Heavy Civil Terminology A

Heavy Civil Glossary – Words that begin with A

Bet a better understanding of the terminology used in heavy civil engineering and construction with our heavy civil encyclopedia.

Abrams’ Law: Abrams’ Law is a fundamental concept that explains the relationship between the water-cement ratio and the compressive strength of concrete. It states that the compressive strength of concrete increases as the water-cement ratio decreases. This principle is important in the construction industry as it determines the durability and stability of concrete structures. In other words, the lower the water-cement ratio, the stronger and more durable the concrete will be. This law is named after American Civil Engineer, L. Abrams, who conducted extensive research on the topic in the early 1900s.


Abrasion Resistance: Abrasion Resistance is particularly important for materials that are exposed to frequent contact with abrasive substances such as soil, water, or heavy traffic. For instance, roads and pavements are constantly subjected to the abrasive action of vehicle tires and the movement of pedestrians. Hence, using materials with high abrasion resistance is important to minimize the damage caused by this constant friction. The selection of materials with good abrasion resistance also plays a significant role in reducing maintenance costs and increasing the lifespan of structures.


Absolute Pressure: Absolute Pressure is measured in units of force per unit area, such as pounds per square inch (psi) or pascals (Pa). It is typically determined by adding the atmospheric pressure to the gauge pressure, which is the pressure measured by a pressure gauge relative to atmospheric pressure. By considering the absolute pressure, engineers can accurately assess the total forces acting on a structure due to fluid pressure and design it to withstand these forces. Absolute pressure is important in hydraulic systems. Additionally, in geotechnical engineering, absolute pressure is used to determine the stability and safety of soil and rock masses under hydrostatic pressures.


Absorbance: Absorbance refers to the ability of a material to soak up or absorb water. This can be an important factor to consider when designing structures that will be exposed to moisture or water over time. For example, if you’re building a bridge or a dam, you need to make sure that the materials you use can handle being submerged in water without deteriorating or losing their strength. Absorbance can also be a factor in the stability of soil, as soils with high absorbance can be more prone to erosion and instability. Understanding absorbance can help engineers make more informed decisions and design structures that will stand the test of time.


AC Power: AC power is often tossed around like a hot potato. AC power refers to the use of alternating current in the power supply system of a building or structure. This type of power is used to run all sorts of electrical equipment, from air conditioning units to elevators, and everything in between. AC power is important because it provides a reliable and efficient source of energy to power the many complex systems that are required in modern buildings. Without AC power, buildings would be unable to function properly and would likely experience a host of problems, from poor air quality to equipment malfunctions.


Acid: Acid might sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel. Acid is commonly used to describe the corrosive properties of certain substances. When these substances come into contact with various materials, such as concrete or steel, they can cause damage and weaken the structural integrity of a building or other structure. In order to prevent such damage from occurring, Civil Engineers must carefully consider the potential effects of acids and take appropriate measures to mitigate any risks.


Acid-Base Reaction: Acid-base reactions are not just confined to chemistry labs. They play a significant role in determining the stability and durability of the structures we build. Simply put, an acid-base reaction is a chemical reaction that involves the transfer of protons from an acid to a base or vice versa. In construction, the pH level of the soil and groundwater can affect the performance of the foundations, retaining walls, and other structures. Acidic conditions can lead to corrosion of steel reinforcements, while alkaline conditions can cause the degradation of concrete. Therefore, understanding the acid-base reactions and their impact on the construction materials is important for civil engineers.

Acoustics: Acoustic Board is an essential material used to absorb sound waves and minimize noise transmission. It is a type of panel made from various materials like wood, mineral fibers, and plastics that are designed to improve the acoustic properties of a space. These boards are used in walls, ceilings, and floors to reduce unwanted noise and improve sound quality. The thickness and density of the board determine its sound-absorbing properties, and it can be customized to meet specific acoustic requirements. Acoustic boards are widely used in public buildings like schools, hospitals, and offices where noise reduction is important. In summary, acoustic board plays a significant role in creating a peaceful and comfortable environment in various civil engineering projects.


Activated Sludge Model: The Activated Sludge Model takes into account various parameters such as the concentration of different substances in the wastewater, temperature, pH levels, and the specific characteristics of the microorganisms. It simulates the reactions and interactions between these components to predict the efficiency and effectiveness of the wastewater treatment process. By using this model, civil engineers can optimize the design and operation of wastewater treatment plants, ensuring that they meet regulatory standards and efficiently remove pollutants from the water. In addition to its application in designing and optimizing wastewater treatment plants, the Activated Sludge Model also plays an important role in research and development. By studying and modifying the model, researchers can explore new ways to enhance the performance of wastewater treatment systems, improve nutrient removal processes, and reduce energy consumption.


Actuator: An actuator is essentially a device that is responsible for controlling or moving a mechanism or system. In the context of civil engineering, actuators are commonly used to control various systems and components, such as valves, dampers, and gates. These devices can be operated manually, but more often than not, they are automated and controlled by a computer or other electronic device. The use of actuators can greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of various civil engineering systems, ultimately resulting in more sustainable and safer structures.


