Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 165-168
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.37B043
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Qualities Required for Civil Engineering Students from
a Project Accident
Jingshu Zhang, Yuanlong Yang, Fangmeng Zheng
School of Civil Engineering and Mechanics, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
Received 2012
Civil engineering educational circles have always been focusing on the professional qualities and cultiva-
tion of civil engineering students, which is also problems in civil engineering teaching. In the beginning
of professional course teaching, the author introduced an real project accident and specially emphasized
that responsibility, teamwork, seriousness, carefulness, comprehensively applying of knowledge, working
in accordance with codes are considered as quality requirements of civil engineering students. This
teaching thought is carried out through the whole teaching process, which brings deep impression to stu-
dents and good teaching effect. The teaching thought is introduced in this paper.
Keywords: Civil Engineering; Quality; Project Accident
The basic task of engineering education in colleges and uni-
versities [1] is to make students accept systematic theoretical
knowledge of science and engineering, practice and learn basic
skills and be equipped with essential qualities that an engineer
should have when they graduate from school. Civil engineering
specialty training goal in Lanzhou University[2] is cultivating
innovative talents which possesses strong mechanic and engi-
neering theory foundation, have the ability to participate in civil
engineering project of scientific research, planning, design,
construction and management, suffice to be engaged in research,
technology or management work in department of research,
design and management in the field of building construction,
underground engineering, roads and bridges and be capable of
strong ability in engineering practice and preliminary scientific
research. Lanzhou university civil engineering specialty offers
courses of "masonry structure" in the second semester of the
third year and it’s also the first professional course. At this time,
students’ study time in school has passed more than half, and
they have mainly completed the foundation courses like ma-
thematics and mechanics, and achieve a status change from
students to engineers which they will obtain in practical work.
Therefore, the aim of professional teaching is not only to impart
knowledge, more important is to cultivate student's quality and
enhance work ability. Hence, how to raises the students' quality
is a problem that must be paid close attention by civil engi-
neering professional teachers. The author has undertaken
teaching work of "masonry structure" course since 2004.In the
first class, by an engineering accident as background, the qual-
ity civil engineering students should have and the problems
caused by a lack of professional quality was introduced. And
this will be a reference for engineering teaching fellows.
Engineering Accident Situation
General situation
August 13, 2007, the dixi tuojiang bridge which was under
construction in fenghuang county, Hunan province, produced
special major collapse,64 people killed and 4 seriously injured,
causing a direct economic loss of 39.747 million Yuan[3].
The dixi tuojiang bridge started in March 12, 2004, and the
planned working period was 16 months. The bridge, which
connected fenghuang county in Hunan province and tongren
daxing airport in Guizhou province, is one of the important
controlling engineering of the fengda Highway projects. The
bridge, a kind of multiple-arch stone one, is 328.45 meters
length, 13 meters width of bridge deck, 33 meters high of
bridge pier, and the bridge type is a 65 meters span with four
holes, uniform section, catenaries, hollow and no hinge arch
When the accident happens, the masonry of abdomen arch
ring, side wall and the stuffing on arch has basically completed,
the work of dismantling scaffold was near the end. The bridge
was planned to be completed in the end of August, and be open
to traffic in September 20, 2007, which would be a tribute for
xiangxi autonomous prefecture celebration of 50 years.
The bridge constructional enterprise is xiangxi autonomous
prefecture fengda highway construction Co., LTD. (referred to
as Fengda Company), belongs to the people's government of
xiangxi autonomous prefecture, and is a wholly state-owned
company. The design and geological exploration unit is Hua-
gang design institute, ownership by the whole people, belongs
to Changsha University of Science and Technology, and has
class A project design certificate and engineering survey certif-
icate in Highway industry. The construction unit is Hunan Road
&Bridge Construction Group Company (referred to as Road
&Bridge Company), a wholly state-owned large-scale enter-
prise, has qualification certificates like highway engineering
construction general contracting super certificate. A level 2
institution of Road &Bridge Company, the seventh road com-
pany takes charge of the specific construction tasks of the dixi
tuojiang bridge. The construction supervising unit is Hunan
jinqu traffic consultation and supervision Co., LTD has a class
A qualification of highway engineering supervision.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Accident Cause
1) The immediate cause of the accident
The construction material of bridge main arch ring can’t
meet with the requirements of design and standard specification;
Construction process of the upper structure of arch bridge is not
reasonable; and construction quality of main arch ring is poor,
which reduces the integrity and strength of arch ring masonry.
