What is civil engineering?

"Civil engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of mankind"
T. Tredgold, 1828, for the first ICE Royal Charter

Within Northern Ireland civil engineers are responsible for the build and design of most of the things in the built environment, including roads, bridges, canals, hospitals, schools and harbours.

Northern Ireland has a rich history of civil engineering projects. Contemporary civil engineers are working to create infrastructure and projects that will create positive impacts for future generations.

Northern Ireland hosts some of the UK's most impressive civil engineering projects.

The Antrim Coast Road
Perhaps the most famous civil engineering project within Northern Ireland is the Antrim Coast Road.

The project was conceived by the Irish Commissioners of Public Works to open up the Glens of Antrim and give unemployment relief in the days just before the 1845 potato famine.

Their civil engineer was William Bald, who had the vision of building the road along the foot of the cliffs between 1832 and 1842.

The "coast road" as it has become affectionately known, is recognised as one of the most scenic driving routes in the world.

Clearly civil engineers had a major societial impact many years ago, but to illustrate a more modern example of the impact civil engineers have, let's look at a more up to date project:

The Belfast Sewers project
The Belfast Sewers project involved a major upgrade of the Belfast crumbling Victorian sewer network and was completed in 2010.

The Belfast Sewers project was a £160 million project aimed at improving water quality on both the River Lagan and the River Blackstaff while reducing the risk of flooding in the inner city.

The Belfast Sewers received a recent endorsement from BBC's Top Gear programme, with the presenters racing Minis through the dry tunnel.

Life as a civil engineer

Emer Owens has been working within the industry for the past seven years. Emer kindly gives us her perspective on life as a civil engineer:

"I graduated with a MEng in Environmental and Civil Engineering from Queen's University Belfast in 2007.

Since then I have worked as a Design Coordinator with Lagan Construction on DBFO2, the largest roads project within Northern Ireland to date.

Lagan Construction work in Ireland, the UK and internationally across a range of civil engineering projects.

For me, civil engineering is an ideal career due to its varied nature – civil engineers can work indoors or outdoors, and our skills are required in every country around the world.

Often, civil engineers can be overlooked as their expertise is something that can be taken for granted in roads, water supply, buildings and so on. I am currently working towards my professional review with ICE, meaning that I am continually developing and learning so that I can demonstrate my ability as a well rounded engineer.

As a chartered engineer, I will look forward to progressing in such an active industry".

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