Adhesion: Adhesion is particularly significant when it comes to materials such as concrete, asphalt, and coatings. In these applications, the ability of the material to adhere to the surface is important for its performance. For example, in concrete construction, adhesion is essential for the bond between the concrete and reinforcement steel bars. To enhance adhesion, civil engineers employ various techniques and materials. Surface preparation is one common method used to improve adhesion. It involves cleaning, roughening, or applying primers to the surface to enhance the bonding between materials. Additionally, different adhesives and bonding agents are often used to promote adhesion between two materials that may not naturally adhere well.


Aerobic Digestion: Aerobic Digestion refers to the breakdown of organic matter in the presence of oxygen. This process is commonly used to treat sewage and other types of wastewater, as it helps to reduce the amount of organic matter and pathogens in the water. The process can take place in a variety of different systems, including activated sludge systems and trickling filters. Overall, aerobic digestion is a powerful tool for civil engineers who are looking to create more sustainable and efficient wastewater treatment systems. So, if you’re a fan of clean water and efficient engineering, then aerobic digestion is definitely something worth exploring further!


Afocal System: An Afocal System describes a type of optical system that does not focus light. Instead, it maintains the parallel nature of light beams, which is important for applications such as telescopes and collimators. An afocal system is like a pair of binoculars with no magnification. This is because an afocal system is designed to maintain the same angle of view regardless of the distance between the observer and the object. This makes it ideal for civil engineering applications such as surveying and alignment, where precise measurements are essential. So, if you’re working on a project that requires accurate measurements and observations, an afocal system may just be the tool you need to get the job done right.


Agricultural Engineering: Agricultural engineering is a specialized branch of civil engineering that focuses on creating innovative solutions for the agriculture industry. As the world population continues to grow, the demand for food production is increasing exponentially. Agricultural engineers work to design and develop systems, equipment, and processes that improve the efficiency and productivity of farming operations. They use their skills and knowledge of civil engineering principles to create sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions for agricultural challenges. From irrigation systems to crop management tools, agricultural engineers play an important role in shaping the future of agriculture.

Algebra: Algebra is used to solve problems related to variables, equations, and systems of equations. Civil engineers use algebra to design and analyze structures, such as buildings, bridges, roads, and tunnels. For example, algebra can help civil engineers determine the load-carrying capacity of a bridge, or calculate the amount of concrete needed for a building foundation. In addition, algebra is used to model and simulate various civil engineering problems, such as traffic flow, water supply, and pollution control. Therefore, a solid understanding of algebra is essential for any aspiring civil engineer who wants to excel in their career.


Alkane: Alkane refers to a type of hydrocarbon molecule that is commonly found in petroleum and natural gas. These molecules have a simple structure, consisting of only single bonds between carbon and hydrogen atoms. While this may sound like basic chemistry, it’s actually quite significant because alkane molecules are used to create asphalt and other materials used in road construction. Additionally, alkane molecules can be used as a source of energy, which is an important consideration in the design and construction of buildings and other infrastructure.


Alloy: Alloy is commonly used to describe a material that is made by combining two or more different metallic elements. These alloys are used in a wide range of applications, from building construction to transportation infrastructure. The reason for their popularity is simple: alloys offer a number of benefits over traditional materials, such as increased strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion. This makes them ideal for use in harsh environments, where traditional materials may fail. Additionally, alloys can be tailored to meet specific performance requirements, making them a versatile choice for engineers and designers.


Amino Acid: Amino Acids are organic compounds that are important for various biological processes, such as protein synthesis and metabolism. Amino Acids do not have a specific meaning or application. Civil engineering primarily deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure projects such as buildings, bridges, roads, and dams. Amino acids are more commonly discussed in fields like biochemistry, biology, and medicine. It is essential to focus on topics directly related to their field, such as structural analysis, materials science, environmental engineering, and transportation planning.


Amorphous Solid: Amorphous Solid may sound like a confusing scientific jargon, but it actually has a very important role to play. Simply put, an amorphous solid is a solid material that lacks a distinct crystalline structure. In other words, it’s a non-crystalline material that is solid, but not rigid. These types of materials have unique properties that are highly valued in the construction industry. They can be used as coatings, adhesives, and even as insulation. It’s a material that is highly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Understanding the properties of amorphous solids is important for building engineers and material scientists alike, as they can help to create more durable and efficient structures.


Amphoterism: Amphoterism refers to the ability of a substance to react with both acids and bases. It’s a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to chemical reactions. This characteristic is particularly useful Where materials need to be able to withstand a variety of different environmental conditions. For example, concrete is an amphiprotic material, which means it can react with both acidic and alkaline substances. This makes it an ideal building material for structures that are exposed to a wide range of chemical substances, such as bridges and highways.


Amplitude: Amplitude refers to the maximum displacement of a structure or material from its resting position. It is an important parameter that engineers must consider when designing structures that can withstand external forces such as seismic waves, wind, or vibrations caused by machinery. Amplitude is typically measured in terms of the peak acceleration, velocity, or displacement of a structure. It’s the maximum amount of movement that a structure can experience without collapsing. So, if you’re planning to build a skyscraper or design a bridge, you better take amplitude seriously! It can make or break your project.