With the load on the arch increasing, 3 to 4 meters wide range
of the main arch ring, close to abutment zero, and which be-
longs to No.1 bridge opening, scilicet, the fee of No.2 abdo-
minal arch became invalidated, as masonry strength reached
their limit of failure. Affected with multiple arch actions, the
whole bridge collapsed quickly.
2) T he primary reason of the accident
First of all, the construction unit changed the arch ring con-
struction plan without authorization. The mismanaged con-
struction site and illegal use of construction materials gave rise
to the result that the construction of main arch ring do not meet
building code requirements, and the main arch ring did not
reach the design strength before the scaffold was dismantled.
Second, the project management of the bridge constructional
enterprise was in disorder, and it failed to seriously supervise
and urge construction unit to put them right when the construc-
tion quality problems were discovered. The bridge construc-
tional enterprise lined up with the construction unit altered the
construction plan of main arch ring without authorization. Fur-
thermore, the bridge constructional enterprise blindly adopted
inverted arrangement for the sake of driving time limit for the
project, and was in command of construction beyond its author-
ity, even if asking supervisor not to inspect on the bridge.
Third, the construction supervising units failed to stop the
construction unit to alter construction plan of the main arch ring,
and cannot effectively supervise and urge construction unit to
correct quality problem of main arch ring. When the main arch
ring laying completed, it signed acceptance of the project be-
fore strength material detected.
Fourth, the design and geological investigation unit illegally
subcontract exploration projects to individual, which generated
that the design depth of geological survey was not enough, and
that the field service and technical interpretation of design in-
tention is poor.
Fifth, the traffic quality control department severely neg-
lected its duty of project quality supervision.
Sixth, two different level of government, xiangxi autonom-
ous prefecture and Fenghuang County, coupled with relevant
departments of Hunan province failed to effectively exercise
supervision in project approval , bidding , quality and safety
production. Autonomous prefecture government asked to drive
time limit of the project in order to tribute to xiangxi autonom-
ous prefecture celebration of 50 years.
3) T re atment of the person liable
In the accident, twenty-four people obtained punitive sen-
tences by judicial authority, and thirty-three people received
disciplinary sanction of party and political accordingly. As for
the construction and supervising unit, the person liable had their
professional qualifications and post certificate revoked.
Qualities Required for Civil Engineering
It can be seen form the above accident that people engaged in
civil engineering or even the all major in engineering should
have such professional quality as follow.
Strong Sense of Responsibility
Heartbreakingly, such a serious accident could have been
prevented thoroughly. As is known to all, Zhao Zhou Bridge, a
typical stone arch one, which was built in Sui dynasty, has a
history of 1400 years, and can still play traffic function role. As
for dixi tuojiang bridge, just a normal stone arch one, it has few
technology problems to overcome to build, in the condition that
we have far more advanced engineering technology than the
ancients. The involved engineering construction units and staffs
lacked the sense of responsibility, even committed dereliction,
which would take account for the disastrous accident. In the
project, the construction unit constructed the bridge with a
breach of securities rules, and the site management was in dis-
order; the bridge constructional enterprise blindly adopted in-
verted arrangement for the sake of driving time limit for the
project, even if asking supervisor not to inspect on the bridge;
the supervision unit signed acceptance of the project before
inspection; the design and geological investigation unit illegally
subcontract exploration projects to individual, which generated
that the design depth of geological survey was not enough;
quality control department severely neglected its duty of project
quality supervision; and the government calls for driving time
limit. Therefore, all involved in the project have not performed
their duty well. If any side can operate according to the most
basic requirement, such serious accidents could have been
The accident is painful, consequences are severe, and the
lesson is profound. The result of the accident is that twenty-four
people obtained punitive sentences by judicial authority, thir-
ty-three people received disciplinary sanction of party and po-
litical accordingly, and the person liable had their professional
qualifications and post certificate revoked. Thus, what the civil
engineering students most need to brand on their mind is a re-
vering attitude toward project and a strong sense of responsibil-
ity, in spite of what kind of work they will be engaged in after
graduate, such as survey and design, construction, engineering
supervision, civil servants that work on quality supervision and
administration, or further study. The quality requirement is not
only for students major in civil engineering, but also for stu-
dents in all specialties. Only each of us does our duty, can we
reduce engineering accidents and build a harmonious society
and achieve sustainable development.
