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UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS

DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL ENGINEERING


Module Name: Professional Communication

Module Code: CIVE 1007 Y (1)

Student ID: 1310372


Name of Assessor: Dr. J.Rana

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Date: 5th February 2014

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UNIVERSITY OF MAURITIUS
CIVIL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT

CIVE 1007 Y

What are the applications of computer hardware and software in Civil


Engineering ?

Submitted by:
VEERAMAH Avinaash

Submitted to:
Dr. J.Rana

Date: 04.February.2014

Table of contents
Abstract..1
1.0 Introduction..........2
1.1 Software Applications..2
1.11 Main branches of Civil Engineering and their specialised softwares.2-3
1.12 Facts and Figures....4
1.2 Hardware Applications.5-6
1.3 Civil Engineering education.6
1.4 Conclusion6
Appendix....7
References..8

Abstract
A quarter century ago, the use of computers in the civil engineering industry or any other
industry, was only a novelty. Both employers and employees could only dream about having
such fascinating technologies at their disposal, which would have, undoubtedly, lessened their
workload to a significant extent. But all of the latter now forms part of history. During the last
decade, one of the greatest revolutions brought forward to the civil engineering industry has
been the introduction of specialised computer hardware and software to ease and change the
way engineers deal with their daily business. With time, industrialisation and modernisation of
the world, the civil engineering industry has grown into one of the most dynamic, challenging
and competitive industries worldwide. Hence, in todays era, due to the complexity and
demands of undertaken tasks, the use of computers in the engineering world is more of a tool
than a luxury. Any engineering firm, which does not capitalise on the various attributes of the
modern computer, is very likely to run out of business sooner rather than later since
computerisation has greatly changed the way the main entities of a project interact. Also, they
have had a great hand in improving the efficiency of delivery and increasing the productivity
within the engineering office.
This report looks at the different applications of computer hardware and software within the
different branches of the civil engineering industry. A mention has also been made for the use
of computers in civil engineering programmes at university level to better equip future civil
engineers with the basic knowledge of the skills required to manipulate these softwares and
hardwares.

1.0 Introduction
Computer software refers to the non-tangible components of a computer system, commonly
known as programs whereas hardware refers to the physical tangible components, such as the
keyboard (Wikipedia, 2014). Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that
deals with the analysis, design, construction and maintenance of the natural and man-made
environment (Wikipedia, 2014). Apart from these previously mentioned tasks, civil engineers
also carry out 3-D modelling, drawing of plans, report writing, project management, and
delivery of presentations amongst others. While some of these tasks can be done manually,
others simply cannot. To be able to work in a more efficient manner and deal with complex
problems, with less errors and increased accuracy and precision, engineers have integrated the
use of computer hardware and software in their daily routine.

1.1 Software Applications


At the beginning of the twenty first century, universities and working professionals of the civil
engineering industry started raising eyebrows over the time taken for civil engineers to
complete assigned tasks and the late deliveries of projects. The latter had severe economic
impacts for certain companies. Hence, the need for implementing computer programs to ease
and fasten the analysis and design processes felt necessary, while still maintaining the high
quality of work. Thus, specialised softwares started being developed for the different
specialised disciplines of civil engineering.

1.11 Main branches of Civil Engineering and specialised softwares.


1. Geotechnical Engineering
This branch deals exclusively with the engineering behaviour of earth materials
(Wikipedia, 2014). Plaxis 3D is one of the most dynamic and latest software developed
for use by geotechnical engineers. Based on the principle of finite element methods, it
is able to provide geotechnical analysis for deformation and stability of soil structures,
ground water and heat flow as well as other complicated tasks, without actually going
on sites. It has been reported that this software is used in over 50 countries worldwide
and by more than 60 % of geotechnical consultants (Plaxis NL, 2014)
2. Structural Engineering
By far, AutoCAD Structural Detailing is the most popular choice for structural
engineers, for that it provides the latter with a greater insight for design, analysis,
modelling and even simulations that would not be possible if these kind of softwares
were not developed (AutoDesk, 2014). The Natal Stadium, one of the homes of football
matches for the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, has been entirely designed using the
afore-mentioned software and the time taken to complete it was impressive (Correa,
2013).
3. Transportation Engineering
This discipline deals with the engineering techniques to achieve safe and efficient
movement of people and vehicles (Wikipedia, 2014). GEOPAK Civil Engineering V8i
is one of the most user-friendly softwares used by engineers working in this field.
Needless to say, with its high capabilities of parametric modelling, this software is on
the rise in the market (Bentley, 2014).

4. Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering


With the world moving towards a green environment, there is a demand for
environmental and hydraulic engineers to design more sustainable buildings instead of
the conventional ones and to preserve natural resources such as rivers. Flow 3D is an
interesting computer software that allows the former to address a wide range of realtime environmental issues in a click (Flow Science, 2014).
5. Construction Engineering and Management
Construction is on the boom in many areas of the world nowadays. Construction
softwares such as Infrastructure Design Suite allow civil engineers as well as
construction managers to be more efficient at tasks ranging from the management of
human and material resources, planning and coordination between entities to the
commissioning of buildings and the delivery process (Architecture, Engineering and
Construction, 2014).
The above-mentioned softwares are specialised ones which are used by civil engineers and
other professionals in the civil engineering industry. However, they also make use of common
programs, such as the Microsoft Office package, in their daily routine.
The table below shows the main programs used in the Ms Office package and their uses for
civil engineers.

Program
Ms Word

Purposes
It is used for the writing purposes, such as letters, reports, memos etc...

Ms Outlook

It is used to communicate to several parties of a project via e-mails. It can


also be used to schedule meetings or other events and inform others online.

Ms Excel

It is used for estimating costs, taking off of measurements, planning and


allocation of resources, calculations etc

Ms
Powerpoint

Ms Project

It is exclusively used to deliver presentations about projects etc..

It is a project management software, which allows site managers to fix


deadline for multiple tasks, calculate labour costs and overtime hours,
producing cash flow reports etc
Table 1

1.12 Facts and figures.


1. The following graph shows the trend in the use of computer softwares by civil engineers
worldwide to carry out their tasks (Use of IT in Civil Engineering, 2013).

Year

% of Civil engineers' tasks done electronically by


softwares
2014
2012
2010
2008
2006
2004
2002
2000
1998
1996
1994
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Figure 1
As shown, over the years, there has been a significant increase in the use of software used by
civil engineers. This increased use coincides with the advancement of technology in the modern
world, helping to develop all sorts of computer programs, which eases the given tasks.
2. Some branches of Civil Engineering, depending upon the type and complexity of a
given task, require a higher use of computer programs than others. The following piechart represents the percentage distribution of the use of computer programs in the main
branches of Civil Engineering (Sitaram, 2012).

% Use of softwares in main Civil Engineering branches


40
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
Structural

Geotechnical Highway and


transportation

Hydraulic

Figure 2

Surveying

Coastal

Environmental

1.2 Hardware Applications


While the use of computer programs has been on the increase during the last few years, the
same cannot be said for computer hardwares, though it would be wrong to say that there has
not been significant advancement concerning these tangible computer parts. Hardwares, used
by civil engineers and other professionals in this sector, have not been specially designed to be
used for them. In fact, most of the hardwares used are common to many other professionals,
such as architects.
The following table provides a list of the most common hardwares used by professionals in the
civil engineering industry.
Hardware

Monitor

Keyboard

3
4

Mouse
Printer

Plotter
Random
Access
Memory
(RAM)

Purpose(s)
It acts as the display unit of the computer. Usually due to the
simulations, designs and 3-D modelling that civil engineers usually
carry out, a high resolution monitor is preferred.
Just as for all computer users, the keyboard allows data entry into the
computer.
It is used as a pointer/selector. For ease of use, civil engineers often
prefer optical mice (cordless).
Used to print all kinds of paperwork such as reports, letters etc...
It is a type of printer, usually used for printing vector graphics. This is
usually used in computer applications such as computer aided designs,
to eventually produce blueprints or structural drawings.

Programs such as AutoCAD & Flow 3D, are powerful ones which need
a high working memory to run conveniently and fast enough. Thus the
higher the RAM capacity, the more convenient it is for civil engineers.
These include pen drives, external hard disk drives and other storage
devices which are required to store project reports, cash flow reports,
Optical Drives drawings etc...
Video
This card defines the display of the monitor. Thus high resolution
Graphics Card display, preferred by engineers, need high quality graphics cards.

Modem

Nowadays, all forms of communication between different persons


involved in a project are done via e-mail. Thus the modem is necessary
to have access to internet connectivity.

10

Scanners

11

Webcams

12

Motherboard

Often, hand-made documents or drawings/plans need to be input to the


computer and the scanner allows that facility.
Due to the advancement of technology, meetings between international
clients, overseas-based architectural firms and locally based civil
engineers are usually done via video-conferencing. The webcam is
mandatory for this to take place.
The main part of the computer, where all circuitry and other peripherals
are connected. It is a key component in defining the speed at which
computers process data and those used by civil engineers need to be
high-quality ones since much data can be input at once and results, such
as those of structural analysis, are expected quickly.
Table 2

It is worthy to be noted that, the usual personal computer which includes the monitor, keyboard,
mouse and other common computer parts, are not used nowadays due to its restrained mobility
for a civil engineer. Thus, nowadays, the latter prefers the use of a laptop, which includes all
the components of the personal computer and can be more powerful than the latter. On top of
that, the laptop is mobile and can be used anywhere, without power supply.

