Civil engineering is right at the center of any country’s development because it forms the backbone of development. However, economic, social, political, and even the philosophical aspects of civil engineering is subject of discussion in all levels of society. Perhaps because it touches on everyone’s life in homes, schools, offices, on the roads, air, sea among others.
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Recently, there have been announcements about projects, which mark the milestone to new heights in civil engineering. For example, the recent completion of the world’s longest tunnel under the Swiss Alps for the construction of the New Rail Link which will connect Switzerland and Italy (BBC) and the completion of the seventh highest bridge in the world over the Colorado River controlled by the Hoover Dam (CNN 2).
It is worth noting that the recent civil engineering projects have been completed through difficult economic times. It best illustrates the resilience of civil engineering to economic recession and the philosophy of governments placing civil engineering at the center of infrastructure development.
The economic value of the completed civil projects cannot be gainsaid. Civil engineering lays the infrastructural foundation for the economy. Movement of people and goods is important for any economy. Little wonder the bridge over Colorado River has received as much praise as the New Rail Link because of the ease of movement the projects bring or are set to bring to their respective regions.
It has been postulated that in about 20 years from now, the world’s total population will hit 8 billion with over 5 billion living in cities. This will in turn present new infrastructural challenges and demands. These include increased purchases, more cars on the roads, more flights, more garbage, and higher energy demands. The world will look to civil engineering in both the short term and long term to provide the solutions to burgeoning economic and social needs. In keeping with the pace, more civil engineers will be needed to provide the services. More houses, schools, health care facilities, offices, roads, airports, seaports, railways, new mines, sports arenas e.t.c., will have to be built to cope with the social challenges arising from increase in population. The future presents the civil engineer with a host of unlimited opportunities. These opportunities are mostly found in the developing countries who are building their infrastructure (CNN 1).
Nevertheless, there are challenges in civil engineering too. Recently, it has been reported that some civil engineering firms are under judicial scrutiny over allegations of corruption. The engineering giants are accused of influencing foreign officials to award them contracts. This could be due to the high competition in civil engineering. However, this highlights one of the major challenges civil engineering has to live with. It clearly illustrates how difficult it may be to get lucrative civil engineering contracts without bribing the officials concerned with locally or in the foreign markets (CNN 8).
Furthermore, the reports in a section of the media about widespread corruption scandals involving foreign officials reveals the political interests in civil engineering projects in many developing countries. Consequently, this leaves little doubt about the position of small civil engineering firms vis a vis large firms with the financial power to influence contract decisions (CNN 7).
Besides the positive economic, social, and philosophical implications of civil engineering, there are negative implications that need to be resolved. Corruption and sporadic poor workmanship in civil engineering should be addressed to provide equal opportunity and protect the reputation of the profession. The civil engineers can resolve some of these solutions while others can only be addressed at the government level.