Civil Engineering – man’s oldest job?

It’s hard to imagine life any different from what we know today. With all the conveniences, mod cons and home comforts we’ve come to rely on. And yet, when man first started out, homes consisted of little more than a cave, and central heating was basically a camp fire (once we’d figured out how to start one that is).

But even though times have changed dramatically over the centuries since man first walked the earth, one thing that’s remained a constant is our need to build. Be it a warm and dry shelter, or a means to travel. Humans have always had an innate drive to find a solution to a problem. Using whatever means and materials available to them.

Which incidentally is a pretty accurate definition of civil engineering. Just one of the disciplines we offer at Mackoy Ltd.

Wikipedia defines civil engineering as “the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment.” Which is exactly what man has been doing since day dot. Albeit on a much more modest scale than the types of projects civil engineers are responsible for delivering today.

So, if this is the case, then surely that makes civil engineering man’s earliest profession? Ok, so cave dwellings pale in comparison to the infrastructure today’s civil engineers put in place in the private and public sector. But the principles of engineering are still inherent in man’s achievements through the ages. Putting a very strong case forward for civil engineers being man’s oldest and first-ever job.

Ever since humans decided to seek shelter (estimated at some 4000 years ago) civil engineering has played a significant part in the creation of the communities, towns and cities we see all around us today. In fact, some of man’s most iconic and celebrated buildings (including several World Wonders) are credited with being the work of civil engineers. From Egypt’s Pyramids and China’s Great Wall, to ancient Greece’s Parthenon. All of these extraordinary feats of engineering came as a result of careful planning and construction. In just the same way that modern infrastructure such as roads, railways, buildings and bridges, come to exist in 2018.

The fact is everything that’s ever been built requires an element of civil engineering. Today in modern Britain, that involves planning where the pipes that provide fresh water and sewage disposal to our towns and cities go. In ancient Rome, aqueducts and dams, provided a similar (albeit more primitive) service. And before that even, Master Builders would oversee the work carried out by stonemasons and carpenters, in a similar capacity to the way civil engineers work with groundworkers and builders on our sites today.

And it’s not difficult to see why civil engineering can be traced back to man’s early existence. The discipline itself covers a wide remit. And requires expert knowledge of physics and maths, specifically in terms of mechanics, geology and the environment. All of which are as relevant to the success of a building project today as they were one thousand years ago.

Of course nowadays the profession is highly specialised and niche. And today’s Civil Engineers undertake years of professional training to become qualified in their craft. Usually a University BA in engineering or civil engineering as a minimum. Learning aspects of maths and physics, as well as project management skills. Before typically embarking on a postgraduate or Masters in one specific engineering field.

It’s a far cry from the days when man had to figure things out for themselves. But it’s because of some of those early achievements through history that we know what we know about civil engineering practice today. In fact, most of the mechanics of construction in modern Britain can still be traced back to how a build was approached in ancient times. Even if the materials, machinery and workplace standards have evolved over the years.

If it weren’t for civil engineers, we wouldn’t have the roads we drive on, running water to our taps, or even a roof over our heads. Let alone, cinemas, shopping centres, restaurants, bars, schools or hospitals. Need we go on? Yep, civil engineering is pretty much the foundation for civilisation, as we know it. Of course groundworkers, builders, plumbers, electricians, scaffolders and roofers all play their equal part too (let’s not do them a disservice). But civil engineers are the point where it all begins. Where that concept in someone’s head gets translated into a tangible and achievable reality.

We may not have always known it as civil engineering. But one way or another, it’s always existed. And for as long as we continue to build, it always will. Even if we one day come to know it by a different job title entirely.

Civil engineering is just one of the building services we offer our clients as part of our groundworks and engineering remit at Mackoy. And while our engineers might not have 1000s of year’s worth of experience (or an Egyptian pyramid on their CV) they’re still fully trained and qualified to modern civil engineering standards.

For our full scope of services, including our groundworks capabilities, take a look at our services page. Or to see some of the recent developments we’ve been a part of at Mackoy (for home builders including Barratt, Bellway and Hampshire Homes), take a look at our News feed.