1.3 Civil Engineering education.


The civil engineering sector does not only include professionals from the industry, but also
integrates undergraduate and graduate students from universities, who will become future
engineers. By the time the latters education are complete, a wide range of advanced computeraided analysis and design tools will be made available to them. This will require them to apply
basic concepts of computer science to respond properly and effectively to these technological
influences. The main implication is to prepare these future engineers as from now itself to get
acquainted with computer methods and applications as part of their general engineering
curriculum.
Thus it is in the interest of universities to invest in appropriate computer software and hardware
and incorporate the latters applications in their current academic syllabuses so as to equip
these engineers with the necessary professional qualifications they will require once they set
foot in the industrial world (Kincho H.Law, ASCE member, 1998).

1.4 Conclusion
If not today, tomorrow will surely be the day when computers will become the main
protagonists within any civil engineering discipline, either in academic institutions or in the
industry since technology is taking the entire world by storm. With a decreasing percentage of
human involvement and interaction in day-to-day tasks within the civil engineering
community, the applications of specialised computer softwares and hardwares will be on the
increase.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, an engineer should have the necessary
attributes consistent with the professions aspirational vision and one of these attributes is to
know how to deal effectively with the appropriate computing applications for ease of work and
to maximize productivity (ASCE Steering Commitee , 2006).
Thus it is in the dearest interest of all those involved in this particular field to familiarise
thoroughly with the present and upcoming developments of computer softwares and hardwares.

Appendix
The following is an expanded list of the main civil engineering softwares used worldwide (Civil
Engineering Portal, 2012).
Software

Brief Description

STAAD Pro

Mainly used for structural analysis and design.

AutoCAD

For 2D/3D drafting of engineering graphics.

ETABS

For structural and seismic engineering design.

Haestad

For water distribution modelling.

STRUMECH

For engineering mechanics analysis.

HEVA COMP

For building services engineering purposes.

GEO 5

For geotechnical analysis.

AS CAD

For land surveying.

Auto TURN

For highway design and transportation engineering.

10 BOSS International

For groundwater, surface water and terrain modelling.

11 Ezicad

For contour routines and road design.

12 GEOPAK

For surveying and road design.

13 Soakaway Design

For wastewater system designs.

14 Rockgrout

For design and construction of cement grouting.

15 Rcolumn

For analysis of reinforced concrete columns.

16 PG Super
17 Inlet Master

For design and check precast/pre-stressed girder bridges.


A hydraulic program for design and analysis of storm drain
inlets.

18 ELPLA

For analysis and design of slab foundations.

19 MWH Software

For modelling of water distribution.

20 Spencer Engineering

For joist/slab vibration analysis.


Table 3

References
(2014, January 29). Retrieved from Wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geotechnical_engineering
(2014, January 29). Retrieved from Plaxis NL: www.plaxis.nl
Architecture, Engineering and Construction. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from
Construction: http://www.autodesk.com/industry/architecture-engineeringconstruction/construction
ASCE Steering Commitee . (2006). The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. Virginia:
ASCE.
AutoDesk. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from Architecture, Engineering & Construction:
www.autodesk.com/industry/architecture-engineeringconstruction/Structural_Engineering
Bentley. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from GEOPAK Civil Engineering Suite V8i:
www.bentley.com/en-US/Products/GEOPAK+Civil+Engineering+Suite/
Bentley. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from GEOPAK Civil Engineering Suite V8i:
www.bentley.com/en-US/Products/GEOPAK+Civil+Engineering+Suite/
Correa, C. (2013). A Signature Stadium. Customer Success Story, 1-2.
Flow Science. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from Water & Environmental Engineering:
http://www.flow3d.com/apps/hydraulics/water-environmental-engineering.html
Kincho H.Law, ASCE member. (1998). Computing in Civil Engineering Curriculum: Needs
and Issues. New York: ASCE Journal Press.
Sitaram, H. J. (2012). Computer Diligence For Civil Engineers.
Use of IT in Civil Engineering. (2013). ASCE Publications.
Wikipedia. (2014, January 24). Retrieved from Civil Engineering:
en.wikipedia.org/Wiki/Civil_Engineering
Wikipedia. (2014, January 24). Retrieved from Software: en.wikipedia.org/Wiki/Software
Wikipedia. (2014, January 29). Retrieved from Traffic Engineering:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Engineering
Civil Engineering Portal (2012). Retrieved from Civil Engineering Software:
http://www.engineeringcivil.com/softwares