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Studying Civil Engineering in Germany

Civil engineers ensure that buildings are constructed safely, environmentally friendly and economically
An article by Madlen Ottenschläger

Studying Civil Engineering in Germany
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Civil and Environmental Engineering

That is what it’s about

Buildings and roads, offshore wind farms, subway tunnels or sports stadiums: All of these are designed and built by civil engineers. They shape our environment and shape how we live - not only today but also for future generations. Ecological topics play a large role. Civil engineers pay attention to resource conservation, they design infrastructure for energy distribution or plan bicycle lanes with convenient traffic lights. Unlike architects, the focus is less on artistic but functional designs, on longevity and safety. This includes seemingly self-evident things such as façades that defy wind and weather over thirty years, effective fire protection or an adequate drainage system. The "Internet of Things" is becoming ever more important, linking everyday objects with computer technology and turning them into "smart objects". For example, lighting, heating and ventilation of buildings can be controlled by smartphone.

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This is how the course runs

Above all, three major areas are dealt with: Designing, measuring and organizing. Design requires creativity: What should a bridge look like? Dimensioning includes statics, timber construction, steel construction, solid construction, geo-technical and environmental engineering. Organizing is about building project and construction process management. At first, however, the students acquire the basics. "If you plan to build a bridge or waste water treatment plant, you can’t do it without geology, biology or chemistry," says Birger Gigla, a professor at Lübeck Technical University and chairman of the Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering department. Maths, physics, mechanics and computer science are important. Business administration, contract law, resource management, ecology and digital construction are also taught. It sometimes happens that the students can be found in Wellington boots on construction sites. More often, however, they construct buildings and systems on computers. They use software such as CAD (Computer-Aided Design) or BIM (Building Information Modelling). At most universities and universities of applied science, one can choose a speciality in the higher bachelor's semesters. The offer ranges from building construction, tunnelling and construction process management to traffic planning and geo-technical engineering. The universities of applied sciences often provide a practical semester. The students then work in an engineering office or a building authority, which is then followed by the final thesis. Even at the universities, where the practical parts are not as many, many write their bachelor thesis on current topics, such as the recycling of concrete.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How to calculate the load of a component?
  • Which building materials are free of pollutants?
  • How do you plan a construction project digitally?
  • How to create a ground assessment?
  • How long is the service life of a bridge?
  • How to design bicycle routes?

The subject suits you,...

...if you enjoy numbers and have a great interest in science. "But you do not have to be a total maths whiz," says Birger Gigla. What is more important is that you enjoy working in a team and have communication skills and perseverance. "In professional life, many civil engineers evolve from technical specialists to managers," says Hans-Joachim Bargstädt, professor for Construction Management at the University of Weimar. Because it is important to deal with investors, government officials and craftsmen. Civil engineers must also be prepared to take responsibility. On construction sites, they are responsible for the safety of many people, and their decisions influence living spaces for decades.

Is there a numerus clausus?

About one third of the degree programs are covered by a numerus clausus, which is about grade three.

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