Good Team Work Spirit
The project involves construction unit, constructional enter-
prise, engineering supervision unit, design and geological in-
vestigation unit, the quality supervision departments and related
government departments. Each performs its specific tasks, not a
single one can be omitted. Entrusted by the construction unit,
the geological investigation unit takes responsible for geotech-
nical engineering, and accomplishes "geotechnical investigation
report ". The design unit completes design effort of proposal,
preliminary design and construction drawing, delivers the de-
sign drawings, and coordinates site work, according to re-
quirements of constructional enterprise, the relevant regulation
of the state and "geotechnical investigation report ". The con-
struction unit will complete the construction work in the light
of design drawings. The supervision unit which is entrusted by
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
the constructional enterprise needs to supervise the quality,
progress, safety, and environmental protection of the whole
process. As for the relevant government departments conduct
the examination, approval and management of project, on the
basis of relevant regulation of the state. Therefore, in addition
to self-construction house in town, none of project can be fi-
nished by any signal unit of above.
In any unit involved in construction, it is also impossible to
finish a project by a signal man. Take construction unit for
instance, it needs workers and engineer technicians who major
in bridges, electrical, engineering economic etc. to cooperate
with each other to complete the project. As for workers, it also
consists of concrete worker, reinforcing steel bar worker, scaf-
folder, carpenter, electrician, welder et al. Consequently, unlike
traditional scientific research, civil engineering requires people
in different specializations cooperate with each other.
For this reason above, team work is one of the most basic
requirements to engage in engineering construction. Hence, we
should develop a good habit of cooperation and the ability of
communication and coordination, which is not only essential
for civil engineering staff, but also for researchers and teachers.
Careful and Detailed Wor k Style
The difference between specialized course and basic course
is that specialty learning doesn’t need to do numerous exercises
and also skills to solve problems. The requirement of major
study is a serious and careful attitude which is capable of con-
sidering various indispensable factors, not allowed speculate,
and must ensure to do right, rather than wrong.
The reason of such requirement is very simple that the pur-
pose of specialty learning is to engage in the practical project,
for which the most basic request is security and economy. In
actual work, you may have lapses, but not errors, and never
serious mistakes.
The accident was, so to speak, caused by sloppy and unsub-
tle work. It is a common sense for engineering construction that
construction material should be carefully detected and qualified
according to building code before applying, but the project
failed to do that, at least not seriously. Laying work should be
operated according to the construction standard and working
procedure, which also failed to implement, so does the supervi-
sion unit, design and geological investigation unit, and the
quality supervision department. Thus, a series of such mistakes
eventually led to the grievous accident.
Ensure to do nothing wrong is the most basic request, but al-
so a very high demand. From elementary school, high school to
college, we paid less attention to the result of school assign-
ment. As for examination, even though the result was poles
apart, we can still obtain an appropriate score owing to the
process of problem solving. Unlike examination, such thing is
forbidden in project. For instance, if a single beam or a pillar
which was originally insufficient in bearing capacity was
proved to be qualified because of miscalculation, it would lead
to engineering accident as the result was accepted by construc-
tion unit. A little error between original data and design proce-
dure may lead to a large discrepancy, so each data and each a
conclusion must be right in actual engineering. In author's spe-
cialized course teaching process, the examination was set in
practical engineering on that account. When marking, the most
important is the result in spite of considering process, which
was intended to cultivate student serious and careful work style.
Ability of Comprehens ively Applying of Knowledge
According to the immediate cause of the accident, the project
involved many engineering concepts, such as masonry, tectonic,
construction process, the arch ring, abdomen arch, arch feet,
abutment, load, integrity, strength, failure limit and multiple
arch effects. The knowledge that was referred to include spe-
cialized course content of "civil engineering construction " and
"bridge project", as well specialized basic course point of "civil
engineering materials " and "load and design method", and
even as far as content involving "civil engineering drawing",
"civil engineering surveying", "civil engineering geological",
"supervision of project construction", "project management",
mathematics and mechanics. Therefore, the essential know-
ledge of engineering is highly abroad, and students are required
to not only master the basic knowledge, but also be capable of
comprehensively applying all kinds of knowledge to solving
engineering problems [4].
