Major Challenges Faced by Civil Engineering – PSRB-D

Major Challenges Faced by Civil Engineering

Major Challenges Faced by Civil Engineering Professionals in the Execution of their Profession and the impact of the challenges to the Environment, Society and Economy of Developing Countries


Engineering is the application of scientific and mathematical concepts, as well as experience, common sense, and judgement, to the design, analysis, and operation of structures, machines, and systems for practical applications. “Scientists explore what already exists,” Albert Einstein said. Engineers generate “never-before-seen” situations. Engineering, according to the Accredited Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), is “the profession in which knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained through study, experience, and practises is applied with judgement to develop ways to economically utilise the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.”

 Engineers are interested in using mathematics, inventiveness, and scientific knowledge to find answers to technological difficulties. Civil engineering is the branch of engineering that works with using mathematical and scientific knowledge to enhance infrastructures such as bridges, dams, buildings, roads, trains, and dams, as well as common utilities, in order to better human lives and society. These enhancements are made while ensuring the safety of structures and utilities, as well as being environmentally and economically beneficial. Civil engineering is concerned with the planning, development, and upkeep of the built environment.

Civil engineering is a broad field that encompasses a variety of sub-disciplines and specialisations. Construction engineering, structural engineering, water resources engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering, municipal or urban engineering, environmental engineering, materials engineering, coastal engineering, architectural engineering, and surveying are all examples of these disciplines. Civil engineers are involved in ensuring that infrastructures are adapted to meet natural disaster, population increase, and climate change concerns, in addition to their societal responsibility to properly maintain and modify structures that we rely on in our everyday lives. They are in charge of finding and implementing solutions to complex challenges.

However, these engineers encounter numerous obstacles in properly carrying out their duties and obligations. These issues have a significant impact on our culture, our environment, and every nation’s economy. This paper examines a literature assessment of some of these difficulties, as well as their implications for society, the environment, and the economy.

Some of the Most Serious Civil Engineering Issues

“The position of being presented with something that requires tremendous mental or physical effort in order to be done properly and hence challenges a person’s ability,” according to the Cambridge dictionary. Becerik-Gerber et al. [2] classified civil engineering endeavours as complicated and diversified undertakings that face nonstandard issues because of the critical function it plays in the development and improvement of societies.

Construction that is environmentally friendly

One of the most significant difficulties in civil engineering in poor nations is construction sustainability [3]. This allegation is backed up by Adebayo [4], who claims that sustainable construction in Africa has received little attention. According to Hill and Bowen [5, the term sustainable building was coined to reflect the construction industry’s involvement in achieving sustainability.

While Adebayo claims that many countries have defined sustainable construction as the building industry’s attempt to achieve it. Sustainable construction, according to Dania et al. [6, is the construction industry’s answer to adopting sustainable development. The scholars of the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB) concur that a globally enforceable common agenda on Sustainable Construction is needed.

This was stated in its Agenda 21 on Sustainable Construction, which was released in 1999. This conclusion was reached following an extended collaborative research effort, as it was realised that the building sector plays a significant role in the long-term evolution of human settlements. According to Du Plessis [3, the CIB Agenda 21 was created to act as a global intermediary between international and national or regional agendas for the built environment and construction sector, with the main goals of creating a general framework and terminology that will add value to the various Agendas and providing a source document for defining research and development activities.

Du Plessis argues that the developed world’s approach to creating a sustainable built environment differs significantly from the developing world’s approach, which is still unclear and little understood. Adebayo agreed with Du Plessis, claiming that in some impoverished countries or regions, such as Africa, sustainable construction has received little attention. According to Adebayo (2002), there is a disconnect between theory and practise in Africa, and there is a complete lack of understanding of sustainable construction in comparison to industrialised countries.

Taylor and Norvalcriticise the fact that construction efforts in Africa are based on the expertise of industrialised countries, a practise they claim has caused severe problems in Africa’s construction industry. According to Ofori the perspective of developing countries was not taken into account when specific frameworks for sustainable construction were established, and as a result, the framework may not be acceptable to apply to the case of developing countries.

The direct application of developed-world experience to developing-world countries, such as Africa, has failed because the priorities and national conditions of African countries differ from those of developed-world countries.

As a result, Taylor and Norval recommend that the meaning of sustainable development and construction in the African setting be updated. According to Du Plessis , the notion of sustainable development is still growing, and its application on regional and local methods and solutions is dependent on how it is carried out. Because industrialised and developing countries have different definitions, methodologies, and solutions, an international agenda for sustainable building that recognises these local and regional disparities is needed (ibid). Adebayo questioned if sustainable construction can be accomplished without a thorough understanding of what development entails.