Angular Acceleration: Angular Acceleration deals with the change in angular velocity over time. This concept is important when designing structures that involve rotational motion, such as bridges, dams, and turbines. Understanding the angular acceleration of an object can help engineers determine the maximum loads that a structure can withstand before it fails. It also helps them calculate the necessary torque and power requirements for equipment that involves rotational motion.


Annealing: Annealing is a process that is commonly used in metallurgy to improve the properties of metals by heating and cooling them to specific temperatures. Annealing refers to the process of heating concrete or steel structures to high temperatures and then allowing them to cool slowly to improve their strength and durability. During the annealing process, the concrete or steel is heated to temperatures that are higher than their normal operating temperatures. This causes the materials to expand and become more malleable. After the heating process, the materials are allowed to cool slowly, which helps to reduce any residual stresses that may have built up during the heating process. The end result is a structure that is stronger and more resistant to damage from fatigue, corrosion, and other forms of wear and tear.


ANSI: ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute, which is a non-profit organization that promotes and develops standards for various industries, including civil engineering. ANSI plays a significant role in ensuring the safety, efficiency, and quality of construction projects. ANSI develops and publishes standards that establish guidelines for design, construction, maintenance, and operation of buildings, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. These standards cover a wide range of topics, such as structural design, materials testing, safety codes, and environmental considerations.


Arcade: Arcade refers to a series of arches that are supported by columns or piers. These arches create a covered walkway or passageway that is commonly found in public spaces such as shopping centers or transportation hubs. The arcade style was popularized during the Renaissance period and continues to be used in modern architecture, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to any building. Arcades serve a functional purpose, providing shelter from the elements, but they also create a visually stunning aesthetic. Whether you’re strolling through a historic arcade or admiring a contemporary design, there’s no denying the beauty and practicality of this architectural feature.


Architect of Record: Architect of Record refers to the licensed architect who takes responsibility for the design and construction of a project. This individual serves as the primary point of contact for the client and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the project, including coordinating with other design professionals and ensuring compliance with applicable building codes and regulations. The Architect of Record is typically involved in the initial stages of a project, from concept development and schematic design to design development and construction documentation. They work closely with the client to understand their needs and preferences, and then translate those into a functional and aesthetically pleasing design. During construction, the Architect of Record monitors progress, reviews shop drawings, and addresses any issues or changes that arise.


Architecture: Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings, structures, and other physical structures. Civil engineers are responsible for designing and constructing buildings that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and safe for occupants. The architects provide the design concept, while the civil engineers take care of the technical aspects, such as the structural integrity of the building, the materials used, and the safety features. The final result is a beautiful and functional structure that stands the test of time. Without architecture, civil engineering would be a dull and uninteresting field, lacking the creativity and innovation that make it so fascinating.


Arris: Arris refers to the sharp edge formed by the intersection of two surfaces or planes. It is commonly found in architectural and structural elements such as columns, beams, and walls. The arris is created when two surfaces meet at an angle, creating a point or line where they intersect. This sharp edge is often intentionally created to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the structure or to provide a defined boundary between different materials or elements. In addition to its visual purpose, the arris also serves a functional role by improving the structural integrity and stability of the construction. The sharp edge helps to distribute loads and forces more efficiently, reducing the risk of cracking or failure. To protect the arris from damage or wear, it is often rounded or chamfered, which involves removing the sharp edge and replacing it with a beveled or curved surface.


Atom: An Atom is not just a tiny particle, it holds a significant meaning. In fact, atoms play an important role in the behavior and performance of materials used in construction. The study of atoms or atomic structure helps engineers to understand the properties of materials, such as their strength, durability, and stability. By understanding the atomic structure of materials, engineers can design structures that can withstand physical stress and environmental factors. Atoms also play a role in the chemical reactions that take place in construction materials, such as the hardening of concrete.


Automation: Automation refers to the use of technology and software to streamline and simplify various processes involved in construction and engineering projects. This can include everything from design and planning to project management and quality control. By automating these tasks, engineers can save time, reduce errors, and improve overall efficiency. For example, automated design software can quickly generate 3D models of buildings and structures, allowing engineers to test different scenarios and identify potential issues before construction even begins. Similarly, automated project management tools can track progress, schedule tasks, and alert team members to potential delays or problems. Overall, automation is transforming the way civil engineering projects are planned, designed, and executed, leading to faster, safer, and more cost-effective construction projects.


Autonomous vehicle: Autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation, and their potential applications are limitless. These vehicles are capable of navigating roads and highways without human intervention, making them ideal for use in construction sites, transportation systems, and other infrastructure projects. They can also be used to transport goods and materials, reducing the need for human labor and increasing efficiency. With their advanced sensors and intelligent algorithms, autonomous vehicles can gather data on traffic patterns, road conditions, and other factors that can be used to improve infrastructure design and maintenance. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more and more autonomous vehicles projects, helping to create safer, more efficient, and more sustainable transportation systems.