination of employee driving preferences and for safety and risk assessment. Even at small companies, fleet management is a critical facet of running the business. Some routes may be prone to issues of insecurity or other concerns, and with proper monitoring, an advisory can be set out to ensure that drivers avoid the concerned roads. Unwarranted delays such as traffic jams are manageable as well.
- Efficient route charting. It is easy to monitor routes taken by company vehicles, calling in and advising on the best roads to take for maximum efficiency. Knowing the location of vehicles using GPS ensures that there is no submission of falsified work data, thus sealing a common loophole in company transport operations.
- Individual employee monitoring. Being able to identify the physical location of specific employees means that the oversight team can easily track and manage numbers on site. The numbers assigned to tasks can be reduced or added, with areas that need additional support easily identifiable and proper action taken promptly.
- Recorded data is irrefutable. As is the case with every industry, employee complaints are normal. Details about work attendance, duties, and even actual movement can prove critical in verifying all matters in question.
However, even though this technology is effective, it is crucial to get the consent of site personnel regarding surveillance via GPS, as it directly involves intrusion into personal space.
The use of tracking technology greatly simplifies site management procedures, allowing for real-time data that can prove critical in boosting overall productivity. In civil engineering, GPS technology has shown to be an invaluable tool.
The benefits of GPS tracking on sites.
Current Events in Civil Engineering: The Self-Driving Track Loader
The use of specialized site equipment like loaders and excavators demands a certain level of skill. However, to properly perfect the craft, drivers need specialized training, with the addition of time on the job for the added experience to work with minimum complications. In return, companies will need to pay a considerable amount to employ skilled personnel capable of delivering at that level. Thankfully, the Autonomous Track Loader (ATL) does all that, and requires no driver, hence no need to hire skilled personnel to operate it. This loader is a fully automatic, both in navigation and work functionality.
The ATL is a development of Built Robotics and has the impressive feature of location-sensing, accurate to the centimeter. As a result, the truck can dig a hole, and all you need to do is specify the desired size. The details of desired tasks are programmed into the loader's system, and the rest is up to the machine. There are some key benefits of using such technology.
- It negates the need for a large number of workers, resulting in lower wage bills. The Autonomous Track Loader will take care of tasks for individuals, negating the need for many employees on site, hence less crowding as well.
- With proper programming, the possibility of a misunderstanding ceases to be a major concern. Human communication is susceptible to misinterpretation. Misconceptions can prove very costly and can bring about unwarranted delays, and probably financial loss due to wastage of construction material.
- Machines pretty much guarantee timely execution. Proper maintenance ensures that equipment runs at optimum performance, providing rapid implementation of programmed tasks. In a system that works on an input-execution framework, the ATL will never go on a go-slow.
Thus, the introduction of automated site equipment is but the first step towards the onset of high automation in civil engineering. Automation and machine learning form the basis for technological advancement on construction sites, and over time, a range of automated equipment will come about. In addition, civil engineering is rapidly growing, with new materials developed every day, along with the development of innovative construction technology. More on the ATL is available.