As a result, he claimed that before discussing sustainable construction in a given location, one must first have a thorough awareness of the social, political, and economic climate as well as the local developmental challenges. He also believes that once all of the challenges are well understood, sustainable construction will become an important aspect of long-term development.

When the issue of sustainable construction is brought up for discussion, Adebayo cites wars, conflicts, and pandemic diseases as examples of practical issues that have sparked debate and caused the issue of sustainable construction in Africa to be viewed differently than it is in the developed world. In order to recognise local and regional differences, recommends holding a series of regional sustainable building conferences, with the formulation of regional sustainable action plans for sustainable building and sustainable construction in Africa at the forefront.

 “The key issue is the establishment of a solid knowledge foundation for Africa,” he continues, “that will equip the public, professionals, development agencies, and governments with accurate and relevant knowledge generated within the framework of the continent’s social needs, cultures, and biophysical environment to guide their decisions and actions toward establishing a sustainable affluent society.”

Remind us that one of the most important principles of civilization is sustainable development. Many countries have made progress toward sustainable development, but they still confront obstacles in determining the best method. Due to the dispute over the application of the idea of sustainable development in developing countries such as Africa, Adebayo has analysed certain definitions to determine if they are applicable in Africa or if they have been successfully attained. While the Brundtland Report defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without jeopardising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs,”

the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives-ICLEI defines it in its local Agenda 21 planning guide as “development that delivers basic environmental, social, and economic serenity.” Sustainable development is defined by the European Union in the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997 as development that “determines to promote economic and social progress for their peoples, taking into account the principle of sustainable development and within the context of achieving the internal market, strengthened cohesion, and environmental protection, and to implement policies” Due to the paralysis of the economy in developing countries, particularly African countries, as a result of war, heavy debts owed to future generations, and difficulties in meeting present and future needs, Adebayo argues that the WCED  definition of sustainable development can be applied to developed countries but not to developing countries like Africa. Adebayo also disagrees with the ICLEI definition in the context of developing countries, claiming that when African governments adopt government regulations, the natural built environment is completely ignored on construction sites. He also stated that there are no longer any socio-cultural dynamics as a result of the project’s demise. While Adebayo criticises or disputes the applicability of the WCED  and ICLEI definitions in the African context, he considers the European Union definition in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 to be more favourable in the African context or region because it embraces the integrated development concept.

Professionals, policymakers, development theorists, and practitioners have long endorsed this approach, which they regard as encompassing sustainability in all aspects. According to this perspective, sustainable building serves as a method for the construction sector to accomplish overall sustainable development, allowing sustainable construction to be driven from the development realm.

 Sustainable construction was defined as “a holistic process seeking to restore and maintain harmony between the natural built environments and create settlements that recognise human dignity and support economic equity” in Agenda 2001 for construction in developing countries (SCDC) (Figure 1).

The concept of sustainable construction encompasses a broader range of issues and is fraught with difficulties and complications. Due to these difficulties and complexities, Dania et al.claimed that sustainable building entails resolving conflicts that arise from competing aims while pursuing environmental quality, social equality, and economic prosperity at the same time. They concluded by saying that the building sector should improve its methods for constructing the built environment because it is a critical component of the sustainability discussion.

 According to Oyebode , the government should ensure that standards and policies relating to infrastructure development are thoroughly addressed and handled in a holistic manner in order to successfully evaluate Infrastructures for Economy and Sustainable Construction. Contracts should be effectively examined once again, and appropriate consulting and construction services should be put in place to ensure that the projects are correctly implemented. An expert task force created by the ASCE TCCIT (Technical Council on Computing and Information Technology) Data Sensing and Analysis (DSA) Committee highlighted nine significant issues now encountered by civil engineering professionals, according to Becerik-Gerber et al.

 The following are the major challenges:

1. Improving construction site safety

2. Proper groundwater management

3. Observation and rehabilitation of deteriorating infrastructure

4. Soil erosion reduction

5. Traffic congestion reduction

6. Infrastructure resilience as a means of disaster management

Estimation of sea levels is number seven.

8. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings

9. Increased productivity in the building industry

In this study, the first three difficulties will be examined together with their societal, economic, and environmental consequences for the community.

On a construction site, safety refers to avoiding and protecting workers from injuries and deadly incidents that could end in death. With its various building, maintenance, and demolition projects, the civil engineering sector is one of the largest in the world. While statistics from industrialised countries reveal that construction employees die three to four times as often as workers in other industries as a result of fatal accidents, the fatality rate of construction workers in underdeveloped countries is estimated to be three to six times higher.