Although every course is important, any course alone can't
solve engineering problems. Take architectural structure design
work for example, in terms of mathematics and mechanics, the
designer should be familiar with the characteristics of all sorts
of structure forms, chose economic and suitable one and con-
duct structure arrangement with wonderful skill, and can also
carry on computational analysis of engineering accurately and
efficiently so as to map out plans in time. In the design process,
the requirement of architecture and equipment and the feasibil-
ity of project costs and construction technology should also be
taken into consideration. On the side, since the design work is
usually accomplished by a large amount of different designer
from one or more units, the designers ought to communicate
with the constructional enterprise, the construction unit and
even supervision unit and project quality supervision unit
through design and construction process. Hence, the designers
need to deal with communication and coordination work, which
requires them to master a certain stock of knowledge in man-
agement and humanities and social science. Therefore, civil
engineering students must develop the ability of comprehensive
application of all kinds of knowledge.
Developing Work Habits in the Light of Standard
The immediate cause of the accident is that the construction
material of bridge main arch ring can’t meet with the require-
ments of design and standard specification. So civil engineering
survey, design, construction and supervision must comply with
standards and design requirements [5].
When learning basic courses, students know little about
standard, but it will be frequently used after being engaged in
actual work. All aspects of project construction must be carried
out in accordance with relevant construction standard. For in-
stance, geological exploration must follow survey standard;
design work must comply with design code. So the process of
conducting practical engineering is also, as it were, the process
of making use of standard.
To a certain extent, civil engineering study can also be con-
sidered as a standard learning process. Mathematics and me-
chanics, as represented by the basic course, is the foundation of
specialized course and specialized basic course, also the ele-
mentary knowledge that is necessary to master the standard.
The teaching work of such course is directly designed to serve
practical engineering, and its content must conform to current
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
code. Therefore, when the old standard is canceled and the new
one is put into practice, the teaching work should be according
to the new standard even if the teaching material has not been
updated, otherwise, it is irresponsible for students.
In the process of learning and employing standards, some
standard provisions are found not reasonable up to a point and
even different and contradictory in different standards, which
require us not only to comply with the standard, but also under-
stand its purpose and essence, and flexibly apply the standards
to deal with practical engineering problems.
The scientific research of civil engineering in our country is
extremely rich, but only a few of which can be applied to engi-
neering and really produce social and economic benefit. And
what are widely used are those researches which are mature,
reliable, economic and reasonable, and also included in stan-
dards. So from this perspective, the purpose of scientific re-
search is to study the standard, and provide technical accumula-
tion for the standard revision which conducts every eight to ten
Consequently, whether civil engineering graduates in the fu-
ture will be engaged in engineering work, such as construction,
design, supervision and management or devote them to teach-
ing and scientific research, learning and working in accordance
with standards is still one of the most basic requirements.
Civil engineering education should especially pay attention
to cultivating qualities of responsibility, teamwork, seriousness
and carefulness, comprehensively applying of knowledge,
working in accordance with codes. If we can put them into
practice, the serious accident of dixi tuojiang bridge should
have been avoided, as well as other accidents. From this project
accident, author introduced qualities requirements of civil
engineering students, carried it out through the whole teaching
process, and achieved good teaching results. Nevertheless, the
work that the author has done is limited, there's still much to do
about quality education of civil engineering. It is expected that
civil engineering colleagues will find out better quality educa-
tion methods and cultivate excellent engineering talents by
further innovating, exploring and meriting from each other.
Engineering education research group of Chinese Academy of Engi-
neering. Research on the importance and approach to train Chinese
engineers. Research in Higher Education of Engineering, 2005,
Wu Jianjun, Zhou Youhe. Civil engineering discipline for producing
innovative talents. J. Higher Education of Sciences, 2008, (4):21-23.
Ministry of communications of the people’s republic of china. The
report on the settlement results about the special major collapse of
dixi tuojiang bridge in fenghuang county,Hunan province. Ministry
of Communic ations of the People’ s R epublic of China, 2007.12.
Zhang Jingshu. The basis and practice of building structures design.
China Waterpower Press, Intellectual Property Publishing House,
Zhang Jingshu. The interpretation of common standard provisions in
building structures design. China Waterpower Press, Intellectual
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