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Fundamentals of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Infrastructure Services

Course Description

Civil and Environmental Engineers (CEVEs) engage in the planning, design, construction, operation, retrofit, demolition, and reuse of infrastructure systems that form the backbone of societies and economies. CEVEs work at the dynamic interface of the built environment, information environment, and natural environment on topics like smart cities and construction, sustainable energy and buildings, connected and automated transportation systems, resilient infrastructure, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and water management. In this course, students will explore how data science, environmental science, economic analysis, structural design, and systems thinking can be integrated to promote sustainability, resilience, and equity. Through a mix of technical lectures, topical seminars on applications and ideas of interest, and team-based projects, students will develop an understanding of the broad field of civil and environmental engineering and its applications.



Course Objectives

This course is intended to introduce you to the discipline of civil and environmental engineering through examination of topics in energy systems, water systems, urban mobility, and coastal resilience. This course emphasizes analytical skills, systems thinking, communication, and teamwork.

The course aims to provide:

  1. an understanding of the scope of civil and environmental engineering;
  2. an understanding of the academic activities of the Rice CEVE department;
  3. exposure to fundamental principles, concepts, and approaches that apply across CEVE disciplines, including quantitative reasoning and creative problem solving;
  4. a context for applying information from other first-year courses, especially calculus and physics;
  5. a background for higher level classes in civil and environmental engineering;
  6. an appreciation for the many links between the practice of civil and environmental engineering and social goals including sustainability, resilience, and equity;
  7. a sampling of possible career paths within the field of civil and environmental engineering, and their requirements;
  8. and some experience with the fun of being an engineer.

Learning Objectives

On completing this course, students should be able to:

  1. Identify civil and environmental engineering subfields
  2. Successfully perform engineering problem solving in several civil and environmental subfields
  3. Generate report-quality engineering calculations
  4. Create and present an oral report on a design project
  5. Collaborate with peers in project teams and in composing project reports

Course Organization

The course is organized into four modules:

  1. Energy Systems
  2. Water Systems
  3. Urban Mobility
  4. Coastal Resilience

Through the lense of these four topics, which sample only part of the breadth of Civil and Environmental Engineering, we will explore how foundational tools and analyses can be used to develop a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable built environment. For each module, students will work on a project in groups and present using a different presentation format (in-class presentation, policy brief, digital presentation, and written report).

If you are interested in this course, you may also be interested in the following courses:

  1. ENGI 120 is a design course offered through the design kitchen. While engineering design is a large component of this course, it is the main focus of ENGI 120. You should take ENGI 120 if you want to build prototypes or to participate in a semester-long design project. You should take this course if you want to learn about the field of civil and environmental engineering through a set of more focused design projects.
  2. CEVE 302 will help you develop skills in formulating and solving problems of societal development and advancement in light of increasing material, energy and water demands and decreasing resource availability.
  3. CEVE 310 covers principles of water quality engineering, air pollution control and solid and hazardous waste management.
  4. know of another related course? Create an issue at and I will add it to this list.

Syllabus Credit

This course builds on resources and courses developed by other scholars:

  1. This digital syllabus uses the the Just the Class website template by Kevin Lin
  2. Many thanks to Costa Samaras for sharing the syllabus of his “Exploring CEE: Infrastructure and Environment in a Changing World” course at Carnegie Mellon University
  3. Thanks to Upmanu Lall for sharing course materials for his “A Better Planet by Design” course at Columbia University
  4. Thanks to Larry Wilen and Vince Wilczynski of Yale University and to Tal Cohen of MIT for sharing syllabi for their design-based courses
  5. Thanks to Jeremiah Johnson of NC State for sharing an activity on water tariffs