Construction workers are exposed to a variety of hazards on the job, including asbestos, extreme weather, physical handling of heavy loads, loud noise, falls from heights, dust emission, being struck by equipment, hands arm vibration from tools, and electrocution, to name a few. Civil engineering professionals and other professional organisations have the difficulty of establishing solid norms and regulations that workers will follow in order to limit the rate of fatal injuries that result in worker mortality.

They are obligated to teach the workers that their performance is dependent in part on their safety. While studies of organisational safety, culture, and post-accident investigations in developed countries assist these professionals in putting in place such safety rules and regulations, developing countries such as Cameroon find it difficult because post-accident investigations are rarely conducted, and thus data from such accidents is rarely kept for future use. While Du Plessis argues that developing countries lack accurate data on which to base their decisions and establish and implement safety programmes in the same way that developed countries do, Awwad et al. argue that while health and safety programmes are still in their infancy in some developing countries, some developing countries have them in place but fail to implement them. These construction site accidents and deaths have an economic impact because they might result in higher insurance costs, higher premiums to compensate workers or their families, and the loss of certain workdays.

The corporation may spend the most money training new personnel to replace the wounded or deceased worker, and the project may suffer as a result of lost production. While the societal impact of such accidents or injuries to the company may result in a loss of public confidence in the company, a drop in employee morale, and a decrease in customer satisfaction, it can also result in depression in some affected family members and a loss of societal welfare, which may negatively impact the quality of life. According to Becerik-Gerber et al., despite the clean-up and management of some construction-related mishaps such as hazardous material spills and fires, there are hidden costs that are incurred indirectly because of environmental impact on the larger population. These expenses aren’t quantifiable or well-understood (ibid).

Groundwater management that is done correctly

Groundwater consumption has been steadily increasing since 1950 as a result of population growth and economic development, putting increased pressure on proper management of this natural resource. The world’s current primary problem is to ensure that the welfare advantages produced by groundwater development are sustainable.

While advanced experiential knowledge has been developed in the industrialised world to properly manage groundwater in various uses and contexts, the intelligent application of this knowledge to the proper management of groundwater is a major challenge in Asian and African countries today, where the increasing use of groundwater for irrigation to support livelihoods has become a threat to groundwater. Pump wells have been used for groundwater development for municipal, industrial, and agricultural supplies since 1950. The world uses about 750-800 Km3 of groundwater every year.

 Excessive use of this groundwater has resulted in groundwater depletion in many areas, resulting in harm to aquatic ecosystems, lower well yields, poor water quality, higher pumping costs, and subsided land .projected that water will be more stressed based on climate change forecasts and some worries for aquifer systems and groundwater commodities and services that are related with the systems. Most developing countries’ groundwater governance regimes lack the capacity to provide efficient resource regulation and allocation in the long run. Uncertainties such as socioeconomic growth, poor protection, and poor governance structure affecting resource use, global climate change, poor regulation, and poor implementation of alternative strategies needed to achieve sustainable management, are some of the issues that are obstructing groundwater management. Predictable fluctuations in groundwater drought sensitivity are rarely planned for or addressed.

Conducted a qualitative assessment of interviews with some South African experts in order to identify the challenges that affect the development of an adaptive and sustainable system for groundwater management and the successful implementation of water legislation in South Africa. The results show that the neglect of ecosystems and the associated goods and services; undervaluat In terms of cost, depletion of ground water might result in an increase in costs due to an increase in the lifting distance and more energy required for pumping, which will place a greater strain on end users. The state funding for wastewater treatment will also be increased.

The social consequences of improper groundwater management cannot be overstated, as we rely heavily on groundwater for cooking, drinking, and cleaning. Groundwater depletion will become more of a problem in our daily lives as time goes on. Groundwater quality is jeopardised by contamination of subsurface water. Toxins or contaminants in subterranean water, if not properly handled, can harm the life of aquatic plants and animals as well as the underlying ecosystem, resulting in significant environmental damage.

Thinks that adaptive water management is a suitable strategy for good groundwater resource governance, taking into account the complex system linkages across political, hydrogeological, environmental, and socio-economic domains. To address the groundwater management challenges, the development of supporting principles such as cooperation tools, participation networks, and information that can enable the implementation of adaptive water management approaches that can lead to institutional change in groundwater management is a viable option.

Monitoring and improving decrepit and deteriorating infrastructure

Infrastructure, according to Becerik-Gerber et al., is the collection of key facilities and basic systems that support a community, region, or country. Transportation systems, dams, and schools, as well as subsurface lifelines, are all examples (e.g. water, telecommunication conduits, sewage, and electricity). Infrastructure in developing countries in Africa, such as Cameroon, is rapidly deteriorating and requires attention and investment to improve. Appropriate infrastructure health monitoring is required in order to obtain reliable data on the state or health of infrastructures in order to make an informed choice on what to do or measures to take for its improvement or rehabilitation. For usage in development and monitoring the health of infrastructures, the Civil Engineering community need precise methods of global displacement measurement. To efficiently maintain and manage civil infrastructure in a cost-effective way, it is necessary to examine structure performance and the cumulative cost of the entire life cycle. Frangopol and Liu are concerned about how most maintenance and management systems are developed with only life-cycle cost minimization in mind. They believe that a single maintenance and management solution will not provide long-term structure performance.

Frangopol and Liu are particularly frustrated by the fact that structure performance is typically represented by visual inspection-based structure condition states. When making decisions about maintenance management, there hasn’t been enough thought put into the real safety level of the structure (ibid). In Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, a huge number of civil constructions have been designed and built according to outmoded rules of practise.

The age of the structures and the actual performance of the construction materials have a significant impact on the overall behaviour of existing structures. This is also true in many African countries, where many existing structures are no longer fit for purpose due to age and structural flaws. As a result, structural assessment and repair has become a significant challenge in urban planning and administration. There is a need to assess and improve the structural safety of existing structures in the event of an earthquake that causes catastrophic damage or collapse. Due to the presence of Mount Cameroon in Buea, a major portion of Fako Division in Cameroon’s South West Region is subject to medium/high seismic risk. This highlights the importance of putting in place adequate measures to protect vulnerable structures and reduce injury and mortality caused by seismic events, such as those experienced by the population and structures around Mount Cameroon in 1999 and 2000 when the volcano erupted. The first step in putting such effective safeguards in place is to expand awareness of existing structures’ structural behaviour by establishing recommendations that describe actions to protect them and reduce the likelihood of structural damage.

While various significant research projects in the field of civil engineering have been launched in developed nations to aid in the ongoing monitoring of relevant parameters and the performance of such structures, analogous studies in Africa in general and Cameroon in particular are hard to come by. This poses a significant obstacle to the development of an effective Structure Health Monitoring system for civil structures in the earthquake-prone region of Buea and its environs. According to Rainieri et al., seismic protection of civil structures can be achieved by using modern design principles for new structures as well as rules for recovering and reshaping old structures. Advanced structural health monitoring (SHM) and seismic early warning (SEW) systems can be used to examine existing structures’ structural performance, assess their susceptibility, and determine the necessary structural rehabilitation actions. In wealthy countries, advances in information and communication technology have enabled real-time monitoring of structures. The majority of poor countries lack these advanced systems and technologies. Even if they are discovered, they face challenges in terms of design, installation, cable maintenance, and some advanced electronic components. These measuring and computing gadgets require a steady supply of power. In nations like Cameroon and Nigeria, where electric power supply is rarely stable, this is a major concern.

The majority of African countries still conduct structural health monitoring solely through visual assessment of infrastructure. As flaws are discovered and assessed visually or manually using digital cameras to take images, this method is subjective and time consuming. Another issue seen during inspections is the disruption of some utilities (e.g., water mains, electricity lines, etc.). Inspectors or technicians in a country like Cameroon sometimes find it difficult, if not impossible, to precisely detect infrastructure lines that have been buried for a long period. This type of visual or manual infrastructure inspection or health monitoring does not provide correct data or information about the state or health of the infrastructure, making it difficult to make educated decisions and creating a significant civil engineering challenge.

The economic impact of these issues is tremendous, as ageing infrastructures necessitate large sums of money for repair and result in major economic losses. The importance of monitoring infrastructure health cannot be overstated, according to Salim and Zhu, because it can provide real-time updates on its condition, which promotes preventive planning and reduces inefficiencies and failures. Failure of certain infrastructure systems can be extremely hazardous to the environment, and the consequences might be felt for a long time. A breakdown of an oil pipeline transporting crude oil from the Bakassi peninsula to Limbe in Cameroon, for example, will result in an oil spill into the Gulf of Guinea, destroying aquatic life. The failure of a natural gas pipeline will have such a large societal impact that it may result in multiple deaths. Many buildings (both public and private) have collapsed in Cameroon in recent years, resulting in several deaths, as have automobile accidents caused by the country’s poor road infrastructure. The difficulty in determining the exact location of underground infrastructures may result in the loss of some important services, putting the public’s safety at risk.

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